Meal Planning is one of those cumbersome tasks that feels mammoth when you start it but like, a muscle, the more you use it, the more effortless it becomes. It is one of the most useful tasks in our house for reducing spend on food, reducing food waste and make sure we have healthy meals on the table at a decent time each evening. It’s definitely worth the effort so I suggest getting the kids to bed on a Sunday evening, pouring a glass of wine and get writing up a meal plan for the week. My top tips on getting started;
- Raid the Cupboards: Resist the urge to plan meals you want to eat and then run out and shop for them. See what you have in the fridge and cupboards first and try to build meals around what is already there.
- Put Pen to Paper: Get a record of what you’re planning to eat on each day that you can reference. For a family, I’d ideally suggest keeping it some place that’s viewable by everyone or at least the other person in charge of cooking. Some ideas? A chalkboard or a printable menu grid to stick to the fridge? Or if you’re more digitally minded, use a cloud space like a Google Keep document that you and your other half can access or edit while on the go, or if you’re really keen on online access, I thoroughly recommend Plan To Eat.
- Write a List: When you know what ingredients are missing, write a list of everything you need for the week. When reviewing your list, this is a good time to decide if you could cut anything… ie, steaks twice in one week? Do you have at least one meat-free day in there? Are there any cheaper substitutions you can make? Stick to the list when you go shopping!!
- Start with the Fresh Food: Did you know that 35% of all salad products and 31% of bakery products purchased in the UK are thrown away? So, why not start your week off using up these fresher ingredients to ensure that you get eating them. You can always
- Double Duty: Have a think about meals that can be stretched over two nights to ease the pressure on having to think of a different meal every evening. One pot dishes such as curry, chilli, stew and bolognese lend themselves really well to this. Even if you don’t fancy doing the same dinner two nights on the trot, freeze a batch and having a curry in the freezer might just be what stops you reaching for the takeaway menu at a weak moment.
- Prepare in Advance: In our house, my husband arrives home with the kids at 5:30pm and prepares their dinner, I arrive home at 6:15 and having a meal already prepared means we can sit down to eat a dinner as a family. To get these occasional and zen moments, I take 3 or so hours on a Sunday morning to prepare pasta bakes that can sit in the fridge for 3-4 days, chop carrots into carrot sticks, grate a whole block of cheese for the kids to nibble on, mash some potatoes… anything that makes putting the meals together easier. Tupperware is my friend!