Keys to Meal Planning Success

Personally I’ve always struggled with meal planning and yet when I do it I feel like a new woman. I am delighted to host this blog from Sarah Alder of Kitchen Titbits to share her secrets to successful meal planning as she’s a lady who always has it sorted! We’re joining forces to run a stress-free family mealtimes workshop together, looking at how to win with fussy eating, child nutrition and yep you guess it, meal planning! So over to Sarah for some advice…

I’ve heard many excuses for not doing a meal plan – no time, it’s restrictive, don’t know how, sounds like something my gran would do – but none are as strong as the argument for just getting on with it. There’s a very good reason why meal planning is something your gran would do!

Invest a little time one evening every couple of weeks to get organised and you could quickly see the results:

  • No more last-minute panicking about what to eat for dinner
  • Resorting to a bowl of cereal if you get home from work late will be a thing of the past
  • Lunch taken care of too – avoid cold supermarket sandwiches and soggy salads
  • Eat better, more healthily and a wider variety of foods
  • Fewer and quicker supermarket trips, less stressful shopping
  • Pasta five nights out of seven? Not anymore!
  • Save money – within weeks
  • Reduce food waste – you wouldn’t throw a fiver in the bin without thinking so why food?

Here Are My Top Tips For Meal Planning Success

Find a way that works best for you – notes on your phone, an app, pen and paper, chalkboard. I have a simple meal planning template that I share with my clients to get them started and show them how to use it. But it doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it and that you stick with it!

Check the calendar before you start so you can work around nights out, kids’ clubs, busy evenings and guests. You don’t want to be left with the ingredients for a meal no one is around to eat.

Think about working on two weeks at a time. It feels like you’re spending less time doing it, it’s more efficient and you can be thinking about ways to use up ingredients over the two weeks without getting bored of eating them.

If your plans change, move the meal to another night. Put the swapped planned meal into a new week to make a head start on your next plan. There are escape routes when meal planning!

Regularly plan a batch cook meal so that you can have something in the freezer for a night off cooking or so you can grab something quick and easy for a busy evening. Freeze it in smaller portions to give you flexibility over how you use it and reduce the risk of waste.

You can also plan to cook extra chicken, fish, veggies, lentils, grains or whatever you might be having and use them as a starting point for your lunches. Or maybe spend some time on a Sunday chopping and roasting a load of veggies, for example, to use over the next few days in various guises. When you’re planning, you can make use of time-saving tricks like this.

Know what you’ve got in the fridge, freezer and store cupboard and use them as a starting point for meal ideas as well as a way to use up what you’ve already got. It’s also useful to know what you’ve got if suddenly you have extra mouths to feed or your meal out is cancelled – rather than hastily ordering a takeaway you’ll be able to make something from seemingly nothing. As mums we’re always acting the magician to make things happen, add this to your book of tricks.

Keep a list of meal ideas that you can add to when you see a recipe you like the look of, think of something you fancy, the kids request a meal, or you spot a lunch a colleague has brought into work you would like to try. If you have an ongoing list, you can refer to it when planning rather than scratching your head for ideas all the time.

Once you’ve done your meal plan, you need a shopping list. Check what you need for the meals (including amounts), have a look to see what you have already and list what you need to pick up – then stick to it!

And finally, don’t forget there are more meals in a day than just dinner.