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24 October 2023

Efficiency in the Kitchen: The Power of Meal Planning

Meal planning is a great skill to get into the habit of. Not only does it help you to keep organised, particularly on those busy family nights when you’re juggling mealtimes with clubs, but it will also help you to save money by planning ahead and avoiding last minute shops and top ups. But where to begin with meal planning? This post covers the basics to get you started. 

A stock image from Canva pro with a meal plan list in the middle surrounded by food
Meal planning basics: I recommend against getting all the food out of the counter while you plan the meals

How To Get Started With Meal Planning For Your Family

1. Give yourself time to plan

As with most things in life preparation is key. Give yourself time to sit down and plan. Some things that you might want to think about as you do this are:

  • How many meals you need to prepare for the week ahead (make sure to include the likes of packed lunches and breakfasts too).
  • What days of the week you need to make quick meals, and which days you can afford to take your time and make something a little more complicated.

Once you have these basics, you’ll know how much food you need to purchase to make the meals.

2. Create a planning template

You may want to keep a special notebook specifically for meal planning; you can buy a specific meal planning notebook from various stationery outlets and small businesses, or simply keep a plain or lined notebook and divide it into days / meals so that you can fill it in accordingly.

Alternatively, you may have a whiteboard or a chalkboard in your kitchen which is divided into days that you can use to meal plan on. This may work better for you when checking what you already have available (see point 3 below!) but remember that if you are physically going shopping for food, rather than ordering online, you can’t take this with you to the shops. A handy solution is to take a photograph before shopping so that you know what ingredients you need to get.

Or perhaps you’re more of a digital planner? If this is the case, a spreadsheet or dedicated meal planning app – especially one with an integrated shopping list section – may be useful.

3. Check your cupboards and fridge

Before purchasing anything for your meals for the following week, check what you already have. Is there anything that’s about to go out of date, and can you make something with it? For example, vegetables that are on the turn can easily be turned into soup, therefore saving food waste and money. If it's the first time you have tried meal planning now would be a good time to organise and clean out your cupboards so you know exactly what you have.

Write the items you already have into your planner against the relevant days’ recipes so that you don't double purchase.

4. Have a go-to list of favourites

It’s always worth having a go-to list of favourite meals that you can turn to as part of the meal planning process. These should be meals that you can rely on in certain situations, i.e. on nights when you need an ‘easy’ dinner, or something more impressive for those times when you’ve got people over, etc.

Pop a few of these into your plan for the week and then pad out the rest of the week with new recipes you would like to try. Remember that when you try something new and your family loves it to add it to your list of favourites.

5. Choose recipes that can work harder for you

One of the key points of making meal planning a success is to use recipes that work harder for you. By this I mean planning to make meals that all have the same base ingredients, i.e. having a roast chicken and then using the leftovers for sandwiches etc (remember to always follow leftover food guidance for storage and reheating).

Choose two to three main vegetables for the week and use these in a few different meals; you may wish to choose veg that can be used in different ways, e.g. a cauliflower with a roast and then as cauliflower cheese.

The main thing with meal planning is making it work for you: it should be making your life easier! Once you get into the swing of planning your meals each week, it will become second nature, and you’ll find creative way of using up and incorporating different ingredients. Happy planning!

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