Do you meal plan?
I know, I once felt that way too.
I thought meal planning and an organised kitchen belonged to those “perfect on the surface” mums in their super-neat display homes. Not a creative, messy mum like me.
Back in the years BC (before children) I kept the fridge and pantry stocked with essentials and thrived on whipping up a delicious meal based on the ingredients I had on hand in true “Iron Chef” style. Creating a meal plan was the last thing on my mind.
I had the luxury of time and could always easily duck out and pick up a key missing ingredient if I had to.
Of course this wasn’t as easy to do when the kids came along.
Not only did the amount of cooking required increase seemingly exponentially overnight (why can’t toast be a valid dinner choice?). But juggling cooking and shopping around nap times, play times and even nappy changes seemed to require a degree in organisational skills…. Or so I thought.
I quickly discovered that when I implemented a system of meal planning and shopping to plan into my household routine, life not only became so much easier, it became less wasteful and freed up so much time!
Here I was thinking that implementing a meal plan would take the fun and creativity out of cooking, when it instead helped me reclaim some time I could then dedicate to my creative pursuits. #winning
If you’re still in the “what will we have for dinner tonight?” mode, take every meal as it comes and seem to toss out more food (think limp and slimy veggies or last week roast leftovers) than you consume, follow the steps below to discover the freedom of meal planning…..
5 Steps To A Successful Meal Planning System
Step 1: Set Aside Time To Meal Plan
I prepare my weekly meal plan on a Sunday morning, usually over brunch or a cup of tea. It’s my weekly ritual….and I find that taking this time, which may only be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 15 minutes, really sets me up for a smooth week ahead.
I love the saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” and believe this is just as true when cooking for your family as it is in any other life pursuits.
So, the first (and most important) step to meal planning success is to carve out a small space of time each and every week to plan your meals for the week ahead.
Step 2: Check Stocks Of Food You Have On Hand
Before I sit down and plan out my meals I give the freezer, fridge and pantry a once over and check what foods are at, or are approaching, their expiry dates. I also pay attention to what foods we have in oversupply. I make a note of these and challenge myself to include them in meals to reduce food waste and minimise the cost of the weekly food bill.
Step 3: Look Up Recipes That Use Up Key Ingredients
This is the fun part! With my list of ingredients that need to be consumed first, I search for recipes that will transform these key ingredients into tasty meals.
Whether it’s my old, trusty cookbooks, a favourite food blog, the recipe index in Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs or even magic-ing up a new recipe myself, I love the creative challenge of turning individual ingredients into stand-alone family meals.
Once I have a rough list of suitable meals, I write them onto my Weekly Meal Planning Pad and allocate them to different days. I make a note to include meals out and leftover meals to further keep my food purchasing in check.
Step 4: Plan To Shop
Once I have my weekly meal plan sorted, I create my shopping list directly from my plan.
I have several friends that use snazzy smartphone apps for this, but I’m a bit old school and have a written shopping list. It’s the same one I keep pinned to the fridge each week so family members can add any food item that’s running low or has run out.
Once I have my shopping list ready I double check ingredients against what we have on hand.
It’s too easy to make spontaneous purchases when shopping only to bring the produce home and discover there were already adequate supplies. To avoid doubling up, check stocks of food in your pantry, fridge and freezer BEFORE you shop and remove any item from your shopping list that you already have.
Step 5: Shop To Plan
Of course, a plan is only as good as the execution so when shopping, you’ll need to stick to your list. If your meal plan tells you that you need 3 potatoes, don’t buy a whole bag of them. Of course it makes financial sense to stock up on specials of pantry staples you use often, but be extra careful where fresh produce and perishables are concerned. You won’t have saved anything if you end up tossing the produce a few days later.
If you’re particularly swayed by specials and marketing tactics, shop for produce online or submit your order in advance. Many independent grocers, organic stores and butchers are only too happy to provide this service.
So, that’s it in a nutshell!
Five simple steps to meal planning success!
I can’t guarantee that following these steps alone will deliver you a super-neat display home, but I can say with confidence that this system will save you so much time and money. Not to mention seriously reduce your food waste and environmental impact, which is a win for us all!