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.
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.