HOW TO START MEAL PLANNING (EVEN IF YOU DON’T THINK IT’S FOR YOU!)
As a homemaker who used to be the very definition of an unorganised mess, meal planning has become one of the most important parts of my home management system. If it wasn’t for meal planning, there is a very good chance that we would all starve to death. I’ve had a lot of women say to me that they don’t think meal planning will work for their family because of one reason or another, but if that’s you I want to challenge you here today to just read through this article with an open mind. Meal planning can save you money, ensure you all eat healthier, saves time AND eliminates the stress that can often be associated with meal times.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be an ultra-organized Type A personality to give meal planning a go, and you don’t have to plan out every single meal of the day down to the snacks. You can go as in depth into it as you’d like. Maybe you’d prefer to have your dinners planned, but then have the flexibility of swapping which days you’ll have each meal. Maybe you’d like to eat leftovers one day, or maybe you’re planning on having take-out. The idea is not to stifle your creativity in the kitchen, but to give yourself an idea of what you’ll be cooking for the week so that you don’t have an ‘Oh no, there’s nothing in the fridge!’ moment.
Step One: Print out some planning sheets
You COULD meal plan in just a plain old notebook, but where’s the fun in that?! If you want to implement a new habit such as meal planning into your life (and more importantly… stick to it!) then you’ll want to get some pretty, fun planning sheets to go to town on. And what do you know, I just happen to have some pretty, fun meal planning sheets for you to print out, and you can get them right here!
Bonus tip: Laminate the sheets and write on them with dry erase markers, that way you won’t have to print out a new sheet every time you want to use it!
Of course, a plain old notepad will work just as well if you don’t have a printer. If you’re going to go down that route, I would highly recommend dedicating one notebook specifically to your meal planning, because otherwise things are going to start getting really messy. What I’ve found with meal planning is that my sheets or bits of paper end up with lines crossed out and meals scribbled over and swapped. The last thing you want is to ruin your beautifully decorated planner.
Step Two: Check what’s on sale
Take a look at your local store’s website and see if they’ve got any sales on, and if you’re a coupon collector have a browse through those. It may be that a particular joint of meat is heavily reduced, in which case that’s a perfect meal option. Be careful with this though. Often when we see what we think is a good deal, we’ll purchase it even if it’s something that we would never have bought otherwise. Make sure that you are only using coupons and discounts on products that will actually make up all or part of a specific meal. I know it can be tempting to purchase that mega-pack of truffles because they’re 60% off, but honestly, will your waist thank you for it? And do you really need that fancy bottle of wine just because it’s half-price? If you’re happy with the cheap stuff (I’m a big fan of cheapie wine haha) then just go for that.
Step Three: Gather up your recipes
If you’re a good old recipe book gal then all power to ya, but for me it’s all about Pinterest. We have this amazing tool at our fingertips to find all sorts of recipes that you’ve probably never even heard of, suited for every kind of diet you could ever think up. Are you a non-dairy-gluten-free-paleo-vegan-nut-allergy-hybrid? There’ll be a recipe for you on Pinterest. Sit down with a cuppa and have a scroll through to find some recipes that you think your family might like. Try to pick one or two adventurous dishes per week, and then keep the rest as tried and tested favourites. You don’t want to find that your family won’t eat any of the weird and wonderful Pinterest dishes you’ve cooked up!
Oh what’s that? You don’t have time to sit and scroll through Pinterest? No worries, I got you covered on that too 😉 Check out my Cooking From Scratch Pinterest Board for tons of inspiration!
Don’t forget to actually ASK your family what they would like to eat. This is the trap I have fallen into a few times. I’ve found a recipe on Pinterest (or that Facebook page Tasty!), recreated it, and then my husband has turned round and said that he doesn’t like that particular meal. Doh! Try to remember when meal planning that this exercise is not about proving what a domestic-goddess you are in the kitchen, but feeding your family good, healthy, wholesome food that they will enjoy.
Step Four: Write out the ingredients for each meal
Start writing in your meals into your planning sheets (did I mention you can download some free sheets right here?) and as you write the meals into the spaces, add the necessary ingredients for that meal to your shopping list. That way you can make sure that you don’t forget anything when you go to the store. Add in your weekly essentials and voila! You have your shopping list! Now wasn’t that easy?
Do you have a process that you go through when you plan out your meals? Do you swear by any particular tips and tricks? Leave them in a comment below and who knows, I may even include your tip in a blog post!