The Life-Changing Magic Of A Meal Plan

I, like many others, used to know all too well the act of scrambling around the kitchen trying to come up with a meal to cook. I’d invariably end up relenting to two-minute noodles or takeout.

My iron was low, my bank balance was worse and I was all-round feeling pretty crummy about my lazy, disorganised eating routine. Not to mention my mix of nutrients and calories in a week would be enough to make a wellness blogger shiver with disgust. #fitspo.

So, as of this year I’ve decided to turn the ship around and actually be organised when it comes to food, striding adult-ville with a meal plan in hand.

It has so far turned out to be a bigger success than I could have imagined. I’ve saved a lot of money, time and mental energy/stress. Plus, I actually get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It’s a life skill I recommend every one learn.

Here’s how making a meal plan is working out for me.

The basics

Every Sunday morning when I wake up, I make myself a cup of green tea and sit down with my cookbooks to pick out recipes I like.

I try and find recipes that fit together. For example, I choose a couple of meals that both use ricotta or spinach. I can use the ingredient across both, and it helps reduce wastage. It also means half-eaten vegetables don’t fester in the bottom of the fridge for weeks before being tossed into the garbage.

Then, I write down meals for each day’s dinner and lunch (which are usually just the leftovers of the previous night) for the entire week and fill up a shopping list with everything I require for the week ahead.

When my meal plan and shopping list is done and dusted, I drag my boyfriend to the supermarket with me and together we pack our reusable green bags like we’re straight out of a match.com commercial.

Easy, peasy – oh, babe we need frozen peas too!

Happy Wallet ’n’ Savin’ Time

As reported in The Daily Telegraph, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed millennials are eating more takeaway and eating out more often than any other generation. Currently, we’re spending roughly AUD$100 a week on meals at restaurants and food delivery. With my magical meal plan I need not be included in that stat anymore.

I now plan ahead, so I’m not looking at that half pumpkin in the fridge and thinking, “What on Earth do I cook with you?”, promptly giving up and getting a poke bowl delivered. Instead I’m using up my ingredients, not splurging on take out, and saving major buck in the process.

As AusVeg’s Project Harvest researchers claim, the average Australian is currently going to the supermarket around three times a week, or one-hundred and thirty-five times a year. Armed with my meal plan, not only am I getting takeout less, I’m also stopping at the supermarket less frequently. This was something which always turned out expensive for me, as I find it hard to resist a twofer deal. With a defined list, I rarely buy anything I don’t need.

Furthermore, my meal plan has me saving a lot of time that I can now spend with my boyfriend, my mates or just with a book.

Healthier and happier

The daily mental energy spent on working out what is so tiring. I’ve been there. With everything else in our day-to-day lives, getting home and working out what to stuff into our gobs is sometimes the last thing we need.

Since I started meal planning, I feel calmer and less anxious about what I’m going to eat everyday. I arrive home not in a huff scouring through the cupboards but, rather, feeling organised and prepared to fire up the stove.

I’ll also admit that the plan works well for me because I’m now so much happier about what I’m eating (and I because actually do enjoy being in the kitchen). I’m buying nutritious ingredients and actually eating them. I’m not having baked beans and cheese three times a week anymore and my body is thanking me for it. I have more energy, my skin is glowing, and I’m a lot less irritable.

Being on top of my eating game makes me feel like I’ve taken a step towards conquering the daunting age of adulthood. An age that I thought would come as a tidal wave but actually crept into my cupboards overnight in the form of tupperware containers.

If this sounds like something you could get around, then take an hour on a Sunday morning to think ahead. Choose some recipes and make a plan for what you’ll eat in the week. If you don’t own cookbooks there are plenty of recipes online. Your wallet, timetable, body and mind will appreciate it.

Marnie is a Melbourne based freelance writer, spending most of her time in coffee shops or tending to her plant friends. Find her on Instagram @marnie.vinall.