Menu planning is extremely popular these days – just take a look at the hundreds of tutorials on Youtube if you don't believe me. With our busy lives, planning meals in advance is a great way to save time, money and still eat healthily. If you work long hours, have kids or just enjoy being organised, meal planning is definitely something to try.
Firstly, get yourself a planner. It can be as basic as an old notebook or a beautifully decorated folder filled with coloured paper and file dividers to separate the different sections – it's entirely up to you (but any excuse to purchase new stationery is a good excuse in my book).
Here's what to keep in your planner:
Meal Plans: One day a week (Sunday is probably the most logical because you can plan for the coming week, but any day is fine) sit down and decide on the meals you want to make that week. This doesn't need to take a long time, but at a minimum decide on and note down seven different dinners you can cook. If you want to be really organised you can also plan breakfasts, lunches, desserts and snacks too.
Shopping Lists: On a new page or sheet of paper, write a shopping list for all the ingredients you'll need to make these meals. Then rip it out and put it straight into your purse/wallet/handbag/coat pocket so you don't forget to take it shopping with you. This will save you so much time during the week because you'll know what to make and will already have the ingredients. It'll keep you from having to rush to the supermarket after work to pick something up, or giving in and ordering a takeaway.
Recipes: A section of your planner should be dedicated to keeping note of recipes – tried and tested, old favourites and new ones you want to try. If you're stuck for meal ideas or sick of eating the same old things every week, flicking through these recipes should give you some inspiration. Not sure where to find new recipes? Cut them out of magazines, print them off from online (Pinterest is great), write them out when you see them on TV or photocopy them from cookbooks. If a recipe turns out to be a dud, don't bother keeping it. You're not going to make it again so just throw it away and don't let it waste any space in your planner (and your life)!
Other Stuff: If you have a large family you could also keep a list of everyone's favourite meals, food likes and dislikes, allergies, days you know certain people won't be eating at home, dates any guests will be coming over and any other useful information specific to your tribe.
Five Meal Planning Tips
1. If you Google the phrase 'meal plan template' you'll find loads of snazzy free printables to download. I think they look a lot more exciting than just plain white pieces of paper with my writing on them. You could choose a different one every week.
2. Stick your meal plan for the current week to the front of the fridge so it's easily accessible when you need to see it. That way you'll know what you're cooking and when. But also be flexible – things don't always go to plan, plus you may not feel like eating a certain meal when the day comes. So be prepared to switch days and feel free to save it until next week or even ditch it completely (this is why I suggested coming up with a minimum of seven, to have a few 'back-ups' ready).
3. Once the week is over, transfer any unmade meals to your meal plan for the following week and file the old plan and shopping list in the back of your planner. You might forget about a certain meal (I often do, as I like to experiment a lot) and looking back through your old plans will remind you of its existence.
4. As well as planning your meals, you could even prepare some or all of them in advance and keep them in the fridge or freezer. This is such a time saver on busy days.
5. Finally, don't let meal planning become a chore. It's saving you time and money in the long run. Have fun and be creative with it!
Do you plan your meals? How do you do it? Leave your tips in the comments!
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