Hands up who plans their meals out for the week - I know a few of you that do. I really believe in the value of meal planning, and while I don't do it every week, I find the weeks I do seem to involve less stress and easier, healthier eating overall. The best things about meal planning are
- Removing the "what on Earth are we going to eat tonight?!" stress
- Saving money because you only buy foods that you need for your menu
- Eating nourishing and delicious meals that you've picked and planned for.
This week is National Nutrition Week (12-18 Oct) and to help with the 'cook all your meals for 7 days' challenge I sat down and wrote out a meal plan. If you want to give meal planning a go but need a bit of a guide with how to get started, read on my friend.
Step 1 - What do you already have to work with? Have a little look in your pantry and fridge to see what food you already have that needs to be used up. This will reduce your food waste and save you money and time spent at the shops.
Step 2 - What does your week look like? There's no point planning to roast a chook on a night when you don't get home until 7pm. Take a moment to consider which days you have plenty of time to try new recipes and which days require super quick and easy meals. Why not plan to have some leftovers ready to pop in the microwave for those nights when you're time poor - you'll thank yourself later!
Step 3 - Put pen to paper. You don't need a fancy template like the one in the picture above (but if you're a stationary hoarder you probably do!), a scrap piece of paper or your diary will suffice. Now decide on some meals. This can be the trickiest part. It's easy to feel compelled to create a fancy, gourmet 7 day meal plan that reads like the menu from a trendy restaurant, but the trick is to keep it simple. Meat and veg - easy. Spag bol - everyone's happy. Chicken burritos - always a winner. If you do love to cook and want to jazz things up a bit why not include one new recipe each week, on a night when you have the time to do so. Lately I've been working through this pile of recipes that I'd ripped out of magazines.
Step 4 - List the goods. Go through your meal plan systematically and make a list of all the ingredients you need to purchase to make your meal plan work. You don't want to have to be ducking to the store everyday because you've forgotten a key item. If there are items you will need to buy fresh on the day, make sure you make a note of them too. Once you've made your list go ahead and add any other food or household items you need.
Step 5 - Shop and stash safely. Hit the shops and stick to the list. If it's not in your meal plan you don't need it. Sticking to the list will help you save money, time and help to stop those extra sometimes foods from creeping into the trolley. There's no reason you can't include some desserts or treats in your meal plan, just don't go overboard and remember any personal health goals you might have. Once you've procured the goods, make sure you store all foods at the correct temperatures to keep them fresh and safe to eat.
Step 6 - Put your feet up and give yourself a pat on the back. You did it. Planning was the hard part, now relax knowing that your week of meals is sorted.
A few extra points....
When discussing meal planning with clients in the past I was often asked, "what if I don't feel like the meal that I've planned?" The answer is simple, if you really don't feel like it cook something else. The meal plan isn't law and you can stray if you really want to, but in my experience, when I've planned a meal I usually look forward to it.
If sticking to a budget is essential for you, why not have a look at the weekly specials when planning your meals. Most larger supermarkets have their specials on-line now.
Lastly, you don't have to write a new plan every single week. If it works for you, why not create a few and rotate them.
Do you have any tips on meal planning? I'd love to hear them. Going to try meal planning for the first time? I'd love to hear how it goes. Any comments are welcome below.