How to Start Meal Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide
Meal Planning is a great way to make sure that you’re not overspending or wasting food, but it’s also great for your sanity as well. The amount of times that I would stand in front of a fridge or cupboard full of food and had no inspiration or idea what I was going to make for dinner. It drove me mad, and it’s not great when you’ve just come home from work or got the kids in from school and everyone’s hungry. I already knew it was a great way to save money since you’re only buying the food that you’re going to eat, but believe me when I say that it just takes a little bit of the mental load off. I wasn’t sure how to start meal planning before I did it, so here are the things that I do to make it easy.
Do a Stock Take
This sounds way more official than it is, but knowing what you have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer is going to make it a lot easier. For example, if you have packets of rice or loads of pasta then that’s going to be on the menu for the coming week. Basically you’re going to take stock of the things that you have and incorporate these into your meals. This is an ongoing thing so it’s a good thing to do from the start.
This is going to be different for everybody, but we always have a stash of things like tinned tomatoes, baked beans, rices, pasta, pasta sauce, Ketchup etc etc and each week we have a look to see what we’re low on and add it to the list if needed. We like to do it this way rather than buying just what we need for our weekly meal plan as you never know when you need to change your plans such as an extra child for dinner or forgetting to take something out of the freezer. This way, we know that we always have options such as a quick pasta and sauce or beans on toast!
Let’s make a Meal Plan
Ok, so we’re going to start planning out seven meals. Start off simple. What do you like to eat? Keep it simple to start with by picking meals that you eat regularly and then there are just a few things that we do to make it work a bit better. If one of your meals is some kind of salad, that needs to be at the beginning of the week so that your salad isn’t going to be off by the time you need it. The other thing to consider is what you’re doing for the next seven days. If your kids have after school activities then you need to either choose a meal that you can put in the slow cooker or a quick and simple one that you can make quickly when you get home. Likewise, if you have a roast dinner on one of the days, what can you make the following day with the leftovers? Making sure that you get the most out of the food that you’ve bought is just as important. You’ve paid for it, so don’t let it go to waste. Here’s a sample meal plan that we’re having this week:
What to include
You will see that my Meal Plan doesn’t include breakfasts and lunches as these are more on the day decisions for us, but we are mindful of what we buy so that we don’t overbuy and waste food. We always have a selection of options for breakfast such as cereal, toast, waffles, fruit and yoghurt and we do the same for lunches which during the week is packed lunches for the kids. This works for us, but if you started meal planning specifically to budget then I might include that as well.
Get Everybody Involved
If you have kids, then get them involved in the planning. Let them pick a favourite meal each so that you have less chance of anybody moaning on the day.
Leftovers and batch-cooking are your new friend
We consider leftovers as maybe one portion or less than one of us can have as a lunch option the next day, but anything more than that can be frozen and used as a future meal option. Of course, if we’re making things such as bolognaise or curry then we tend to make more so that we have enough to freeze for another day. These are then taken out for days when we’re all busy so that we can still have a tasty meal with zero effort. You can see what we did with our leftover Spaghetti Bolognese over on Tiktok.
Get a Slow-Cooker
If you haven’t already got a slow cooker then you NEED one. The smug satisfaction of a Mum on the walk home from the afternoon school run knowing that dinner is slowly bubbling away is as good as it gets! I’m fortunate enough to work from home, and I love the sense of achievement of popping something in the slow cooker in the morning, and going about my day knowing that dinner is done and I can crack on with work. A slow cooker also works really well with cheaper cuts of meat as it’s slowly cooking and ends up melt in the mouth.
Meal Planning made Simple
Our meal plan is literally a list of seven meals (dinners) and we buy the ingredients that we need to make these meals. We don’t stick rigidly to the plan, so we may eat what we’ve written next to Tuesday on a Wednesday for example. We usually play it by ear on the day. You can buy a fancy planner or you can simply write your meal plan on a scrap of paper. It really doesn’t matter, but believe me you will find it so much easier when food shopping. Here is a meal plan that we had recently.
Meal Planner Download
Making Digital products and templates is actually a bit of me, so I’ve made a very simple pastel meal planner that you can download and print off or you can fill-in digitally which you can buy very affordably on my Etsy Shop. There’s the weekly planner in a few versions as well as a shopping list which you can fill in as you plan each meal.
Give it a go and let me know what you think x