I often write that to lose weight, change your lifestyle and maintain your weight, you have to find an approach that works for you. For example, I love to exercise and tend to get anxious, edgy and just plain mean and snippy when I don’t. I hate eating vegetables, though. So you have to figure out what your unique challenges are and go from there, but there is one constant that everyone will have to deal with: Meal planning.

When I was obese, I didn’t think much about food. When I was hungry, I would go find something that I liked, which usually included my two favorite food groups: grease and starch. I would eat it, and that would be the end. Now, I think about food often, from our daily meals to special recipes and fun desserts to try.

The thing is, though, that no matter how interested I’ve become in cooking and baking, meal planning can still be a pain. And to be honest, I would very much prefer to eat a majority of  my meals out, but a home-prepared meal is almost always going to be healthier and much more weight loss friendly (let alone how expensive it is for just two people to eat out).

Meal planning takes time, but I’d much rather invest a few minutes on the weekend instead of having dealing with that agonizing “What are we going to eat tonight?” question on a Wednesday when you’re hungry and one speed dial away from a pizza.

How to get started:

  • I think about what we both like to eat as well as what we both need to eat more of (that’s almost always veggies). Then I go to the grocery store’s weekly sales ad, which almost all of the major chains are putting online now. There’s always a party when boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale.
  • Then I head to my favorite recipe sites: Cooking Light and Cheap Healthy Good . I start by clicking through the vegeterian recipes (I try my hardest to respect fiance’s flexitarian ideals, even though I believe our four-legged friends are here to eat and wear). Then I search for recipes that contain the ingredients that were on sale. My most common Google searches are “cheap + healthy + easy (whatever was on sale) recipe.”
  • I try to make at least two dinners that will provide leftovers. Then, we don’t have to worry about lunches! And we’re both big leftover fans — most dishes just taste better the next day, duh — so it’s a win-win situation.
  • I also like to plan at least one no-brainer, no-recipe meal: turkey or veggie burgers with sweet potato fries. The only downside is no leftovers.
  • We plan to eat one weeknight meal out per week. Knowing that that’s already planned makes it easier to stick to the meal plan.
  • We are starting a new tradition in which Friday night is homemade pizza night. Friday night was go-out-to-eat night but due to the fact that we both really, really loathe crowds, we thought it might be a good idea to switch that to some other night (maybe it’ll be the new way to make Mondays suck less). We both had Friday night pizza nights growing up, too, and it’s nice to carry that on. Having a ritual like this makes one fewer meal to think of — and something to look forward to.

I’m not going to sugar coat it: Meal planning can be tedious. But it is so worth it to have healthy, weight-loss friendly meals, and it can help you save so much money at the grocery store, too. I’ve really been slacking on my coupon clipping and need to get back into that, too.

Do you plan your meals? What are you biggest challenges?