Plan Your Meals for Success on the Total Body Diet

By Victoria Shanta Retelny, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Planning is one of the anchoring principles of eating well on a budget, according to the USDA, and one of the keys to success on the Total Body Diet. How does your eating success hinge on establishing a weekly eating game plan? It’s not rocket science, but following a food plan not only helps you with your financial budget, but also helps you save calories.

Becoming a meal-planning pro

Think of yourself as a meal planner in training. You may not think it now, but in no time you’ll become a meal-planning pro, if you start small and build from there. Here are some key things you can do in order to stay on top of your meals for the week ahead:

  • Use online recipes, message boards, and apps for inspiration.

  • Participate in a recipe exchange with friends, neighbors, or co-workers.

  • Add ingredients for new recipes to your grocery list.

  • Keep your meals simple with four or five ingredients maximum. There are many great cookbooks using minimal ingredients.

Set it and forget it

Now that you have a plan, you can prepare ahead of time or even do a quick prep that day. When you’ve mapped it out in your head, there’s no guesswork and you can save time. If you have to leave for the day, you can put a meal in a slow cooker and let it cook all day. Then it’ll be ready when you get home!

The forget-it part of this equation allows you to get other things done without running around last minute to throw a meal together or just stopping at a fast-food place on the way home because you don’t have any idea what to eat for dinner.

You can make everything from oatmeal to curries to chili to pork to beef to chicken dishes to pasta sauces in a slow cooker. There are literally hundreds of recipes.

Navigating grocery store trips

You can streamline grocery store trips simply by having a list and visualizing the store. Categorize the foods that you need — such as fruits and vegetables, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, breads, and cereals — and map out the best path to fill your cart.

Before you shop, eat something — you’ll be more prone to make impulse purchases if you’re hungry.

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store first — that’s where you’ll most likely find fresh produce, whole-grain breads, meat, and dairy items.

Compare and save by looking at the unit price of items — not the actual price. The unit price is the total price per unit. The lower the price per unit, the better the deal. Many grocery stores list the price per unit on the shelf price tag, so you can compare prices more easily.

Purchase frozen items to save money, but be sure to check for added sugar, salt, and fat. Buying family packs saves money, but be sure to refrigerate or freeze remaining portions, such as meats, cheeses, pastas, rice, and breads.

Skip the chip and cookie aisle to save money (and excess calories from entering your home!). Also, plan to make homemade cookies as a treat. This way you can throw healthier ingredients in, too.

Avoid buying sugar-laden beverages. Instead, purchase a reusable water bottle and use filtered tap water. You’ll save money and calories in the long run.