How many of you wish you were better at meal planning?
Amidst hectic weekday schedules, meal prep or meal planning is a great tool to help keep us on a healthy eating track, within a set budget. Although any type of meal prep requires planning, there is no one correct method, as it can differ based on food preferences, cooking ability, schedules, and personal goals.
For some, the idea of meal planning feels like an impossible, all-consuming task but that’s usually because you’re approaching the process from the wrong angle, I want you to stop viewing meal planning as a whole – from selecting recipes, to grocery shopping, to cooking and finally eating – I am going to share with you my simple and effective system for meal planning, seriously I’m all for doing this the quickest and easiest way so my system will work for the inexperienced through to the most highly organised individual.
Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page here about what meal planning is.
What it is: Meal planning is wondering what’s for dinner once a week, instead of every day, and then shopping for and prepping the ingredients before cooking.
There are many benefits that come with adopting the weekly meal planning habit, my top three being
Meal Planning can help save money as you don’t buy expensive takeaway numerous times per week
Meal planning can save time by reducing the number of impromptu trips to the supermarket – in turn this also link with the saving money benefit as you won’t be tempted to load up on unnecessary items either
Meal Planning can reduce stress as you avoid last minute decisions about what to eat, or rushed preparation
Ok now we have an understanding of just why meal planning is a great habit to adopt let me show you my 5 step plan to making it work, for this exercise we’re only focusing on planning your dinner menu for the week, once you’ve nailed that then you can look at planning lunches as well.
1. Compile a master list
As a family, brainstorm 20 meals you eat often, and everyone enjoys. These will be the core meals that usually populate your meal plan. Choose one or two nights a week, perhaps weekends, to experiment with new recipes. Add any favourite new recipes to your list of core meals.
2. Schedule your meals into your calendar
There are a variety of options for how you are going to track your menu for the week. You can either write out your week from Monday – Sunday on a piece of paper, use an shared calendar app which the whole family can subscribe to or you may want to buy a meal planning calendar to pop on the fridge. Whatever your preference it really won’t matter so long as you can clearly see what meal is being consumed on what day. Now, if you want to get REALLY organised and save more $ each week think about how you can use one ingredient for several meals – like roast chicken which can be used for lunches the following day(s)
3. Create a shopping list
Based on your weekly meal selection, you now need to create a shopping list of ingredients that you need to cook your meals. Don’t forget to add snacks, fresh produce and staples like milk, bread etc. The aim is to only go to the supermarket once a week (crazy I know!)
4. Shop for ingredients.
I’m going to be honest, this is my least favourite part, I dread trawling the supermarket aisles because I always add things we don’t need, for this reason I shop online and collect our groceries. Not only does this save me time but it saves us money because I can easily shop from the sale section and it removes the impulse to add things we don’t need.
If however you love going grocery shopping then don’t forget your list and don’t go when you’re hungry that’s when bad decisions are made.
5. Prepare your ingredients.
Now this step is not critical but it certainly does help save time during the week and is perfect for those that work long hours. You can pre-cook some of your meals, or pre-chop things like veggies so the process of pulling together dinner is much more manageable. However I recommend adopting this step once you’re fully confident you’ve nailed steps 1-4.