Meal Planning … My Top Tips …

Meal Planning 002

 

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on why meal planning is a great idea, what did you think?

Today I thought I would share with you my top tips for creating a Meal Plan:

  • Pick a day of the week and a time that suits you to do your planning.  Ideally, you will want to sit down uninterrupted so you can focus on your plan.  You might choose a day that coincides with pay day or you might do it on a Friday so you can shop on the weekend and do some cooking and baking … it’s really up to you and what works for your family and your circumstances.
  • Before sitting down to plan your meals for the week, check the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what you already have.  Be mindful of the use by dates on products and incorporate into your Meal Plan anything that is about to go beyond those dates.  Be aware of items, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, that are still unused in the fridge, and incorporate those ingredients into your Meal Plan to help reduce waste.  Start your Meal Plan using the ingredients you already have and then fill in the blank days with meals cooked from items that are on sale for the week at the supermarket.
  • Grab your Recipe Folder (I’ll be writing a post about how to create one soon) and select the meals you would like to cook for the week.  I like to mix it up so that we’re not eating meat and three veg every night.
  • Keep it simple!  It’s not necessary to cook a gourmet meal every night.  Be on the lookout for recipes that are quick and easy to prepare while still being healthy and nutritious.  Also, don’t be afraid to have toasted sandwiches or scrambled eggs on toast if you find yourself with a one-off unplanned event or something similar that really throws your meal plans out the window.
  • Use a slow cooker if you own one.  There’s nothing easier than chopping up your ingredients and throwing them into a slow cooker first thing in the morning.  By dinnertime, you’ll have a delicious meal that will only need some rice, pasta, potatoes or veggies to fill hungry tummies and best of all, if you cook a double quantity, you can freeze a meal for another night.
  • When Meal Planning, also think about lunches for the following day and cook the appropriate quantities.  This will make lunchboxes more appetizing and also save you loads of time.
  • To ensure you keep your meals interesting and have loads of variety, try having particular types of food on certain nights.  For example, Monday might be chicken, Tuesday might be fish, Wednesday might be lamb, Thursday might be steak or beef, Friday might be pork, Saturday might be pasta and Sunday might be rice dishes.
  • Don’t forget to give the fridge, freezer and pantry a quick tidy so that you can clearly see everything and there’s room available for everything after you’ve done the grocery shop.
  • Be adventurous and lookout for new recipes.  Search magazines, blogs and websites and ask family and friends to share their recipes.  I borrow a lot of cookbooks from my local library and try to cook at least one new recipe once a fortnight.  If it’s a success, include it in your meal plans.
  • As well as trying out some new recipes (and you’ll find some great ones here on the blog), be sure to incorporate family favourites that everyone loves into the weekly Meal Plan.  My kids love Lasagna and other pasta dishes as well as yummy roasts so those meals are usually included at least once a fortnight.  Why not involve the family in the actual Meal Planning!  It can be really difficult being the only person responsible for every meal, so asking the family for suggestions can really help.  The upside here is that everyone gets to nominate their favourite and gets involved in the process.
  • Use your junk mail to help you Meal Plan.  There are significant savings to be made by purchasing items that are on special for the week.  It’s also a good idea to cook meals using fruit and vegetables that are “in season” as that is when these items will be the cheapest.
  • If you plan weekly, don’t forget to check your calendar.  As well as taking into account things like appointments, after school activities, sports training, etc. will you be home every night?  Do you have to attend any social functions where you need to take a plate or will you be out for dinner but still need to cook for the kids?
  • Keep a copy of your previous Meal Plans in a folder in the kitchen.  You can either reuse them or use them for inspiration if you feel like you’re running out of ideas.
  •  At the start of the day, check your Meal Plan and gather up all the ingredients you will need for dinner that night.  Place all the fridge items you will need in a small plastic basket or container in the fridge and do the same with your pantry items and place those on the bench.  Making dinner will be quicker and easier, it’s a double check that you have everything you need and it will reinforce your commitment to meal planning and give you the best chance of success.
  • If you’re starting out, you might want to Meal Plan for just dinner in the evening but then once you get the hang of it, there’s no reason why you can’t also plan for breakfasts, lunches and snacks.  It won’t take long and you’ll be Meal Planning like a pro!
So, for those of you who would like to give Meal Planning a go, I have created a free Meal Plan that you can print off to get you started.  Simply click on the “free to download” button under the image and print as often as you would like.

So what’s on my Meal Plan for the week:

Monday:  Spaghetti Bolognaise

Tuesday:  Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup

Wednesday:  Lamb Greek Meatballs on wraps with Tomato, Cheese, Spinach Leaves and Tzaziki

Thursday:  Salmon with Cajun Seasoning and Salad with Avocado

Friday:  Peanut Chicken with Rice, Broccoli and Carrots

Saturday:  Roast Pork with Pumpkin Bake, Potato Bake, Green Beans, Corn on the Cob and Gravy

Sunday:  Steak with Curry Pasta Salad

Fruit:  Watermelon, apples, oranges and bananas

Baking:  Triple Choc Fudge Chocolate Cookies and Apricot Muffins

So tell me, do you currently Meal Plan and, if so, what are some of your favourite recipes that your family like to eat regularly?

Comments

  1. We meal plan too, and spag bol and chicken and sweetcorn soup are on our plan for this week too! I usually get the kids to decide what they want for dinners, common features on our plans include butter chicken with rice, sausage casserole, burritos, slow-cooker roast lamb or pork, stir fries, apricot chicken, satay chicken or beef, mini hot dogs…

  2. It will be fun to get back into cooking and meal planning after nearly 7 weeks off (except for weekends)

  3. We are attempting to meal plan again – it really is the best way to go if you are trying to watch what you eat, manage a budget or just be more organised (we are trying to do all three – wish us luck!)

    • Good luck Kirsty … the real trick is to simply start and then once you experience the benefits, that will motivate you to keep going!

  4. These are great tips Sandy. I don’t meal plan as such, but I do a lot of things on your list. Gee Saturday night sounds like a good night to invite myself for tea 😉

    • Ooops *Sandie* :)

      • Haha … Saturday night’s meal is a family favourite so that would be a good night to stop by. I’ll be sharing the Pumpkin Bake recipe soon, so stay tuned for that … it’s so yummy but so easy you won’t believe it!

  5. I love the look of that menu planner. I’m not great at menu planning but I’m working on it. Will definitely be ‘casing’ your blog for lots of hints and tips.

    • Hi and welcome! Stick with your Menu Planning because practice and routine will see you doing it like a pro in no time. I also share loads of hints and tips on Facebook so pop over and join our community where we work to support and motivate each other!

  6. I don’t meal plan but I do shop to what is on special at the supermarket a lot of the time. I tend to cook a lot of the same things anyway as I have a very fussy 4 year old.

    • It’s hard when someone in the family limits what they will eat to a handful of things. Maybe check out some of the lunchbox posts because I have loads of tips and ideas to help tempt even the fussiest eater … sometimes it’s as much about presentation, so sometimes a little one can be encouraged to eat something if it’s presented in different shapes or made to look like a picture. Good luck!

  7. I love meal planning, it is especially kind to the budget. I prefer not to plan for specific days though, i just make sure I have everything I need for each meal and a list of the meals on the fridge. That way if hubby wants to cook, he knows what is available, and if I don’t feel like making something major, I can choose an easy meal. I’ve just started doing it with fortnightly shops… we’ll see how that goes!!!

    • You’ve taken the basic idea and made it work for your family … I love that! Good luck with the fortnightly shopping … that will save you loads of time and money!

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