Meal Planning, or Menu Planning as some refer to it, is a simple way to save you money, time and a great way to stick to your New’s Years Revolutions by simply planning what you and your family eat in advance.
If you want to give it a try, but you’re finding the task of meal planning a little daunting, then don’t worry because I’m here to walk you through the simple process with my 10 Tips for Meal Planning Success.
So before we start, we need to work out the basics.
WHAT IS MEAL PLANNING?
Meal Planning isn’t nearly as complicated as some people make out. It’s really just taking a little time to plan what meals you and your family are going to be having for a certain period of time, whether that’s weekly or fortnightly or if you’re super organised, monthly! Everyone’s Meal Plan will be different to suit their tastes, preferences and of course, schedule so the main thing is creating an achievable plan that works for you.
Now that we’re clear on that, we can begin!
1. Make it a Family Effort
Get your family involved in the decision making. It’s important to cater to your family’s taste preferences as well as your own. When meal planning for my family, I have everyone choose a meal that they would like to eat that week; that way, everyone is happy with the menu.
Remember, no one wants to waste valuable time and money making meals that don’t get eaten.
2. Keep it Simple
You don’t have to have extravagant meals everyday of the week. Try keeping the menu simple, with a couple new recipes if you like to experiment. If you want to make a plan to have hotdogs on a Friday night, then have hotdogs. This doesn’t need to be fancy and you don’t need to impress anyone. But when you do want to change it up, check out Pinterest for heaps of easy, fuss free recipes and ideas.
3. Decide How Often You Want to Meal Plan
It really depends on your schedule and how often you want to shop. I like to shop once a week, topping up when necessary for fresh ingredients like fruit so I would meal plan to get me through the week. If you get paid fortnightly and like to shop according to that, then you can plan enough meals for a fortnight.
It really depends on what you prefer and what works best for you, but I recommend trying to do your shopping on the same day each time. It helps set a routine.
4. Have a Go-To List of Meal Ideas
This is great for helping you pick what meals you want to have each time. I like to have a list of 30 family favourite meals for each season, meaning one for cold weather and one for hot weather. That way, when deciding on what meals everyone wants to have we can just go through the list and choose. Check your local grocery store’s specials catalog each week and pick meals based on whats at a good price, for example if you see that tortillas are half price, then you could have Taco Tuesday.
Stuck for meal insperation? Be sure to check out our Recipe Index for some new ideas!
5. Be Realistic and Think Ahead
Now, there are always going to be days when something unexpected pops up and you can’t make it home in time to put dinner on, or you get home after a busy day and you just couldn’t be bothered to cook. That’s okay. That’s life and these things happen. The important thing is to not get disheartened when these things happen, but instead just move on and continue you meal plan as normal. But for those days when we couldn’t be bothered, I think it’s so worth having a few go-to meals in the freezer. Just pick one or two days a month to have a cook up and you’ve got back up meals ready to go.
6. Take Inventory
When doing your meal plan, it’s very important to take note of what you already have on hand. Have some chicken thighs in the fridge? Veggies in the crisper? That’s one meal down already. If you see something that needs using up, then add it early on in the week. If you’re running low on garlic but need it for two upcoming recipes, then you better add it to the shopping list.
7. Always Have a List
This is vital when trying to save money on your grocery shop. Take the time at home to go through your pantry and fridge and do up a shopping list with everything you need for the upcoming meals. Write down anything else that you will need, including toiletries, kids snacks, milk, bread, eggs and anything you’ve run out of or running low on. It’s a good idea to have an ongoing list on the fridge for anything you think of during the week. When it’s time to do the grocery shopping, only get the things on the list. This helps you to stay away from filling your trolley with crap you don’t need.
8. Make Sure to Have Variety
If you have 6 chicken meals and one beef meal a week, then you’re probably going to get sick of chicken pretty quickly. Try to include a good variety in your meal plans, use different meats and try cooking them different ways. If you like fish then you could have one fish dish each week. I like to have two chicken, a mince dish, a fish dish, either a beef, pork or lamb dish and a meatless meal sometimes to save money. The other meals are made up of leftovers and easy meals and freezer meals.
9. Love Your Leftovers
This is a great tip for anyone looking to save money. Leftovers are something to celebrate! You could either have them for dinner the following night or lunch the next day; sometimes there’s enough leftovers for a couple days worth of meals, which saves time and money! Sometimes, if I don’t feel like eating the same meal again and again, I’ll portion the leftovers up and stick them in the freezer for later on. It really is a lifesaver having healthy, home cooked meals ready to go.
10. Keep a Recipe Book
Having a supply of go to recipes is a massive help! So, every time you make a recipe that you or your family love, write it down – or print it off the computer – and add it to a recipe box/book for next time. It doesn’t have to be a fancy thing or anything, just a collection of your favourite recipes!