Be happier and lose weight with a meal plan.

When I was growing up my father would often talk about his childhood and how poor they were. He would lament they only ever had 3 different types of dinners. Monday – Thursday would be Pork Chops, Peas and Potatoes, on a Friday if there was money, Fish and Chips, back to Pork Chops, Peas and Potatoes on a Saturday and on Sunday the Pork Chops got a rest and they had Roast Chicken, Peas and Potatoes. As a child, I’d marvel at the lack of variety, my own mother cooked everything and anything. In my ‘adulthood’ I realise my grandmother was most likely, unwittingly, a pioneer of the meal plan.

What is a meal plan?

Almost thirty years after she passed I realised the brilliance of her [albeit bland] genius method of the meal plan.

A meal plan is essentially deciding in advance for a set period of time [e.g. 1 week] what you’re going to eat [e.g. porridge & fruit] and when [e.g. breakfast mon-thurs] and shopping accordingly. It seems undeniably genius and simple [and it is] and once you’ve tried it, you will wonder how you survive before!

What lead me to use a meal plan?

The one thing in life I hate most [after spiders, the dentist, hoovering and emptying the bin] is grocery shopping. Regardless of when I go to the shop, it is always filled with morons who don’t know how to control a trolley. With people who abandon their baskets in the middle of the aisles and parents who try to do a two trolley shop with 59 children in tow, all under the age 5. And don’t get me started on the people who stand, blocking an entire aisle to catch up with their friend Shelia and talk about Eastenders!

My goal is to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. This used to be a challenge. AND I’d often forget or forego items I’d need/ like to avoid the mass of crying babies or OAP’s looking for their glasses so they can read the prices. This meant numerous trips to the shops in a week; which was just awful and expensive! Don’t even get me started on the nightly ‘indecisive arguments’ James and I would have over what to eat because neither of us would decide. This indecision often meant, despite the stocked fridge and cupboards, we would get a takeaway or go to the shops for the only item that we didn’t have. I am ashamed to say, at that time, our food wastage was horrendous.

Two years ago I decided enough was enough! We sat down and discussed the types of meals and snacks that we loved and liked and made a list. We divided them over Week 1 and Week 2 and drew up a master list of everything we’d need based off these 2 weeks of meal ideas. The goal was to alternate weeks and to follow these meal plans for at least 2 months to see how it went and how the budget fared. The meal plan was typed and displayed on the kitchen notice board for reference. Two years later we’re still using a meal plan.

We no longer use the week 1 and week 2 method, although this worked for us very well for the best part of a year. I now sit down every Thursday and ask James if there is anything from the previous week or weeks past meals he’d like to have or not to have in the coming week. I choose a few of my own favourites and divide them out over the coming days. For lunch, we’ll both often have leftovers from the night before, which cuts down on more decision making. And is especially useful if you’re trying to lose weight. [Numerous weeks can go by and we might be eating an identical week, but that’s ok, once we’re happy and healthy and there is enough variety over the week you don’t even notice! This helps with not having to continuously think up or find exciting new meal plans or menu ideas.]

How to lose weight with a meal plan.

I follow the Slimming World lifestyle to help me lose weight and eat a more balanced diet but regardless of what type of diet you’re eating or planning the method remains the same.

We eat three main meals and up to 3 snacks per day:

  • Breakfast 7.30am
  • Snack 11am
  • Lunch 1pm (ish)
  • Snack 3pm
  • Dinner 6.30pm
  • Snack 8pm

When deciding on my meals I consult the parameters and guidelines of my diet and pick and choose things I[we] like and enjoy for these meals. [James is not strictly following Slimming World and so has slightly different snacks to me, but his meals are the same as mine, except for his Friday breakfast when he has pancakes and I have a bacon omelet]. If you’re starting a new plan or diet you might have to go through a little trial and error before you have your ‘tried and true’ favourites but within a few weeks this process should be very quick for you.

I then make a grocery list.

I use ‘My Shopping List’ on my Google Assistant but you can either enter it into the notes section of your phone or use a Shopping List specific app if you like. A handwritten or typed list works just as well. Just remember, however you create your list remember to bring it with you – this is most important and the key to the meal plan and weight loss success. [I prefer having it with me on my phone; one because my phone is always with me and two I’m least likely to forget my phone versus a piece of paper].

Double check your shopping list has everything you’ll need to make the meals on your meal plan. Consult your fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry to make sure you’ve not forgotten anything and everything you do have is in date and fresh. DOing this means your least likely to inadvertently forget something, or find that its gone off when you go to yse it and so have absolutely no excuses for going off plan.

Next, ensure to include the quantities of the items you’ll need on your shopping list too. For example, don’t just write eggs – write: Eggs [at least 12]. Think about the number of times you’ll use the items over the course of the week and the number of reciepes that will call for it.

Before you go to the grocery store be sure to take a photo of your meal plan. You can reference this when you’re in the store against expiry dates etc.

Top Tip: When choosing a diet plan or lifestyle choose one you’ll actually enjoy and have plenty to eat on. For example, the keto lifestyle interests me, but I know I would not be able to successfully stick to it because it eliminates all carbs. Bacon is also a key component of the diet and I dislike eating this outside of breakfast. Also, do not get into the habit of cooking separate meals for each family member where you can. James is technically not participating in Slimming World, but he eats and enjoys everything I put in front of him.

The importance of a shopping list to your meal plan.

At the grocery store only buy the things on your shopping list! [I would underline this several times if the software would allow me.]This is the second key to your meal plan and weight loss success. Don’t be tempted by all the foods that are going to impede your weight loss. [ Because the third key to your success is taking responsibility. You are the one puttin the food in your trolley and then in your mouth. If you don’t take responsility for yourself you’ll always fail.]

Be sure to tick off each item as you put it in your trolley. [Check expiry dates and the freshness of each product. As you have a photo of your meal plan on your phone you’ll know exactly how long it needs to last. Remember you can freeze some items.]

When you’ve finished collecting everything into your trolley, double check your shopping list. There may be items you didn’t get at this store. iI they where just out of stock, check against your meal plan if you have the time before the item is needed to come back to the store or if you’ll need to make a trip to another store that day. In the event that you choose to return to the store later in the week, put a reminder, then and there, in your phone for the day before the earliest item is needed. Doing this, will set you up for success and removes any future excuses of going off meal plan because you don’t have a specific item. Remember to save your unfinished shopping list for that next shopping trip if you have to return.

I shop once a week, most often on a Friday morning. I create my meal plan on a Thursday. [These are both weekly stable ‘to dos’ in my diary] I always visit two different grocery stores. One: Because the budget friendly Lidl, where I can maximise my food budget, doesn’t stock all the foods I want and Two: by visiting the second store I, 98% of the time, am able to pick up everything else the first was out of stock of.

Since creating a weekly meal plan and shopping list I only do the grocery shopping once a week. Including driving to both stores and shopping it takes me 1.5hrs. [The furthest shop is 13 minutes drive from me, each way, the second is less than a minute from me.]

The benefits of a meal plan and grocery list.

  1. It will save you time.
  2. You will lose weight by eating the foods and meals that are in line with your new diet [because that is all that will be in your house.]
  3. You will have much more control of your budget and most likely save money.
  4. You will have little to no food wastage!
  5. There will be no arguments about ‘whats for dinner’.

My current meal plan.

I thought for inspiration I would share with you what is on our meal plan for this current week.

Monday

  • Porridge & Fruit
  • Coffee & Marshmallows
  • Omelet w. Tuna, Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, and Spring Onion
  • Herbal Tea
  • Sweet Chilli Chicken, Green Beans & Jasmine Rice
  • Tea & Mini Malteasers

Tuesday

  • Porridge & Fruit
  • Coffee & Marshmallows
  • Leftover Sweet Chilli Chicken, Green Beans & Jasmine Rice
  • Herbal Tea
  • Cheesy Tuna Pasta Bake w. Side Salad
  • Tea & Mini Malteasers

Wednesday

  • Porridge & Fruit
  • Coffee & Marshmallows
  • Meeting a friend for Lunch
  • Herbal Tea
  • Beef & Broccoli  with Rice
  • Tea & Curly Wurly

Thursday

  • Porridge & Fruit
  • Coffee & Marshmallows
  • Leftover Beef & Broccoli  with Rice
  • Herbal Tea
  • Spag Bol w. Green Beans
  • Tea & Mini Malteasers

Friday

  • Porridge & Fruit
  • Coffee & Marshmallows
  • Leftover Spag Bol w. Green Beans
  • Herbal Tea
  • Taco Chicken in Lettuce wraps
  • Popcorn

Saturday

  • Fry w. mini cucumbers & cherry tomatoes [no toast]
  • Toasted Tuna Sandwich & Clementines
  • Steak, Baked Potatoes, Courgettes, Mushrooms and Spring Onions
  • Mini Malteasers or Pop Corn

Sunday

  • French Toast & Strawberries
  • Fruit
  • Dinner at my mum’s
  • Mini Malteasers or Pop Corn

[With his lunch James also takes with him a portion of grapes, a packet of sweet chili lentil crisps and something sweet. I work from home, so if I want to snack outside those below I’ll opt for grapes, clementines or pears.]

How much weight did I lose on this weeks meal plan?

Since the start of the year I have lost a total of 10 lbs or 4.536 Kilos and specifically on the above weeks meal plan I lost 7 lbs or 3.175 Kilos. This was weight loss would be for my ‘first week’ back eating healthily and not something I would expect every week. My average would be 2 lbs or 0.907 Kilos.

Have I inspired you to use a meal plan to help you get to happier healthier you? Let me know in the comments below!

The images in today’s post are from Pexels.com

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