Meal planning is in equal parts laborious and super awesome. It’s a task that I love to hate but the weeks I do it, I’m genuinely excited for each meal. I feel less overwhelmed because I know I have the food ready to go. Our bank balance loves it because we eat at home and not at the local takeaway.
In my quest to make the year ahead the best (and easiest) year yet, I’ve pulled together a few super-awesome tips to help your meal plans come together quickly and easily.
Step 1: Divide your page into days of the week + a shopping list. This really is the ticket to speeding through the meal planning process, and everything can be done on one page. Take a look at the picture on my blog here of how I draw up my week. It really doesn’t need to be fancy so leave the ruler and pencils in the cupboard. Just make it easy to read. Across the side goes the days of the week and each of the main meals. There’s an extra section for snacks and finally the page finishes with my shopping list (more on that later.)
Step 2: Add your social calendar. There is nothing worse than getting a slow-roasted pork belly in the oven only to remember that you and hubby both have work functions that evening and the sitter is due to arrive at 5 p.m. Trust me, you’ll be dreaming of that succulent pork belly the whole damn night. Adding your social calendar to your plan will allow you to have meals ready to rock in the slow cooker on the days your son is at soccer training, and it will make sure you’re all organised for Saturday BBQs at your place without needing to do a mad dash the day before.
Step 3: Find some seriously delicious things to eat. Add recipes along with the cookbook page numbers or website addresses.That will make it super simple for you to find what you’re cooking on the actual day. From there, add the items you need to buy fro the ingredients list straight in to the shopping list section you have running at the bottom of the page. Oh, and if you really want to make things super easy at the supermarket, split the shopping list into key sections of the supermarket (e.g. meat, fresh produce, dairy, etc). That way you can get in and out, quickly.
Step 4: Batch, make ahead and get prepped, baby. One of the super awesome things about meal planning is that you can see ahead of time what you’re eating for the next few days. This lends itself perfectly to having things ready to go. If you’re making zucchini fritters for dinner one night followed by a chocolate brownie with zucchini (sounds crazy, but it’s so good) the next day, grate all the zucchini at once and pop the amount you need for the brownies in the fridge. Easy! Every week I use my slow cooker to ‘batch;’ I make something large that will stretch over the next few nights. One of my fave meals to batch is pulled pork; we have it in burritos one night, ragu with pasta the next night and the remainder I bake into a frittata for the kids’ lunchboxes.
Step 5: Save recipes for next week. I have a huge love of cookbooks and can honestly say that I have cooked at least three or four dishes from every one I own. This is a pretty good effort because I own a lot. Often I’ll choose a cookbook I haven’t pulled out in a while and use that for 90 percent of my recipes that week. I say give it a go too. Mark the pages with post-its and put it near your notepad ready for next week’s plan. If you prefer to cook from blogs and websites (which I really love to do, too), use Pinterest to keep track of your favourites. I have individual ‘boards’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner so it’s super simple to pull together a plan.
I’d love to hear, have you meal planned before? What tips that have worked for you?
A few great recipes to add to your meal plan: