The ‘How-to’ guide for Meal Planning

Erin Dwyer, APD

Life is busy, we have jobs and kids and friends and sometimes important things like eating well can slip down the to-do list. When this happens we can end up eating for convenience rather than health, skipping meals and spending a lot more money in the process.

One way to eat well is Meal Planning, unfortunately it isn’t sexy and it does require some effort but there are plenty of benefits and this blog post will show you how.

So, why meal plan?

1. It’s cost effective

  • Having lunch to take to work rather than buying will save you plenty of $$.
  • You waste less food by buying only what you need.
  • You can reduce the impulse purchases at the supermarket by only going 1-2 times per week..

2. You can improve your nutrition

  • Planning out your meals means you can check that you have a variety of proteins, wholegrains and vegetables.
  • You can avoid eating pre-packaged, quick meals or choosing takeaway on your way home because you already have something prepared.

3. Allows more variety

  • One of the ‘Australian Guide to Healthy Eating‘s key messages is increasing variety so that we get a range of minerals and nutrients. Meal Planning means you can change up what you cook rather than cooking the same meals over and over just because they are quick and easy.

4. Saves time

  • You no longer have to drop past the supermarket every night on your way home or spend hours in the kitchen at night preparing your meals or waste precious minutes in the morning organising your lunch.


How do I start?

Meal planning is NOT this involved but it does require some organising

This is the hard part, you do need to be organised and set aside some time but if you factor it in to your week, you will reap the rewards!

1. Set aside some time

I like to meal plan, shop and prepare food on a Sunday, I plan it around any other things I have on the day. (Some weeks this isn’t possible so I’ll do an online shop, pick it up on Monday and spend some time in the kitchen then).

2. Write a plan

Organise which days you need lunch and dinners, it may not be every meal if you have a work lunch or dinner with a friend. I love to use this magnetic meal planner pad, but a note pad will do just fine.

3. Choose your meals

Think of what you would like to have that week, are you craving a warm comforting soup or would you prefer salads and pastas? Also have a look in your fridge or pantry if there are items you need to use.  You can also try some new recipes, if you like them you can add that to your repertoire.

4. Write a shopping list

This will help you avoid buying things you already have and things you don’t need. Don’t forget to grab some snacks for the week as well.

5. Shop!

6. Cook                                                                                                                          

Prepare things that take the most time and can be refrigerated to use later e.g. brown rice. Prepare your vegetables by washing, drying and chopping them, then store in an airtight container with a damp paper towel over them. You can also roast some vegetables to put in your salads, risottos or just as a side dish.  

7. The meal                                                                                                                     

All you need to do is get your prepared veg or salad, grab your protein, add some wholegrains and away you go!

Remember – The freezer is your friend!

  • Meals like spaghetti bolognaise, curry, soups and quiches freeze really well and are handy for nights where you don’t feel like cooking or don’t have the time.
  • Cooking in bulk is a really good idea to reduce time spent in the kitchen – recipe double up.

This video from Jamie Oliver gives some great tips and a delicious recipe!

For more guidance on how to meal plan, what to add for mid meal snacks and how to choose foods for your nutrition needs e.g. IBS, Weight loss, increased iron or muscle gain, come and visit me at Diet Solutions.

Erin Dwyer

Accredited Practicing Dietitian

…..Stay tuned for next week where I’ll show you exactly how I meal plan!