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The Benefits of Meal Planning

November 26th, 2012

I want to be organised and good at meal planning, I really do, it’s just I’m not naturally an organised person! However, as I was making my second trip of the day to the supermarket last week, I decided that enough was enough! With different members of the family to feed at different times because of after school clubs and work commitments, I decided that I should embrace meal planning with open arms.

I thought that it would be a good idea to ask for some tips to help me succeed and, having read an interesting blog post on Fishfingers for tea, I knew that Sian was just the person for the job.

Sian says…

Admittedly I’m a newbie compared to a lot of people when it comes to meal planning but I’m quite evangelical about it at the moment. So when Amy asked me if I wanted to write a post about the benefits of meal planning for Foodies100, I snapped her hand off in the way only a recent convert can.

I resisted meal planning for a long time. I thought it would be a faff and create more work than it saved. That it would be restrictive somehow and I’d stop after a week. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Since we’ve been working out a meal plan each week we’ve reduced our food bill by at least a third, are eating a more varied diet and have really reduced how much food we waste. I feel more organised knowing what I’m cooking in the week rather than standing in front of the fridge trying to cobble something together.

Food shopping is more streamlined and a whole lot quicker. By planning our meals and actually writing a shopping list there’s no more roaming around the supermarket, slinging things into the trolley and hoping to actually have meals to cook out of it when I get home. It’s cheaper because I only buy what I need for that week and there’s no running back to the supermarket to grab something for tea. Sounds obvious right? It does to me now too.

That lack of throwing things in to the trolley has also meant that our diet is more varied. Food shopping can become habitual and it’s easy to pick up the same things week after week. Actually really thinking about what we’re going to eat each week stops the repetitive appearance of the same few meals and means it’s easier to balance the healthy stuff with the treats.

Hand in hand with being cheaper, meal planning has really reduced how much food we waste too. Because I only have the fresh ingredients for that week in the house there’s no chance of losing a cauliflower at the back of the fridge. When we started meal planning I dug about in the freezer and found I had 5 packs of mince in there. 5 packs that I’d bought and then realised that I wasn’t going to use in time so slung in the freezer and then promptly forgotten about. And I’d be ashamed to admit how much ended up just being thrown in the bin.

Ok, yes, at first it does need a bit of effort and organisation but it meant I got to hang a whiteboard up in the kitchen (it’s not necessary, it just appeals to my inner geek). And it requires a new way of thinking about your shopping habits. Find the way that works for you. I don’t need to plan breakfasts and lunches so choose to focus on 6 main meals a week, conveniently leaving one night free for leftovers or a ‘grab something out of the freezer’ tea.

One of the tips I was given when I started was to create a ‘mother list’ of the family’s favourite meals so you’ve always got something to refer to. I found that harder than I thought I would so ended up writing generic things like burgers and curry but it’s worked out well. I now have a list of safe, sound ideas to use as a spring board.

If you’re like I was and think it just won’t work for you then I challenge you to try it. Give meal planning a go for a couple of weeks, if it really doesn’t work for you then there’s nothing lost. But I suspect you won’t look back.

Do you write a weekly meal plan and does it make your life easier? Do share your top tips with us.

Written by Foodies100

Sally is the publisher of Foodies100, the UK’s largest directory of brilliant UK food and drink blogs and bloggers. Every day of the week, we promote the UK’s best and most exciting blogs about food and drink.



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7 Comments

  1. Posted 26 November 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I have been evangelical about meal planning for a couple of years. I really does make a difference and like you, I find it keeps my shopping bill down and saves me time in the long run.

    Sometimes I do end up planning meals as I do an online shop but because I am home, I can check the fridge or freezer and make sure I don’t double up on stuff I’ve already got. My meal planning has to be done before I go shopping regardless – I cannot go shopping and make it up as I go along. I still buy extra stuff and it does go in the freezer when I find bargains (I managed to skip a whole week of shopping by living off the freezer and fridge contents). But people are amazed that my weekly shop is regularly under £50 because there is little junk food and it’s all made from scratch apart from the odd treat.

    People think it’s really hard but it really isn’t. I keep sticky notes on my laptop open and if I see a meal idea, I note it down there so I have some idea of what I want to make – sometimes things stay on the list for weeks but everything gets made eventually. Then, when it’s time to meal plan, I work out what we are doing during the week and weekend, I fit what will work with that. Hence, largely, why I start with a plan that names which days we are going to have on which day.

    • Posted 27 November 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      I read your meal plan that was based around what you already had in and thought it was great.

      I think the biggest thing for me is how much we save each week now, our food bill is around the £40 a week mark for 3 of us whereas before it was nearer to £70, that’s a substantial saving! And all down to just taking a bit of time to make a plan.

  2. Posted 26 November 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    With not shopping at supermarkets I have to meal plan so there is no temptation to nip in. Having said that I think if you receive something like a veg box or end up with the remains of a chicken or too much cheese you also have to be willing to just look at what you’ve got and make the most of it – waste not want not!

    • Posted 27 November 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

      Exactly! That’s why I like to plan for 6 main meals, it leaves room for manoeuvre and a bit of flexibility.

  3. Sarah Miles
    Posted 26 November 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I always meal plan. The family eat better, the cost is lower and I feel much less stressed! I get Waitrose to deliver it too, so free delivery and no temptation to over-shop but all the offers and price matches. I feed a family of 5 for about £120 a week, which I don’t think is too bad…

  4. Posted 9 January 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I have to Meal Plan, for financial reasons as well as saving my sanity when we are all busy and I work shifts. I can feed all 5 of us for around £55 or less each week. We save money by meal planning and there’s less whinging about what’s for dinner as we plan the week as a family, taking into account kids after school things, work, my evening events and meetings, etc. It’s much easier when you get into the habit, I can get it planned and online shopping done in an hour.

  5. Posted 25 June 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I started meal planning at the beginning of the year and it makes such a difference with keeping food shopping costs down and reducing waste. We recently got food waste bins which made me even more aware of how much food we were throwing away and I started also getting into the habit of freezing a few slices of bread when I bought a loaf as we would often throw away the last few slices. I also use leftovers more than I used to. We don’t have wall space for a whiteboard in our kitchen so I use a meal planning app on my phone which takes a bit of time inputting all the ingredients for the various recipes but then will generate my shopping list automatically and now that I have a lot of recipes on there, it’s fairly quick and I do most of my shopping online which also reduces any urge to impulse buy. Meal planning is definitely something I would recommend doing.

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