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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Tyler

Top 3 meal planning tips from a Dietitian

Let’s start off by saying there is no right or wrong way to meal-plan. If you have a system that’s currently working for you, there is no need to change things up. However, if you are wanting to become a little more organised and do a bit better with your meal-planning, give these tips a try and see how they work for you.

Personally, I don’t meal-plan every week, but I know that when I have spent a little bit of time planning ahead before the grocery shop, meals and snacks become a little bit easier and allow my week to run just that bit more smoothly. So here are my top 3 tips:

1. Plan fresh, tinned or frozen produce strategically

There’s nothing worse than starting your dinner prep by pulling a limp broccoli out of the bottom of the fridge or realising that the bag of spinach contains more soggy leaves than crisp ones. To avoid this, I arrange my meal plan to include meals that require fresh produce for the first few nights after my shop, followed by meals that may rely more on tinned or frozen vegetables. This means that I’m cooking with the fresh ingredients when they are at their best and most appealing.

A key part of this tip though, is letting go of any old rules you may be holding on to that put tinned, frozen or convenience ingredients in the ‘less desirable’ category. Tinned and frozen vegetables provide quality nutrition, fibre, vitamins and minerals, are often more budget friendly, and can reduce the stress and effort required to prepare meals. Allow yourself to plan meals that use these items for the later half of the week.

2. Check what you already have

It’s no secret that the cost of living has risen recently and we are all noticing the difference at the supermarket checkout. Checking what ingredients you already have at home, in the fridge, freezer or pantry, makes good economic sense when planning your meals. It can also help with guiding your decision process. Do you already have beef mince in the freezer? Your plan could include tacos or spaghetti bolognese. Tins of beetroot or pineapple that have been in the pantry for a while? Sounds to me like burgers should be on the menu.

Using up the food that already exists in your kitchen feels satisfying, can help reduce your next shopping bill, and is great for the environment. Need I say more.

3. Plan around you or your family’s schedule, and reduce expectations if need be

When we think about meal planning, it’s easy to think of a week full of gourmet, Instagrammable meals cooked from fancy recipes, with lots of variety. Approaching meal-planning this way, however, is likely setting yourself up for failure. A more realistic approach involves considering your available time to spend on cooking, as well as predicting your energy capacity on different days. If you don’t get home on Tuesday nights until 6.30pm after driving kids around between netball training and drum lessons, don’t plan to be straight in the kitchen making a roast dinner with all the trimmings. Match your meals and the time and energy they are going to require, with what other activities you might have happening that day.

Whether you are already giving meal planning a go, or wanting to plan but never seem to get round to it, these three tips are a good place to start. Of course, if you are feeling totally puzzled with planning meals for your week that will work for your individual lifestyle and health needs, consider making an appointment with an Accredited Practising Dietitian who can help you with putting all the pieces together.

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