Planning your meals always seems easier in autumn, when the routine has kicked back in. Meal planning doesn’t just help save you money and time; it can also significantly increase the chances that you’ll make healthier food choices, no matter how busy you get.  

This is particularly important when it comes to self-managing your arthritis. Planning ahead takes so much of the guess work out of what you’ll eat each day and makes it much more likely that you’ll stick to a healthy, balanced diet in the most stress-free and enjoyable way possible.  

The Big Payoffs of Menu Planning:

  • You’ll learn better portion control: when meals aren’t planned, the portions can go way over what we need. Planning your meals (especially if you are batch cooking and segmenting portions for the week ahead), will mean you get to control what a healthy portion looks like, as opposed to just going on how hungry you are.  
  • You’ll save time: yes, it takes time to make a shopping list and to stick with it, as well as the time needed for prepping and cooking food. But, in the long run, it can save time as you’ve condensed all the work into one or two sessions, as opposed to taking an hour out of your day every day to prepare food. Also, many people multi-prep, which means you can prep a carrot and lentil soup at the same time as using the same ingredients for a vegetarian lasagne, with some additional items such as milk, butter, cheese, aubergine, courgette and lasagne sheets.  
  • You’ll find it easier to lose weight: When you’re hungry and your blood sugar drops, you’re more inclined to make poor food decisions (high sugar/high fat foods). ‘Convenience foods’ tend to be junk foods that we choose because we’re short on time and have nothing else prepped. But, when you have a balanced meal ready to go, filled with nutrient-dense food, you’re much more likely to stay on track. 
  • You’ll save money: with the cost of living so high right now, and the supermarket shop seeming to cost considerably more, we’ll all be watching our pennies this autumn and winter. Meal planning means you’ll skip the expenditure on restaurants and you’re also more likely to benefit from buying in bulk. Stick to our shopping list and avoid impulse buys when you go shopping, and you’ll notice the savings.  
  • You’re less likely to waste food: unnecessary waste isn’t just annoying, it’s also bad for the environment (never mind the waste of money) but, with meal planning, you’ll know in advance how you’re going to use each of the items on your shopping list, so you’re a lot less likely to have food left over.  

5 Tips for Healthy Meal Planning

  1. Set aside time each week (such as a Sunday morning) to plan the meal for the week ahead, and write an accompanying shopping list, full of healthy foods.  
  2. Plan your meals around whole, unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, pulses, wholegrains (such as brown rice), good quality protein (such as eggs/fish/chicken/lean meat) and healthy fats (such as olive oil/avocadoes). Try to avoid refined, processed carbohydrates (such as croissants and white bread), or foods with added sugars and too much salt.  
  3. Consider cooking in bulk as it saves time. Freeze what you don’t need right now. Curries, stews and casseroles all freeze very well. Try to add more vegetables and lentils to boost the nutrient content of these.  
  4. Invest in good quality storage containers (with lids) that can go easily into your freezer. 
  5. Don’t feel like you need to do this alone. If you live with others, ask for their help. This is especially important for anyone living with a chronic condition such as arthritis. Get the family involved and put on some music while prepping – you might have fun! 

Enjoy your food this month and we hope our blog makes meal planning that little bit easier! 

For more information about healthy eating when living with a chronic condition, visit the healthy eating section of our website