I don’t know about you, but has the world started spinning faster lately? Life has certainly been quite busy around here, however one thing I have always done (and am quite good at if I don’t say so myself) is meal planning to get me through the busy times.
Long before I was formerly involved in any type of project management, I was already an ardent list maker, colour coder and scheduler. It is fair to say I’m at my happiest when I have a plan! I’ve been doing some form of meal planning since I was at university, and in fact this need to pre-plan may even go back to my Brownie days as I’m sure there was a badge for being thrifty and organised in the kitchen and I wore it with pride! This compulsion is undoubtedly also tied up in my fear of running out of food or, worse still, a surprise visit by friends and being unable to appropriately feed them, however that is a whole different story…
When it comes to eating well with haemochromatosis, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success. The beauty of it is there are no rules – you just need to set aside a little bit of time each week and start. Here at Iron-ic Wellbeing central, this planning generally occurs on a Saturday morning over a cup of tea, with a pad, pen and a few favourite cookbooks.
Here are five reasons why you should consider introducing meal planning into your weekly routine:
1. You will eat balanced and healthy meals
The number one incentive to start meal planning is simple – it will help you to keep on track with your health goals. When you make time to think about your weekly meals in advance you can better incorporate a broad range of nutrient dense foods and protein types. Meal planning allows you to decide what healthy meals you are going to eat during the week, and the ingredients you need for this, even before you set a foot outside your front door. Further, all dishes are homemade by you, so you control what goes into your meal and ultimately that beautiful body of yours. When you have a menu of pre-planned meal options you also won’t need to resort to take away, which you will truly appreciate on those nights you arrive home late from work or the gym.
2. Variety is the spice of life
Whilst meal planning might sound boring and rigid, the reality is far from the truth. Instead of introducing repetition, thinking ahead about what you will eat over the coming week actually means you will get more variety in your dishes and avoid falling into the trap of eating the same dish over and over again. For us, Sunday is often a roast, Monday fish night, Tuesday a red meat of some description, Wednesday a chicken dish, Thursday pork, Friday fish again and Saturday either another chicken or red meat dish. If I’m home alone, often I will also build in a meat free dish, such as a frittata or zoodles.
3. You will save money
Having a shopping list (and sticking to it) will not only make grocery shopping more efficient, but you will often save money too. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of cooking a lovely meal only to find you have run out of an essential ingredient, or worse still, when you get home with that bottle of tamari you find two unopened bottles sitting in your pantry! Meal planning is a great way to save money as you will only be buying what you need (and you can pre-check your pantry and refrigerator for existing ingredients!).
4. Less food wastage
There is a growing movement around reducing food wastage, with increasing recognition that the amount of food waste produced globally is more than enough to feed almost 1 billion hungry people. Meal planning is therefore a great way to shop smart, only buy what you need, use it all or repurpose leftovers. Planning your weekly meals allows you the time to think about how you might use residual ingredients. For example, if a casserole calls for tomato paste, you can also use the left over in a pasta sauce. If you are cooking a whole chicken or fish, you can think about how you might use the carcass to create a stock for a hearty risotto. The list is endless, if you make time to plan!
5. Less stress
There is nothing worse than walking in the door after a busy day and still needing to pull together a healthy and nutritious meal. Having a written plan, and all of the ingredients you need on hand, removes this mental burden, even more so if you have already prepared a healthy casserole ahead of time, just like my sweet and spicy Apricot Chicken with Coconut Brown Rice.
So, have I convinced you about the benefits of introducing meal planning into your weekly routine? Next week I’ll share more tips to help you actually master the basics of meal planning, so grab a pen and notepad and get ready!
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp Moroccan seasoning
- 1 kg skinless chicken fillets, cut into thirds
- 1 x 800g tin of apricot halves in natural syrup (or homemade stewed apricots)
- 1 x 2cm piece of ginger, grated
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 red capsicum, sliced
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp chia seeds (black or white)
- 1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- 2. Mix chicken with the spices and place in a large casserole dish.
- 3. In a separate bowl or jug, combine the apricots, juice, ginger, garlic and stock. Pour over the chicken pieces.
- 4. Add sliced onion, carrots and capsicum to the casserole and stir to combine.
- 5. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and cook for 40 minutes.
- 6. Cook rice according to your preferred cooking method. Once cooked, transfer to a bowl and stir in coconut oil, slivered almonds and chia seeds. Mix well to combine.
- 7. Remove the casserole from the oven and stir. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes, uncovered.
- 8. To serve, place rice in serving bowls, top with the chicken and vegetables and drizzle over the apricot sauce.
- Serve with greens, such as broccoli or green beans.