When someone talks about meal planning, I don’t know about you, but I have visions of lots of plastic boxes in a fridge for a fitness fanatic, but it doesn’t have to mean that. Meal Planning can be couple or family friendly, as well as for individuals, and can be a great way to save money, reduce wastage, and eat healthily. It can also reduce stress, as you don’t have any last-minute panics at “what is everyone going to eat tonight?!”, and it also saves time when you cook extra batches.
So, what do I mean by meal planning then?
- Deciding what meals you are going to prepare and eat during a week, taking into consideration everything else that is going on during the week.
- Cooking extra portions of suitable meals to have for lunch another day, or to freeze for emergencies, or use on days when there isn’t time to cook from scratch.
- Doing the shopping for the week based on the planned meals, so you don’t buy too much food and therefore waste some or over-eat. This also helps prevent you getting side-tracked by special offers and buying food you don’t need, healthy or otherwise.
- Planning a variety of meals to ensure everyone is getting a wide range of nutrients, rather than doing the same, quick meals, thrown together from the items you have in your store cupboard and random offers as you walked around the supermarket.
Meal planning sounds complicated, but that isn’t always the case! Ideally you want to build a repertoire of around 20 core recipes everyone enjoys, which you can reuse every few weeks, and then you can just experiment with one or two recipes each week in addition. And the meals don’t have to be that fancy; one way to make a dish taste different is by using a variety of spices to alter the flavour.
Using vegetables which are in season will help keep the cost down, as well as if you cook larger batches and freeze some down. Just remember to label the portions with the batch date and what they are, and ensure you use older portions first.
I also mentioned at the beginning about cooking extra portions for lunch; this is a great way to eat more healthily, and save some money – how much do you spend on lunch each day? Do you end up eating a cake or chocolate bar too, just because it tempted you at the counter?
September is a great time to start a new habit, with the children back to school/college, and a few months before the festive season starts. So put aside some time, dig out some recipes, or have a look online, and grab a piece of paper and plan out meals for a week. Then write your shopping list based on this, and away you go!
Let me know how you get on, and how about sharing some of your favourite recipes, so that others can try them too?