Think eating vegetables is the key to weight loss and healthy eating? Think again. One of the best ways to eat healthier is through menu planning.

All your good intentions for healthy eating quickly go out the door when you get home and have no food in the house, or what you do have is just going to take too long. It’s just so much easier to order a pizza.

Most women think healthy eating is only about the food. But here’s a secret. It’s just as much about the menu planning. In fact, menu planning may even be more important than how many salads you eat each week. Why? Because most diet plans fail when women don’t have healthy food within easy reach. You need to have a plan.

Menu planning takes some time to do, but it saves you hours in the long run. And it takes the guess work out of how to stick with your diet plan—after all, you’ve already decided what food you’re going to have on hand all week. These five steps will help you plan your weekly food.

1. Figure out where your willpower usually falls apart. Do you eat lunch out every day? Do you grab takeaway or eat frozen meals for dinner because you’re too tired to cook? Do you eat the kids’ leftover chicken nuggets? Whatever your weakest meal is, start there.

2. Gather your favourite recipes and group by ingredient. You probably have certain meals you love or things you always want to make. List them, then group them together by common ingredients. When you group by common ingredients, meal preparation is easier; you’ll shop for everything as once and nothing will go to waste. Decide what group or two you want to cook from for the next week, and prepare to shop.

3. Gather your ingredient list and hit the store. Make a list of your ingredients then choose a day or time when you know you can go to the store and come home and do all of your prep work. Sort your menu list by staples and perishables — you can stock up on the staples to make future shopping trips easier. Then go shopping! Note any special ingredients you’ll want to buy the day of, such as fresh fish, and make a plan for when you’ll pick that up.

4. Prepare your food for the week. When you get home, you can make your life easier by prepping food ahead of time. Wash your veggies, parcel out your snacks in snack baggies, cook your rice and beans (yep, they’ll last in the refrigerator for a week), chop your protein (meat, fish or tofu) and wrap it up. The idea is to do as much as you can now so that meal time is a breeze.

5. Make extra food to freeze. Many dishes freeze well, so why not make your own frozen dinners? Spend a Sunday afternoon cooking a protein with heaps of vegetables – think bolognese ragu, or curry – and freezing in individual freezer bags or tubs. If healthy eating is part of your diet plan, making your own frozen meals is a good idea—part of menu planning is preparing for those days when you just don’t have the time or energy to cook.

With menu planning your diet plan has a much better chance of success. You’ll even find that when you plan out your meals, you actually save time. Imagine all the healthy things you can do with that time you’ve saved!