– Shudder at the question “what’s for dinner?” ?
– Get overwhelmed with cooking meals for your family?
– End up with lots of food wastage each week?
– Find yourself running to the shops multiple times a week?
If you can answer Yes! to any of the questions above… you need a plan.
Planning your meals in advance can help you avoid unnecessary stress and confusion around meal times. It saves you money and time, and just makes life that little bit easier.
I have been planning our household meals for probably 10+ years now, and anytime that I’ve skipped it I always find myself a little ‘frazzled’ and inevitably stressed. So each fortnight I plan a 2 Week Menu, which includes all the Recess/Morning Tea, Lunches, Afternoon Tea’s, Dinners and any prep that I might need to do. Keeping on top of my family’s meals helps me to stay calm and in control in the kitchen (well… as much as possible with 3 boys running around!), it saves me from unnecessary shopping trips, and keeps my household budget in check too.
So knowing how important and effective it is for me and my family, I’ve created my 7 Top Tips to help you successfully plan the meals for your household.
Effective meal planning, that you can continue over the long-term, largely depends on looking properly at the needs of your household. You need to consider things like time, money, availability, dietary needs, commitments and tastes. It’s just not as simple as writing out 5-7 meals for that week. I mean, yes, you can do that, but without properly planning your budget and time constraints, you could just end up frustrated and disheartened with a fridge full of food that’s going out of date.
I could go on and on about this topic… but I want to help you get ‘up and running’ with meal planning asap, so I’ll just keep it brief and share my top 7 Meal Planning Tips with you now:
Tip #1 : B U D G E T
Yes… it can be a scary word, but it’s one I must address. If you don’t know how much money you have to spend on food, you will fail to plan a menu accurately. If your budget is tight the meals you plan will reflect this. If you’ve got plenty of ‘wiggle-room’ in your finances you can then afford to be a little more extravagant. So know how much money you have to spend before you start planning your menu. (There’s an easy Monthly Budgeting Form here.)
Tip #2 : Use a Calendar
This is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT of all these tips. When you sit down to plan your meals I suggest doing so in front of your household calendar (we use Google Calendars in our house as my husband’s roster is ever-changing).
Knowing where and when people are coming and going in your house will help you make the decision between eggs on toast or a lavish roast dinner. Take a look at how much time you have to prepare the meals for each day, is it 15-30minutes, or will you put something on to slow cook so that its ready when you get home from work?
I always consult our calendar when planning our menu, and even if things change (like my husbands ever changing shifts) it is easy to just swap a meal, or just roll it over to the next week.
Tip #3 : Check the Weather
This may seem trivial… but it really does make a difference. Look ahead at the weather forecast, and yes, even though it may change, having an idea of the upcoming weather will help you decide between making Caesar Salads or Beef Stew. Cooking according to the seasons and with the produce that is available is a big key to successful meal planning.
Tip #4 : Make it pretty
It took me a few years to realise that the effectiveness of my Meal Planning was very dependent on the ‘prettiness’ of the method I used. One year my wonderful Mother-In-Law bought me a gorgeous Country Life week-to-a-page diary, and I started using it to plan my meals… it was as if overnight my Meal Planning got easier. Something about this pretty little book made me WANT to sit down and write a menu, and I’ve done it ever since.
In the past couple of years though, with my kids attending school and pre-school, I’ve had to ‘upgrade’ to my full Weekly Menu so I can plan for recess and lunches etc, but I still use my little weekly diary to write out our mains. So in my kitchen I have my ‘pretty book’ on the bench in a book holder, open to that week, and my printed Weekly Menu up on a wall… with my scribble and notes all over it for the school lunches etc for the week.
If you’d like to receive a copy of my FREE Household Weekly Menu Planner simply shoot me an email via my Contact Form and I’d be happy to send one to you.
So think of what you’re attracted too.
Do you need it to fit in with your decor?
Would you prefer a dry-erase board, or a diary like me so that I can look back at what I’ve planned for future inspiration?
Find your version of ‘pretty’ and start there… it will make it much more fun and attractive to sit down and plan those meals.
If you do like diaries, I found this little beauty at Kikki-K recently… I think its kinda cute… Oh, and its blue and white : )
Tip #5 : Double-Up
This is a fabulous time saver. Simply put, when planning out your meals for that week, look for ways where you can cook once and eat twice. Some examples might be serving mashed potatoes with meal and veggies one day, but making enough mash to then be used in a Shepherds Pie on another night. Or cooking extra meat patties when making burgers, and then using them as ‘deconstructed’ burgers for school/work lunches. The opportunities are endless… just take a step back and think ahead, it will save you time later on.
Tip #6 : Write a List
You’ve heard it before… NEVER go shopping without a list!! Going to the grocery store without a plan is the perfect way to overspend and then forget that key ingredient that you needed.
Start writing your shopping list as you plan your meals, and do it in the kitchen. Check what ingredients you need to use up first (such as fruit & veg), and then write down what you need to buy and from where. Simple as that.
Tip #7 : Prep, Prep, Prep
Some people like to do a big ‘Prep Day’, and others just do it in little ‘chunks’ throughout their week. I love the idea of a prep day, but with littlies in tow, getting a few hours just dedicated to prepping food doesn’t work for me right now. So when I’m meal planning I make a list of things to prepare in advance and just put them at the bottom of my Weekly Menu. At the moment this really works for me, but it may change over time.
So take a step back and look at your meals. What can you prepare in advance? Perhaps its peeling some carrots and cutting them into sticks for school lunches, and doing a double portion so you can use them for a main meal later on.
I hope that this helps a little with your Meal Planning. If you’d like to receive more tips straight to your inbox I also send out a fortnightly email, which contains a little bit of news from my kitchen PLUS my REAL fortnightly meal plan for the upcoming 2 weeks. So if you’d like to see what I’m cooking, or just to perhaps gain a little more motivation, just jump on and subscribe here.
In the meantime, here’s one of my Menu’s from a couple of weeks ago, to get your juices flowing…
It’s not fancy food… just, simple, family cooking.
Happy planning! : )
Q: What is your biggest challenge when it comes to planning meals for your household?