If you have dietary restrictions, whether they be related to a moral choice (like veganism and vegetarianism), an allergy (like gluten-free), or a voluntary or medically-required health consideration (like the FODMAP diet), it can be challenging to feed yourself. Meals at restaurants or social gatherings often leave you without anything to eat and, when cooking at home, you have to carefully choose recipes that will fit your specific needs.
One of the most useful tools to make living with dietary restrictions easier and simpler is meal planning, or choosing your meals ahead of time for some period of time, usually a week, in advance. This allows you to better plan your grocery shopping trips, spend less time cooking, and assure you’ll have something to eat for the entire week that is in line with your dietary needs.
If you do choose to give meal planning a try, it’s highly recommended that you plan out your meals in writing in a journal so that you have an easy-to-consult, written resource to look toward that helps organise and prepare you for the week ahead. In this article, we’ll explain two of the best methods for meal planning in a journal.
Why You Should Meal Plan
In addition to offering convenience, helping you track your dietary restrictions, and making it easier to stick to a budget, meal planning has been shown to help even the general, non-food-restricted population stay healthy. A 2017 study found that meal planning was associated with a healthier diet and less obesity, and it’s been named as an effective tool both at facilitating dietary behavioural change and managing diabetes. That means that food planning can be especially useful for you if you are struggling to manage a new or particularly challenging dietary restriction.
1) The Bullet Journal Method
One of the most convenient ways to meal plan is to use a bullet journal, which is a flexible way to organise everything ranging from your schedule to your habit tracking in one notebook. Instead of lines, bullet journals come with dots arranged in a grid pattern, making it easy to create your own “spreads” that best serve your goals and purposes. Because they’re so flexible and meant to be used and referenced often, bullet journals are very well-suited for meal planning.
You can get as creative as you’d like in your bullet journal, creating spreads to track things like:
- Your favourite recipes
- Your weekly shopping list
- The meals you plan to eat each day of the week
- When you need to shop and when you need to cook
- A list of your dietary restrictions
- A habit tracker where you check off every day that you successfully stuck to your intended diet
- Your daily blood sugar levels (if you have diabetes)
The best part of the bullet journal method is that it is so flexible and customisable. If you find yourself thinking of ways to improve on a previous spread, you can just flip to a new page and make whichever changes will best serve your needs and help you meet your goals.
2) The Prompt Journal Method
Another useful option for meal planning is the prompt journal method, which requires buying a journal specifically intended for use as a meal planner. These are incredibly convenient because they’re designed for the exact purpose you want to use them for. Most prompt journals that you’d purchase for meal planning would contain some, if not all, of the following elements:
- A weekly grocery list
- Tear-away pages that you can write lists on to take to the store with you
- Meal prep tips
- Cooking tips
- A log of successful meals and recipes for future reference
- A planner for dinner parties and social gatherings that allows you to list the meals and drinks you’ll serve
- A weekly meal planner with spaces for each day’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
- A place to note ideas for specific meals, like breakfast and lunch
- A place to track progress on your health goals
- Journal prompts to help you reflect on your health journey
- Budgeting pages
- Health tips
- Blank pages for jotting down notes and doodling
- Measurement charts
- A place to write down your own recipes
- Calorie, diet point, water intake, and exercise trackers
- Seasonal food calendars
- Food facts
- Inspirational quotes
As you can see, the different resources available in various prompt food journals are nearly endless!
Pros and Cons of the Bullet Journal and Prompt Journal Methods
If you’re interested in trying out journaling for meal planning to help you manage your food restrictions, you might be unsure which method is best for you. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to each that you can keep in mind to help you make your decision.
The Bullet Journal Method
- The bullet journal method is the most flexible and customisable option
- You’ll have room for creativity, with the ability to use stickers, colour-coding, and drawings to make your bullet journal both functional and beautiful. If you have a strong aesthetic sense or simply like to draw, you may find this very motivating.
- Because bullet journals are meant to be a one-stop-shop for all of your life organizing needs, you’ll be able to keep your meal planning and tracking in the same notebook as your to-do list, your planner, your calendar, and so on
- Bullet journals go beyond just allowing for creativity; they require it. Because they come blank, it’ll be up to you to decide how to organize your meal planning spreads. This can be a bit intimidating if organisation, drawing, and planning don’t come easily to you
- Because you have to draw out a new meal plan spread each week, bullet journals can be quite time-consuming, which means they won’t be as good of a fit for somebody who is very busy
The Prompt Journal Method
- The biggest advantage of the prompt journal is convenience. You can purchase one that already has everything you need in it, without having to take any extra time or put in any additional effort to design spreads
- Many prompt journals come with very useful resources such as recipes, tips, and reference pages, which you might find useful and convenient
- If you’re a person who likes to compartmentalise, you may enjoy having your meal planner separate from your daily planner and calendar
- Because they’re more niche and specific than bullet journals, a meal planning prompt journal is likely to be a bit pricier than the simplest bullet journals on the market
- In order to find a prompt journal that has all of the different types of pages you’re looking for, you may need to spend some time looking around and checking all of the different available options out there. And you may ultimately find that there isn’t an existing prompt journal with all of the sections you’re hoping to use.
Ultimately, whichever type of journal you end up choosing, being deliberate and strategic about your meal planning can make a huge difference in easing the inconvenience and challenge of living with dietary restrictions. You’ll be able to clearly plan and easily see everything to do with your diet, helping you to be sure you stick to your intended meal plan. Plus, there are the added benefits of motivation, helping you stick to a budget, and being good for your health. So why not try it out? You’ll be so happy you made the effort.