Meal Planning Tips
Let’s talk about meal planning. Every year in January, I make a resolution to get more on top of meal planning. We sketch out the meals for the week ahead, write a shopping list for the whole week, put in an online grocery order for a ‘big shop’ (we don’t have a car, so delivery is our only option on that account). This all goes well for a couple of weeks, until we’re back to the husband and I texting each other at 5pm with “any ideas for dinner?” and “do we need anything from the shops?” I’ve made peace with the fact that meal prepping or batch cooking for the week ahead is probably never going to happen in our house, but I DO want to get better – and stay better – at planning ahead and here’s why:
It Saves Time
It sometimes feels impossible to carve out time to sit down and plan a whole week of meals ahead, but it eliminates the daily last-minute decision making. And getting a ‘big shop’ in means we don’t need to do so many frequent shops throughout the week. So, overall, it saves time – and stress – in the long run.
It’s More Cost Effective
When I’m planning in advance, I’m less likely to make impulse purchases. I can also think more about what ingredients I can use for multiple dishes, so that we don’t end up with half used bags of things that then go off, contributing to food waste as well as wasting money. And, finally, buying ingredients at the local mini supermarkets costs more than getting a ‘big shop’ online – yes, the same things from the same supermarkets cost more if you get them from the corner shop version of the store!
It Leads to More Variety
When we don’t plan ahead, we end up cooking the same handful of meals as we are limited to what ingredients the local shops sell and also when you’re making last minute decisions you tend to go for the things you know how to make quickly. And that’s when you end up eating pasta four or five times a week. Not that there’s anything wrong with pasta. I love pasta! But we all know that variety is the key to a balanced and healthy diet. When we plan ahead, we try and space out the same types of meals, to get a good balance between rice, pasta and potato dishes, and between veggie, fish and meat dishes. We also end up being more adventurous in trying to cook new dishes, because we’ve looked ahead and know what days we’ll have the time to do that.
We actually did really well with our meal planning in December, especially over the holidays. I think knowing the shops weren’t going to open every day as usual forced us to be more organised. Now we just need to keep the momentum going in January. Here’s a few things we’re doing to help with that:
- We have a meal planner on the front of our fridge, so everyone knows what’s on the menu for the coming week. Ours is a wee dry-erase magnetic one, that one of the boys brought home from school a while ago from the Scottish Government Parent Club, but you can buy similar ones online. Alternatively, I’ve created a download for you which you can print off – or even just write it out on a piece of paper. Maybe not as pretty, but does the trick.
- I put an appointment every week in my Google calendar, to sit down and do the next week’s meal plan and place the ‘big shop’ grocery order. Treating it like an appointment reminds me to actually do it!
- I also put any relevant notes/ alarms in my Google calendar for anything that either needs to be bought locally nearer the time (e.g. meat or some veg I don’t want to order too far in advance), or that need to be taken out the freezer before work to defrost for the evening.
- I’ve started to keep a running list of all the meals we make, so that when we’re planning the week(s) ahead and running out of ideas, we can go back and check what other meals we’ve done in the past that we maybe haven’t had in a while.
- We don’t really do theme nights, which I know some families love doing (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc) but we do often do one soup night, one pasta night, one rice night, one meat night, one fish night, to try and get that variety and balance of meals mentioned above.
- And, finally, I recently bought another blank mini dry-erase board to stick on the front of our freezer, to keep a tally of what we have in there as I find that’s the food we most forget about as we don’t open the freezer as often as the fridge.
I hope those tips are useful to you too. I would love to hear what your favourite meal planning tips are that work for you. Here are the links to meal planner downloads (there’s a colour and a B&W version):
You can also find me on Twitter or Instagram. Feel free to tag me in if you want to share any meal planning tips. And if anyone would like to support me with a small donation, which helps to keep this blog running, it would be much appreciated. Just hit the support button below. Thank you x