I'm a planner. I've always been a planner. I still use a Filofax to keep on top of all my dates, my finances are arranged in Excel spreadsheets and I would be lost without Post-it notes and lists. My iPhone notes are full of lists and I never go to a supermarket without a shopping list in my hand.
Planning ahead is a helpful tool on Weight Watchers, and it comes hand in hand with tracking. I fill out a paper tracker every Wednesday with the meals I'm intending to eat over the next seven days, this in turn generates a shopping list of foods that I need to buy on Thursday, ready for my new week on Friday. Done! In short, planning it makes my life a lot easier as well as healthier.
I believe that there are two kinds of people on this earth; those who write shopping lists, and those who freestyle in the aisles at supermarkets. Honestly, I don't know how the ones in the latter category cope. I love food shopping; I make sure I go to a nice supermarket, with a spare hour and a clear strategic plan. My list is written out in the order that I will meet things as I take 'my route' around the supermarket. It's done with almost military precision - no faffing and no procrastinating (seriously, the SAS would be proud of my procedures, albeit without a balaclava). To me, freestyling results in a bigger bill and potentially diet-dangerous (and mostly unnecessary) purchases.
There's a great post about this on Nutritionist Resource by Elle, another list enthusiast (seriously - look at her list, it's amazing!), who basically says if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail, and I really believe this. As I've said previously on my blog, the nearest place to my office to grab food is a local Sainsbury's - and I am not prepared to have supermarket wonders waved in my face every lunchtime - I do not have the willpower to cope with that. So I prepare my own lunches because not only does it save me a lot of money and anxiety, I also know exactly what I'm eating (and how many Weight Watchers ProPoints it all is).
The other great thing about planing is that you can sit down and have a good think about what you're eating, there's no 'impulsive' dinners (well, not during the week at least) to destroy your good eating intentions. I always know roughly how many Points I'm going to spend on daily breakfasts (5-7) and lunches (6-9) so I know how many Points I'll have left to play with for my dinners (10-15, but I aim for 10 so that I can still have a snack or a treat each day without raiding my Weekly Points too badly). I'm slowly getting my head around the ProPoints plan now (in other words, I have learned to stop looking at the calorie content on food and check the proteins and fats instead) and (with a little help from my foodie friends) I have an arsenal of good meal ideas, all of which are high protein and good fats which sit well within my 10 Point dinner target. I know what I'm eating and I know when I'm going to eat it, therefore making a list just makes good sense.
I cook in bulk, I use every inch of my freezer space, I break some rules (toast does happen for dinner on some days and porridge does happen for lunch) and I hunt for bargains (the reduced section in my local Co-Op is my new favourite find), I make some strange combinations but as long as I'm eating well, then I'm not really bothered. Takeouts will always be a stable feature of my Saturday nights, but the glory of planning is that you don't have to feel guilty about them, because you knew it was going to be there and therefore can get the rest of your diet balanced around it.
I appreciate it can look like such hard work, especially to people who are not natural planners and not great cooks, but I promise it can be so easy to eat well if you sit and think about it. Some of my favourite dinners are the easiest ones you can imagine making, and they take no time at all to prepare too.
So next week when the cupboards are looking a bit sparse; get out your pen and paper, fire up your notes app on your chosen technological gizmo and write a list of the meals you'd like, or even simply what foods you'd like to have on your plate (I went out specifically last week with the word 'VENISON' on the top of my list) and then create a little list from it of what you need to buy. It might be the start of a beautiful new habit.