It’s finally the summer holidays and now you are struggling to juggle between making sure your kids are entertained, full time work, child care whilst you’re working, making sure their back to school gear is organised already. It’s exhausting. It’s even harder when you come home and you need to try and conjure up a meal for everyone.
This is why meal planning is such an attractive idea, but the actual organisation required for that can be a nightmare. However, IT IS WORTH IT! We often tell ourselves that we simply don’t have the time to sit down and plan out the meals, however, by finding the time to do this you free up a whole week’s worth of time. It can feel tricky at first but we promise you, if you stick with it, it gets a lot easier. It is honestly a perfect way of keeping you (and your family) organised, save money and maybe even eat a little bit healthier!
Meal planning does exactly what it says on the tin, you plan your week’s meals in advance. This means you can not only make sure you have tasty meals each week but it also means you know exactly what you need to get in your weekly shop. Imagine no more popping to the shops on the way home because you forgot the garlic?! You can also use it to reduce your food wastage as at the beginning of each plan you can have a quick scan of your cupboards and add your leftover ingredients so you know what to cook first before it goes off. Then think of your meals, what would you like for the rest of the week?
When I first started doing this I would print off 7 recipes that sounded delicious and used those. That way not only did you have the ingredients in a nice tidy list but also you can try out a new dish every night without hassle. A better way of thinking is having 10-20 go-to recipes that you can add in for when you are feeling uninspired. That way you aren’t eating the same few meals over and over again and also you can chop and change the variations as you see fit.
Remember to start small and work up, and do this no more than a week at a time, that way you can keep yourself motivated and in the habit.
Honestly, only if you want to! If your meals can be made and kept in the fridge or freezer for a little while, why not? I personally like to cook each night and just make sure the ingredients I need are laid out beforehand, but you do you! Some people prefer doing a double batch (1 for dinner 1 for the freezer) of their favourites to keep in the freezer in case of emergency.
I like many of you come home feeling tired so I am almost never in the mood to do meal planning. So I split the jobs into two and do each part on a different day. I write the plan and ingredients on Saturday, I do the weekly shop on Sunday and the plan starts on the Monday. By doing this I am not trying to reorganise my life around the food shop, I can actually get other things done (like sit on the sofa and relax)!
I always check the cupboards, fridge and freezer for anything that hasn’t been used so that I can add it to my meals. This way I am reducing the amount of waste that needs to be thrown out.
We know that emergencies come at the most inconvenient of times. However you will be surprised how much of your life is already planned out. If you already know you are going out to dinner on Friday, no need to plan. If you know that the in laws are coming over for Sunday lunch, plan to buy more. Always check your personal calendar to make sure that you are planning your meals out properly.
Whenever you’re at the supermarket look at the Reduced To Clear sections as not only can you bag yourself a bargain but you are also committing to cooking the meals that you have laid out. You can also find ingredients that are not only cheaper but that you can put in the freezer and save them for another week, meaning less trips to the shops.
If there are recipes that you repeat over and over then make sure you have them written down somewhere so that you have a bank of meals that are quick, easy to cook and you know always go down well. For us, if we have spare broccoli or cauliflower out comes our pesto pasta recipe. Quick and simple and then I know exactly the missing ingredients to make it.
We can’t stress this enough, meal planning will save you a lot of time and effort but only if you stick to it regularly. As soon as you build a habit of it, you will be able to see the time and money it saves you each week.