I came to a realization the other day, while talking to a friend about eating good food cooked from scratch, and the realization was this: eating healthy takes a lot of organization. It really does. It takes a lot of effort, planning, and time. There are a million reasons why it’s hard for people to eat healthy, but I think this is a big one. Thus, I have thought more about how I organize the way I eat. I’m certainly not a perfect eater, but these are some of the steps I try to take each week in order to make sure my diet stays healthy:

1. Make a grocery list. 

This one is huge. I used to go to the grocery store and just sort of buy whatever was on sale or looked appetizing at the time. Then when I got home, I would have no idea how to combine the ingredients to something tasty, so I would end up eating frozen pizza or the same three dishes every week (macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and chicken pot pies). Looking up recipes ahead of time, and writing down all the ingredients I’ll need, really changed all that, because now I have everything required to make better meals. Also, I keep my list on the fridge and add things to it whenever stock things start to run low (aka when we only have one jar of oats left, I write it on the list right away).

2. Store recipes somewhere so it’s easy to pick out good ones.
I like to find recipes online and store them on my Pinterest. I also print the best ones out and put them in a binder that I can flip through when I’m making a list. Other people put sticky notes in their cookbooks on the pages with good recipes. Then look through these recipes when deciding what you’ll want to eat that week. I usually pick out four recipes at the beginning of the week, and write the ingredients on the list.

3. Only buy what’s on the list.
The other benefit of a list is that you can save money if you only buy what’s on the list. That way, you’ll only buy the food you need, and none of it will go bad in the fridge when it doesn’t get used. Food waste is a huge money waste. A friend of mine sent me this article on how to prevent food waste. It talks about how to “tie your meals together” in order to prevent food waste. (For example, if the store only sells ground beef in one-pound packages, find two recipes that use a half-pound of ground beef.)

4. Make time for cooking. If you aren’t going to have time, make sure you have leftovers or a premade meal ready.
I love cooking from scratch, but it does take a lot of time. I usually budget an hour to make the food and some more time to eat it and clean up, as well. Sometimes the recipes aren’t that complex, but I still make sure I can set aside an hour to make the food. There are some nights, though (usually Tuesday nights for me) that I can’t cook because I have too much else going on. Those are nights when I try to find a reasonably healthy “instant” meal to eat. Here are some awesome ideas for ten-minute meals. I also eat pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes at least twice a month.

5. Throw away (or compost) food that is old.
Then your fridge or cabinet won’t overwhelm you. You’ll be able to see what you have, and what you need to buy at the store.

I’m sure there are many more ideas that help make eating healthy easier. If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments!