We’ve all been there. You’ve just been food shopping, the cupboards are stocked, yet you haven’t a clue what to cook for dinner. A house full of food but not a meal in sight!
Or, maybe you’re stuck because you have a full day of work and no time to go to the shops.
Some clever meal planning can help ensure you only buy what you need. Saving not only money, but on food waste too.
Meal Planning is…
Meal planning is asking the “what do I want for dinner?” question a week in advance. It’s deciding your meals for the week and buying all the necessary ingredients in one shop.
It’s also preparing ingredients in advance as much as possible. Then you won’t have the, “I can’t face peeling those now, I’m starving” dilemmas.
Planning your meals for the week means no unnecessary supermarket purchases. Scouring the shops looking for inspiration and picking random ingredients can end up producing waste.
Write a list of the ingredients you need to buy and stick to it! You’ll build up a good basic store cupboard, and will only need to buy a few fresh items for each meal.
If you’re keen to save even more money and time on meals, it may be worth investing in a pressure cooker too.
If you’re trying to eat healthily, meal planning is ideal. Planning in advance avoids last minute, ready meals and helps you to resist temptation.
Also, if you are following a specific diet (for example if you’ve been diagnosed with an allergy), it can take time to get used to a new way of eating.
A little forethought helps ensure you stick to your plan.
Planning meals in advance and only buying what you need means wasting less.
Food waste is a huge problem, with the UK binning approximately £13 billion worth of food in 2015. Not only will you save money, stress and eat healthier. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you’re being less wasteful.
It’s also a good idea to plan a ‘leftovers’ night into your schedule too. That way you really will minimise food waste. Find out more about how you can turn forgotten veg into tasty treats.
How do I Get Started with Meal Planning?
Set a Schedule
The first step to meal planning is to decide when your week will run from. For me a Sunday night is the ideal time to sit down, plan meals and write a thorough shopping list.
This means that on a Monday I can order my shopping to be delivered for the week. Monday’s meal is usually something quick and easy, as I know I won’t be able to prep the night before.
Choose a schedule that fits with your routine and you’re more likely to stick to it. If you tend to do a grocery shop at the weekend, do your meal planning on a Friday.
At this point, also consider what your weekly schedule is like. What nights do you work late? Plan a slow cooker meal or something quick and easy to make here.
When do you tend to need a comfort meal? Is it at the start of the working week to get you through? Do you like a treat or take out on a Friday?
Account for these when you’re meal planning so that you have meals that suit your needs. Being stuck with something you don’t fancy when the time comes is really uninspiring.
Now find yourself a planning format that works for you. There are loads of templates available. We love using printable meal planners. They come with a variety of different styles to suit your needs.
Templates can include all three meals for the day or just your main meal. Several also include a shopping list section to get you organised. Others even include space to reflect on what did and didn’t work to help with future planning.
Shop for What You Need
For me, meal planning works really well with online shopping. You can sit at a computer with your shopping list to hand and order exactly what you need. Free from the temptation of wandering the aisles on an empty stomach!
You can even use meal planning apps which mean your shopping list can be online. Some paid-for apps will transfer your list directly to your online shopping basket.
Prep and Enjoy
Meal planning works well if you prepare the day before. It saves stress, and time that could be spent at the table. You could even prepare most of your meals at the start of the week, leaving very little to do but heat them up each night.
Then, you can sit back and enjoy healthy, cost efficient meals every night of the week!
Planning Is Key
To make shopping, cooking, sticking to a budget and healthier eating easier you really do need to make a plan.
- Decide when you’ll do your weekly planning
- Find a planning template that works for you and your family
- Sit down and mark out any events during the week
- Fill in all the meals and ingredients you’ll need
- Go shopping
- Stick to the plan – it’s the only way to keep to a budget and keep food waste at bay