Does the idea of saving time and money sound appealing? What about wasting less food, eating healthier meals and feeling more organised? Meal planning is the simple task that can actually deliver all of these objectives.
How many times have you gone to the shop, thought about what you want to cook for dinner, and then bought the ingredients only to find half of them at home already? Or realised you’re missing a vital ingredient when it comes time to prepare dinner? Meal planning in advance takes a little bit of time to organise, but makes life a whole lot easier because you know what food to buy and what you will be cooking.
While planning out every single meal before you go shopping may not be for you, wandering the aisles of a supermarket without at least some idea of what you plan to do with your purchases will result in time, money and food being wasted. We have teamed up with StopFoodWaste.ie to help you shop smarter and plan better.
Meal Planning Tips for Busy Households
When making a meal plan, it’s important to think about how much of each ingredient will be used. By planning ahead and matching the ingredients in your meals, you can make the most of any food and ensure that all of your meals are something special. Sunday’s leftover roast chicken can be the base for a quick and easy Monday evening chicken curry, just as leftover vegetables can be used for soup, stir fries or pasta sauces.
There Are 2 Main Ways to Plan
- Check your cupboard, then make a meal plan. Before you step outside the door, know what food you already have and plan around this. There are a lot of handy websites, apps and blogs that you can use to come up with ideas for different recipes based on what food you have at home.
- Use meal plans, then check the cupboard. If you plan the meals and recipes you are going to cook, then life is going to be a whole lot easier. For many people this might seem like an organisational step too far, but there are meal plans aplenty available.
Tips Worth Remembering When Planning Meals
Everyone is different. So whether you like to have everything organised or prefer to keeping things more flexible, there are simple steps you can take to help with meal planning.
First things first, figure out what kind of a meal planner you are. Once you know this, use the tips below to create a meal planning regime that suits you best.
Store Cupboard Essentials
A small stock of store cupboard essentials – such as rice, noodles, pasta, tinned tomatoes, tinned pulses, baked beans, and seasonings – will mean you always have the ingredients for a recipe that will use up leftover vegetables, meat or fish.
Remember to check your store cupboard before you go shopping to ensure you don’t pick up items you already have.
Use Your Recipe Lists
Apparently, most households have around 21 meals that they typically eat on rotation during the year. Draw up a list of your main meals and then make a shopping list for each. Build your store cupboard essentials around these and also try to incorporate some new recipes around these main meals.
Plan For Leftovers
If you are making a weekly meal plan, don’t plan on cooking every night. Plans change, leftovers are there to be eaten and your well stocked cupboard should tide you over if you happen to get caught out.
Plan your leftovers nights for when your schedule is hectic, with different children in different locations all needing to be dropped and picked at different times! And remember to use your freezer too, if you don’t think you will use up the leftovers, freeze them for another time.
Download this handy free leftovers recipe booklet for some great recipe ideas.
With savoury cooking there is always room for meal ingredients matching and clever substitution. Plan to incorporate food ingredients into other meals and avoid fresh or unusual ingredients growing old in the fridge.
For example, that leek you bought for fish pie can be used to make a tasty leek and potato soup for lunch.
Make It a Team Effort
Ask your kids to help you make the meal plan and suggest what meals they’d like to have that week (imagine, sometimes they don’t like what we like!). Then, when you are in the shop, they can help by ticking things off the list which will keep them busy…for a time anyway!
Download Your Weekly Meal Planner
The most difficult part is getting started, but once you get going you may be surprised at how easy it is to plan meals. You can download your free weekly meal plan here, ready to go for you to fill in your family’s meals.
Having an at-a-glance meal plan also ensures you are eating a good variety of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruit and can make for more balanced meals throughout the week, as you can see at a glance whether you are eating too much pasta or meat, not enough fish or not using up your freezer food.