Simple meal planning for stress-free evenings.
Save time and money by setting aside 1 hour each week for simple meal planning and get your shopping done in advance.
Let me start by telling you I’m a lazy meal kinda mamma! Not because I’m lazy all the time though! Because I just don’t have the time to spend stood preparing and cooking a meal, somebody would literally die if I did!
If you have kids like mine, you’ll know! In my house, the expression “feeding time at the zoo” really is a reality. I’ve always fancied the idea of meal planning and knowing exactly what’s for tea, but I’m usually never organised enough and kids want to eat; All.The.Time!
However, I’m on a meal planning mission right now; I’m determined to take back my time, save some money and make it work.
I felt stuck in a rut for years, wanting to feed the kids healthy nutritious food but at the same time utterly worn out by 5 pm. The prospect of deciding what to have for tea, shopping for it (generally with the kids because I’ve put it off until it’s tea time) cooking it and cleaning up gives me a headache!
Dinner time rolls around, and we’re eating sandwiches, cereal or I’m panic buying a takeaway. That’s any hope of consuming any “proper” food out the window.
If any of this even seems vaguely familiar (let me know, so I don’t feel as bad) fear not my fellow food time fraudster, I’ve got you covered!
Making the meal planning magic happen
First of all the only way, you’ll make it work is to be disciplined, and put in the work before the upcoming week. Urgh, you say! I hear ya!
Nonetheless, I guarantee this prep will save inordinate amounts of time and energy throughout the coming days. So it’s worth it!
Commit to meal planning now, and you’ll thank yourself later.
The 101 of meal planning
First of all, you’ll need a pen, some paper or sticky notes (post-its!), recipe books and the internet.
Set aside 1 hour on Friday afternoon, over the weekend or whichever day works best for you to work on meal planning. First of all, I have a flick through my recipe books rather than the internet because I have the attention span of a flea!
I Look for recipes that take under 30 minutes to prepare and generally have ten ingredients or less. I know myself and understand I am setting myself up for failure if I choose something too complicated and ambitious.
Think about your life in a realistic sense, how will you work making a particular meal into your evening?
Take a look at your schedule for the coming week. Check if there will be nights people will be eating out, or the kids have friends over for tea, etc. You can plan for Pizza on a Friday night, remember this is all about making your life easier.
Choosing your meals
Try to use recipe books to plan meal; it is less distracting than say, using Pinterest!
Go through each page and select seven meals, one for each evening meal. Then write a day of the week on a sticky note or piece of paper and pop it in the page. This way you won’t have to spend ten minutes finding the recipe you’ve planned to make.
The internet can be useful when you’re searching for recipes; I get far too distracted though!
There are some great apps and sites available. Yummly, for example, is an online recipe site/app that allows you to save recipes and vote for the yummy ones. A bit like Pinterest but exclusively for food. Speaking of Pinterest, You’ll find loads of goodies on my healthy eating board.
If you find yourself with some free time, write out or print the meals you fancy making. Perhaps, store them in a binder specifically for recipes and keep it in the kitchen.
Writing down your meal ingredients
Once you’ve decided what you’re all going to eat next week, write down all the ingredients you need to buy. Make sure you check your cupboards first though and cross off anything you already have.
I find shopping online is the easiest way to buy food once I have an ingredients list together.
If you’ve never shopped for food online before, I agree, it can be a daunting task, but once you get the hang of it, it’s well worth the effort. You can get some great deals and discounts for first-time shoppers such as money off your first order.
Try every shopping delivery service offering you a discount, save yourself some money!
To save time I use the search bar to find ingredients for my meals rather than browsing the site. This way you will spend way less money too! How many times do you go to a shop for one thing and come out with ten?!
Once I have everything I need in my basket I select a suitable delivery time and checkout. Most supermarkets deliver until late these days. The later delivery times are often way cheaper too.
Be sure to go through the shopping once it arrives
Occasionally, when shopping online, there may be an item or two missing from the delivery. Therefore, I go through each planned meal and check I have everything I need.
The only downside to shopping online is you don’t get to choose the stuff with the longest date; Supermarkets will claim they do, but I don’t believe them!
You can check the dates and rearrange your meals to suit. Meal plans aren’t meant to be set in stone.
Now that you have a plan there will be some meals you can make ahead; if you’re organised! I tend to stick to recipes with a few ingredients that can be thrown together and prepared quickly. That way, even if you are totally wiped out, or the kids are rioting, you can still get a meal on the table.
The first couple of times you prepare a meal plan it can be a bit of an effort.
Don’t let this put you off! Soon you will have a system that works and have meals you know your family will love planned and ready to go.
Jot down the meals everybody enjoys as you go. If you get stuck, have to dash to the shop or get caught out you can refer to your list.
I am well in the swing of this meal plan thing now. I can’t emphasise how much less stressful and calmer my evenings are.
Admittedly, there will still be days where I really can’t be bothered. However, the alternative, listening to the kid’s whine that they are STARVING, gets me in the kitchen!
Once the meal is cooked, and kids are full, you realise it’s the prospect of the doing that is far worse than the actual doing!!
Give yourself grace
Don’t worry too much about getting a full healthy meal on the table every day. Three “healthy” meals per week will suffice.
Not that I am advocating unhealthy meals for the rest of the week! The aim is to feed the kids nutritious meals every day obviously, but uber healthy food can get expensive.
If you can’t afford it to, this is when meal planning and shopping becomes stressful. Which is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve here!
By planning three nutritious and healthy meals per week, you can afford to throw in beans on toast on other nights. Cheap and cheerful doesn’t have to mean bad!
You can find the next instalment of this post here –> How to save money on your food bills.