How to plan your meals to save time and money – expert tips

If you want to save time and money, lose weight and stay healthy, personal trainer Alex Pedley shares five simple meal planning tips

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Here are some expert tips on meal planning (Image: Mark Hall)

You may have heard the saying, “If you don’t plan, you plan to fail”. I would like to add one more phrase: “If you don’t plan your diet, you plan to waste time and money”.

The cost of living goes up. One of the biggest challenges for households is the rising food prices, which according to official data have increased by 6.7% compared to last year.

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At the same time, weight gain continues to increase. A Public Health England (PHE) survey suggests 41% of adults have gained weight during the pandemic, with an average weight gain of half a stone.

The first option for most people is to cut back — cutting back on grocery shopping to save money or going on a restrictive diet to lose weight. Neither is necessary, there is a better alternative and it will save you time, lower your grocery bill and help you lose weight.

There are five steps you can follow…

Keeping a food diary can help you monitor what you eat (Image: Adobe)

1. Keep a food diary

A Cornell study found that we make more than 200 food choices every day. Most of these decisions are made almost automatically.

When we’re in a hurry, many of our decisions run on autopilot. Whether it’s doing the weekly grocery shopping or grabbing a bite to eat on the go, our decisions are almost automatic. These decisions affect your bank balance and waistline. This is where keeping a food journal can be so useful.

For a week, track everything you eat, including all snacks and alcohol, while also being aware of your portion size. Although this process will take some time and effort, the reward will be worth it. You’ll better understand what you’re eating, how much, and what triggers your food choices.

2. Look at what you can remove

With the information uncovered in step one, you can begin making informed changes to your diet.

If you regularly eat a high-sugar snack at 3 p.m. or order takeout, you can remove or replace those items. Replacing a high-calorie treat with a lower-calorie option will reduce your total calorie intake over a week and result in weight loss.

There is no need to make sweeping changes, but to gradually replace higher-calorie options with lower-calorie alternatives or replace unnecessary snacking.

Weekly shopping can help you save money and eat healthier (Image: Adobe)

3. Plan your meals – including times and what you want to eat

At the beginning of the week, plan your meals, including snacks, based on when you typically plan to eat.

In my experience from thousands of food journals, most people eat a similar breakfast and lunch every day and alternate between about 10 options for dinner. By planning, you simply control those decisions so they work better for you.

Remember that most food decisions we make are on autopilot; The goal is to remove as many choices as possible to reduce the likelihood of making rash and potentially unhealthy decisions.

4. Make a weekly online store for everything you need

Once you have your meals planned, do your weekly shopping with everything you need for the week.

Make sure your fridge is stocked with healthy alternatives. Many people eat badly when they come home from work hungry and don’t have a quick and healthy alternative available.

Doing a weekly grocery shopping also saves you money and time that you have to spend shopping or ordering takeout every night because there are no options available in the fridge.

Batch cooking at the start of the week is a great idea (Image: Adobe)

5. Prepare your meals at the beginning of the week

If you don’t have time to cook every night, try cooking a meal or two at a time early in the week. The initial effort of preparing your meals saves you time during the week.

Stews, soups, chillies and spaghetti bolognese are great options. You can also cook vegetables in batches; They last 2-3 days.

If you cook in the evening, make extra and freeze. This can serve as lunch or dinner in the future.

The initial effort of keeping a food journal and planning your meals will save you time throughout the week, reduce your grocery bills, and help you reach or maintain your ideal weight.

Try it for a few weeks and you will see the physical and financial benefits. How to plan your meals to save time and money – expert tips


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