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Whilst the word meal planning can seem daunting, it really isn’t as hard as it sounds.
The daily “what’s for dinner?” thought always plays on our minds and can cause continued stress. But having a plan of your meals can easily reduce this stress.
Personally, I’m not the best of cooks and I am certainly guilty of arriving home at 6pm after the kids’ soccer/dance practice to throw a meal of baked beans on toast on the table as there’s nothing in the pantry! But since I’ve been planning out our weekly meals and I know what’s for dinner each night, I feel way more in control.
Benefits of Meal Planning
There really are heaps of benefits of meal planning, such as:
1. Money saving
Meal planning saves money as you are only buying what you need for the week ahead. You’ll end up dining out or ordering takeaways less when you have a meal already planned. Planning your meals around what you have in the cupboards at home and what foods are in season also helps save money. Tip: Buy extra meat when it is on special at the supermarket and freeze it.
2. Time Saving
Whilst it takes extra time to create the meal plan, meal planning does save time as you only need to make one trip to the supermarket each week. Also having a meal plan prevents you wandering around the grocery store aimlessly. You can prep for the meals in your free time (maybe the weekends if you are busy working in the week), rather than when you’re under pressure to put a meal on the table.
3. Nutritiously balanced meals
Meal planning helps you to create meals that are balanced and nutritious. When planning the week’s meals ensure you have a good balance of protein, carbs and veges.
4. Avoids food wastage
As you’re only buying the foods that you know you’ll need for the week ahead, rather than heaps of veges or meat that will go off, you will avoid wasting food, again saving money. Countdown offer some handy hints of how reduce food waste.
How to Meal Plan
1. Plan out your meals for the week ahead
We plan our meals out as a family on a Sunday and get the children’s input to the menus for the week. You could let the children have a day each week to have their favourite meal and if they’re old enough maybe they could cook it for the family? Another good idea is to have a theme night each week, for example Monday is Fish, Tuesday is Pasta, Wednesday is a slow cooked meal, Thursday is Mexican etc…
2. Decide what meals to include
When deciding the meals for the weeks ahead, have a range of cookbooks on hand, or a recipe app on your phone to find recipes for any suggestions that come up. We particularly like the Tasty mobile phone app which offers a massive range of recipes, and also caters especially for vegetarians. The app allows you to save recipes as favourites, so you can always come back to them at a later date.
3. A balanced meal plan
Plan out protein, carbs and veg for each meal. If you want to have less sugar in your meals or lower salt, you can plan for it too.
4. Visible meal plan
Stick your weekly meal plan somewhere central, such as on the fridge, to help keep you accountable and ensure everyone knows what’s for dinner each night. Add a list at the bottom of the meal planner for any ingredient that you may have missed in the weekly shop or that you’ve run out of and when it’s time to go shopping take a photo of the list. Having a shopping list really helps to avoid those impulse buys!
5. A day off from cooking
Have a day off from cooking once a week, say a Friday night where you know it will be takeaway night.
7. Plan around commitments
If you have a late commitment one evening maybe your child’s sports practice or a meeting, cook double portions the night before so you can have leftovers the following night.
8. Keep a well-stocked pantry
Make sure to keep a well-stocked pantry of the basics, e.g. olive oil, spices.
9. Make use of online shopping
There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the same meals each week or each fortnight, especially if your family is enjoying them. If you’re repeating meal plans, make use of online shopping and store your shopping list in your account to be used again and again. Utilising click and collect (usually free) or even home delivery (for a small charge) will save you even more time.
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