nning As you know we are huge fans of meal planning and my lovely friend Fiona over at the award winning Savvy in Somerset has shared the best tips on how to meal plan like a pro!
Despite spending most of my adult life working as a chef, meal planning is something that I’ve only recently got to grips with. However, it’s something I’ve come to really enjoy doing and now it feels really strange if we don’t have a meal plan in place for the week!
There are loads of benefits to meal planning – it can save you time and money and allow you to feel more organized and in control if you’re busy with kids/life/work. It can also help avoid last minute takeaways if they’re your downfall on a regular basis – we used to have loads when I worked as a chef – they’re now an occasional treat and we enjoy them so much more because of this.
1. Make a List of EVERYTHING you have in.
One of the things that helps meal planning work is knowing what you have in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. I update my master lists about once a month. I list everything in the freezer and any random items in the cupboards that need using as well as jars of sauce (I make some sauces from scratch but not all of them) I don’t bother writing things like herbs and spices or pasta and rice as we always have those – I just make sure to add them to the list for shopping if I use the last of them or we’re getting low.
2. Make a Meal Plan BEFORE you go shopping.
This may sound like an odd way round of doing things but hear me out. Doing this at the end of the week helps to use up any odds and ends and ensure good stock rotation – so less food ends up going out of date. We meal plan using every last thing we have and then add what we need to complete each meal to our shopping list. This also stops us buying food we don’t need or deciding we fancy a curry half way around Lidl and having no idea if we have chicken in the freezer or not.
3. Plan Meals Around Your Life
If you’re a busy family with lots going on, it can really help to plan your week in terms of how busy each day is. If you have a day where everyone is home at a different time, a slow cooker stew is perfect. If you have a day where you need a meal in a hurry a stir fry might be the answer. Being intentional with meal planning means you’ll have all the ingredients needed ahead of time.
We only plan dinners because that’s what works for us – if you want to plan every single meal that’s okay too – it’s all about finding a way to meal plan that works for you and your family.
4. Remember You Don’t Have To Stick To It
It’s ok to wake up and think ‘I really don’t fancy that for dinner tonight‘. Meals can be moved around and changed as needed. Things like chicken and mince can be turned into so many different meals that it can be easy to adapt day to day if you need to.
5. Cross Things Off Your List
Don’t forget to update your master lists as you go – especially if you’re someone that shops monthly. For me, knowing what’s in the freezer is key to successful meal planning.
6. Prep In The Mornings
I find preparing as much of dinner as I can in the morning really helps. Dinnertime in most households can be a bit chaotic with everyone coming home at different times and needing attention for different things. If I’m making curry I’ll chop the chicken breasts and marinade first thing. If I’m doing a roast I’ll prepare the veggies and pop in some water.
7. Check Your Meal Plan The Night Before
The above works best if you check your meal plan the night before – in the example above I’d have got the chicken breasts out of the freezer then. You may not always need to do anything but it’s best to check.
8. Batch Cook When You Can
When I have some time, often a Sunday afternoon, I do like to try a batch cook a few of our favourite dinners. This usually includes things like Chili Con Carne, Bolognaise and Pie fillings. It’s great to know I have a homemade meal that just needs reheating on busy days.
9. It’s Okay To Miss A Day
Don’t feel guilty if you miss a day or end up getting a takeaway occasionally. We tend to plan a takeaway for the weekend but there are absolutely days where nothing has gone to plan, the little one has been playing up and we just really can’t be bothered to cook.
10. It’s Okay To Use ‘Cheat’ Ingredients
Meal planning is all about making your life easier – don’t feel guilty if you need to use microwave rice or fresh pasta on certain days for quickness and ease. Find the cheat ingredients that work for you – it’s even okay to use the odd ready meal sometimes – not every meal needs to be a homemade masterpiece.