Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Planning ahead can save you money and ensure you're eating right (right for your own goals).. Personally, I currently take in 180g protein a day, so without planning I could find myself well shy of this target come 8pm. With a little bit of thought and prep though, there's little risk of me going astray.
Do a weekly shop
Sunday in our house is shopping day. As we stroll to Tesco we discuss dinners for the week. "Well, we're out Thursday & Saturday, so only need 5 dinners this week. Let's do chicken, a prawn, a turkey burger, a steak & a veggie dinner." Easy!
For me, breakfast is always the same - carrot oats or apple oats - so I just make sure we have all the ingredients.
Lunch, at the moment (as I'm on a cut) tends to be chicken or tuna salad - so I make sure we get enough chicken breasts, tuna and veg to cover 5 lunches. If I know I'm out for lunch on one of the days, I buy for 4 - simple.
Snacks too tend to be similar each week - rice crackers, pop-chips, fruit, nuts - but it's a nerdy pleasure of mine to explore supermarkets for what's new or on offer that week to see if I can mix up my routine a bit. I used to eat a lot of Ben & Jerrys, but BBQ Pop-Chips are my new kryptonite!
I always make sure we have staples like rice, sweet potato, yoghurt, veggies - both fresh & frozen, tinned tomatoes etc. That way, you can switch it up - you may have planned for chicken stir-fry but aren't in the mood for it, so make chicken breasts with sweet potato wedges instead. As long as you're stocked up on basics you've always got a tasty meal available.
The night before
Once you've got your fridge and presses filled, it's all about the meal prep. Some folk like to dedicate an hour or two on a Sunday evening to getting a week of meals ready. Not for me... too much tupperware, takes up too much room in the fridge and doesn't take in to consideration that you might decide, on Thursday, that you'll go for lunch with colleagues on Friday. What I will do is oven cook a few chicken breasts so they're ready to go for the week. Instead of a prep-party on a Sunday, before I go to bed each night, I'll spend 10 minutes making my breakfast and lunch for the following day. That's all it takes! I grate my carrot, weight my oats and whack into a container. Then chop lettuce & spinach, add some tomatoes, my pre-cooked chicken breast and avocado - done!
On our weekly walk to Tesco, we usually decide on a weekly menu for the week ahead, but this isn't as particular & anal as it sounds. Most people have a few "go-to" dishes that they enjoy & that are pretty easy to cook. Over time, you'll discover new recipes you enjoy and you'll tire of others. At the moment, our dinners look a lot like this:
- homemade turkey burgers with sweet potato wedges
- prawns w/ stirfry veg & rice
- beef "burrtio" bowl (beef mince, rice, lettuce, salsa, corn, avocado, jalapenos, fried peppers, yoghurt)
- dal w/ chicken
- steak w/ wedges or baked potato
As mentioned already, once you have a well stocked kitchen you'll have more options to mix it up if you fancy.
What's right for you
What I've written above works for me. You could well be the kind of person that loves dedicating an hour or two on a Sunday evening to meal prep. Or you may love your breakfast routine in the morning. If it's working for you, stick with it! The key takeaway in all of this is planning ahead. With a kitchen fully stocked with foods you enjoy eating, you're far less likely to under or over eat & far less likely to turn to shop bought "Meal Deals" & fast foods to get you through the day. You'll save money, limit food waste and almost definitely improve your health.
- find recipes you enjoy eating & preparing
- plan your week - how many dinners & lunches you need
- do a big weekly shop
- keep the cupboard stocked with healthy, versatile staples
- treats are fine, but don't have 5 tubs of Ben & Jerry's stored away in the freezer
- lots of fruit & veg can be frozen if going off - or blended into a smoothie
So what's stopping you - get planning :)
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