Meal planning is the savvy person’s guide to never having to fear that annoying “what’s for dinner?” question again. It totally takes the hassle out of meal times, and will save you both time in the kitchen and money – what’s not to like about that! I’ll admit that I felt a little daunted by the prospect of weekly or monthly meal plans, but I was surprised at how easy it was to get into the swing of it. I’ve put my best meal planning tips here so you can learn how to do it too.
Write a list of all the meals you cook regularly, and ask your family for their input. I love Pinterest for recipe inspiration, but there are plenty of other sites to look at including Food to Love by Women’s Weekly, Taste, Jamie Oliver, and even supermarkets like Coles. By the end of the process you should have a list of at around 20 different meals to choose from.
Have a look at your calendar to see which the days are where everyone is out doing different things, and those where you have more time to cook. It’s pointless planning to roast a chicken if you’re so busy with after school and after work activities that you won’t get time to do more than toast a slice of bread!
It doesn’t take much more time to meal plan monthly than it does weekly. If there are recipes you cook regularly you can save yourself even more time and effort by doubling or trebling the recipe and freezing the extra portions.
Here is my meal plan for May. Everything with a (x2) is where I will double the recipe, using the other half later in the month where it says “freezer”. I may tweak it slightly when I do my grocery shopping, for example substituting a different type of meat if it is on offer.
Meal planning lets you efficiently create a shopping list. You can see what you will need way in advance and avoid any last minute don’t-have-a-plan-so-will-panic-buy purchases that can be so expensive. I do a large shop at the end of the previous month, then top up with things like milk, fruit, and veg each week.
I have found that it’s easier to cook or prepare several meals in one go and freeze them until required. For example, I will chuck some Bolognese sauce and cottage pie filling on to cook on a weekend, and dice and brown beef for the stew before bagging it up with the other ingredients to be frozen ready for throwing in the slow cooker. If you don’t have a slow cooker, I suggest you buy one! They are perfect for cooking everything from stews to bread and cakes. It’s so nice dumping a bag of frozen ingredients in it before you leave for work, then coming home to a beautifully cooked meal.
I confess that I don’t always stick to my meal plan rigidly. There are days when I either don’t feel like cooking or eating what I’ve planned for that day, or when we decide to go out instead. What I have found is that thinking of what I am going to cook in advance makes me less wasteful as I can plan meals around similar ingredients. It also means faster meal preparation and cleaning up time as I have already done the bulk of the cooking and preparation.
Give it a go and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by not only how easy it is – especially if you’ve done it once or twice – and how much time and money you save.
Enjoy! Rowena 🙂