Meal planning is a lot less complicated then people make it out to be! There is much talk around meal planning and how to do it, so today I wanted to give you the basics on how to save time and money with meal planning.
Not all families come in the same size and what I think is important here is to do what is best for you and your family! Creating a habit is the hard part, the rest is down to planning.
First, for those who are new to the concept, let me explain what it is and what it involves.
what is meal planning?
Meal planning is an activity where you decide in advance what each meal will consist of. You can plan for a week or a full month if that works best for you. I would start with a week and form a consistent habit that way, then when you have enough weekly menus you can decide if you want to move to plan a month in advance or stick to what you know.
What Does Meal Planning involve?
In general, meal planning involves deciding what to cook, getting the ingredients and in some cases, doing some of the preparation work in advance. The more you prepare ahead the more time you will save.
What are the benefits of Meal planning
There are many benefits to meal planning, not only is meal planning good for your pocket, but it also gives you the opportunity to have balanced meals throughout the week. See below some of the benefits and why they are important.
- Allows for more varied meals. You can alternate meat/fish/veg or different variations of what your family enjoys. Aim for balanced portions with different protein types, low GI carbohydrates and several vegetables.
- Balanced meals make for a healthier lifestyle. If you are used to eating on the go or just grabbing something from the shop on your lunchtime or maybe you rely on microwave food, changing habits will need some adjusting but the health benefits will be tremendous.
- Meal planning saves time. Now imagine, instead of picking something from the shop on your lunchtime, you come home and just need to spend around 30 minutes finishing a dish you had already planned for. Maybe you just need to make the salad and did not have to spend any time thinking about what you were going to cook.
- Gives you more budget control and greater savings. Once you know what you are going to be cooking on that week, you can do your shopping and stick to the items on your list. No more daily visits to the supermarket and impulse buying.
- Reduces food waste. Now, this is where I really think meal planning comes alive! Once you plan your meals consistently, you will get used to checking what you already have in your fridge/freezer before you start your planning and using those items instead of buying more. I’ll talk more about this below.
How does it work?
You definitely don’t need a degree to get a system going! It helps somewhat to think about a few factors first, and here I’m going on my own experience…
what to think about before you start…
- Think about your standard week, when do you normally do your grocery shopping? Also, when do you tend to have 20 minutes free, where you can sit and do a bit of planning for the following week. If you don’t have a day you shop and tend to do it on a daily basis, that is fine too! Just think of when you will be most likely to have time to plan.
- If you are anything like me, set a reminder on your phone for meal planning. I tend to do my planning on a Friday evening or Saturday morning.
- Decide how many meals you will need to plan for. If your family is mostly away during the day, there is no point in planning meals for lunch, so think about that too and decide if you want to include or exclude weekends!
- Lastly, will your family use leftovers or is that a no-no?
Ok, so let’s do this!
- Step 1 – Check what you have in your fridge/freezer that you can use for your meals next week. Make a note.
- Step 2 – Decide what you will be cooking, keeping the items above on the forefront so you can use them. For example, let’s say you have chicken, minced meat and salmon in your freezer. You also have spinach, sweetcorn and mushrooms in the fridge. Think about what your family likes. Are you a pasta family or do you favour rice or maybe potatoes? Use that in your recipes so you all still get what you like.
- Step 3 – Ok, so let’s say that you are planning for 5 evening meals for simplicity. You could go with roast chicken with chicken stock rice and a salad; salmon & spinach linguini; beef tacos and cucumber salad and tuna & sweetcorn pasta bake. This is just a simple example, there are so many combinations you can go for!
- Step 4 – Now that you have your meals planned, make your shopping list with the additional items you will need to get all the meals prepared.
Voila, that’s a week of meals planned for! You now have the start of your shopping list, add anything else you will need and you are good to go.
Want a meal plan with a shopping list? Get it here!
Pro Tip: It makes so much sense to make a note of each weekly menu for efficiency! After a few weeks, you can re-use previous weeks or mix and match. Just think about it, when you reach week 10 you can re-use week 1 and all your work will be done!
Meal planning is not as complicated as it is made out to be! It becomes much easier once you have been doing it for a while and can re-use or adapt old week-plans. There are a couple of other things I think you should consider if you really want to achieve great time savings because most of the gains you get are from planning ahead.
But what if you forget to take the chicken out of the freezer in the morning? There goes the time-saving… The amount of times this has happened to me!!! If you are creating meal planning habits, get used to checking what you need for the following day and organize it the night before. Use our pretty meal plan sheet and stick it to your fridge or freezer door so you can see it every time you open it.
Want to go one step further? Do some of the preparation head too! Let’s say that you are making a stew during the weekend (stews are a huge favourite winter comforter in my house!) and need to dice and fry some onion for it. You will need to do the same for your Monday rice and for the salmon & linguini, so dice and fry two onions or three, use what you need and freeze the other two portions. This will save you 5 minutes on Monday and again on Tuesday. If you need it for other dishes in the week you will save even more time! It’s safe to freeze cooked onions and you can use them directly once you take them out of the freezer. This is called bach cooking and it’s a great time saver for working mums!
Get you Weekly Meal Planner right here, just click on the side image and follow the prompts!
I love hearing about your experiences, so let me know if you have tried meal planning and how it has worked for. What adjustments did you make for your family and how much it has helped!
I’m here if you have any questions 🙂