How to devise a weekly menu plan that is effective and satisfying.
What are you trying to achieve?
Your first step in producing your weekly menu plan is to consider what it is you are trying to achieve with the foods that you eat. Your aims might be one of the following:
- Weight loss (how many pounds?)
- Restoring health (e.g. cutting down on sugar if you have diabetic issues)
- Maintaining health
- Avoiding foods to which you are intolerant (e.g. wheat or dairy foods)
- Gaining more energy
- Having plenty of strength and stamina for sporting activities
- Enjoyment – just eating for pleasure
- Introducing new foods into your diet such as turning vegetarian or introducing raw foods
- Saving money – spending less on food and operating within a budget
- Saving time and effort – maybe you want quick simple meals and to avoid long periods of time in the kitchen
So there can be many different objectives which could shape your food choices, and indeed you may have more than one. Understanding these objectives will help you to come up with a successful and workable plan. An important point to note is that you must really be committed to achieving your objectives, or you will most likely fail from the start. For example there is no point producing a menu plan focusing on weight loss if you only half-hearted about it, or doing it because someone told you should.
What does your life look like this week?
What is going on in your life this week? Here are some examples of activities which could affect your eating plans.
- Spending a day at a business event
- Leaving home early / getting back late
- A weekend away
- Entertaining friends
- Entertaining clients
- School holidays
- Participating in a sporting event
- House renovations
- Medical appointments
I’m sure you get the idea. Fill in any relevant activities on your menu plan, so you don’t forget. Consider how each activity might affect your food choices; whether you need something quick and easy, something portable, something pre-made and so on. For example if you have to leave home early then either make your breakfast the night before, make it quick, or have something portable you can take with you. If you know you are going to be late home then make sure you have food prepared in advance or plan a quick and simple meal. It is when you are unprepared that your plans go out of the window, you are more likely to eat the wrong foods, and then feel disappointed because you are not meeting your objectives.
Choose foods you love
Having set the frame work of your menu plan then you are ready to fill it up with foods and recipes that you will love. Whatever your objectives might be, make sure you only put in food choices that you are going to enjoy eating. Do not put in foods just because you think they fit with the objectives. For example if you want to eat vegetarian foods don’t list ‘quorn burgers’ unless you are sure you will like them. If you are aiming for weight loss then don’t condemn yourself to a week of limp lettuce. If you don’t enjoy the foods on your menu plan you will soon abandon it and before you know it you will be back to square one.
Balance your menu plan
As far as you are able try to balance your menu plan. For example if you following a mixed diet, aim to have something like 3 meat dishes, 2 fish dishes and 2 vegetarian dishes for your main meals in any one week. Don’t put all the meat dishes on consecutive days. Vary your lunches – don’t have sandwiches every day. Make sure there is plenty of variety, a mixture of cooked and fresh raw foods daily, and a good quantity of fruit and vegetables.
Buy the foods to fit your plan
Once you have your menu plan then you can translate this into a list of required ingredients and a shopping list. When you go shopping you will buy only the things you need which will give you several benefits. You are more likely to stick with your plan if you don’t have any extra distractions in your cupboard or fridge and you won’t waste money on food products which end up languishing at the back of the fridge until they get thrown away.