Do you plan what you are going to eat, cook and buy for the week, or month? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type cook?
It took me a few years to find a way of meal planning that suited me. At first I went at it full tilt, the whole hog, The Big Year Long Meal Plan. A whole year worth of meals planned ahead.
I laugh now when I think about it. It that took me many weeks (here and there) of thinking, and deciding, and planning and writing. Hours at the computer making up templates and spreadsheets. Hours pouring over cook books and working out what recipes fit what foods for what growing season.
Did I use it?
No. Not once.
So I let the idea of meal planning go for a few more years. But with a young family, producing some of our own food, and cooking many meals from scratch, I decided to give it another go.
This time, I reached for an A4 piece of paper and scribbled a week’s worth of days down the side of the paper. Then I drew in some lines for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Then I just filled in the gaps, keeping in mind what we had growing in the garden, what I was going to buy at the farmers market, and what my kids current likes and dislikes were.
I stuck the piece of paper on the fridge and the rest is history. I have been meal planning like that for a few years now.
And I love it.
It’s scrawly, messy, and often I don’t actually follow it. But it REALLY helps me cook very nourishing, diverse, seasonal, yummy meals for my family, even if I don’t often look at it.
And I know for sure it saves us money.
Maybe it’s so useful because it gives me an overall idea of what I’m going to cook for the week, according to what I already have at hand.
Before I write the meal plan I do a quick check of what’s in the garden, what’s in the fridge, the freezer, and larder. Just a glance, to keep updated with what might be lurking down the back, forgotten. So it helps to use up food that might otherwise be wasted.
Maybe it saves money because I only buy what’s on the plan for that week, rather than getting carried away with all the bright pretty foodie things I see when I shop.
Either way, I actually love the act of meal planning.
For me, it only takes 15 minutes, once a week. After my quick glance at the food stores, I look through the cookbooks and grab a few that take my fancy. Then I sit down with my paper and pencil, flick through a few recipe ideas, and fill in my grid with whatever fits for that week.
Sometimes I’ll write the page number of the book I took the recipe from (you’ll see in the picture that my favourite book this week was my new ‘slow cooker’ recipe book). Then I write my shopping list according to what we need (that’s my scribbled list in the bottom right corner), stick the plan on the fridge, and voila, job done.
You might find a different way of meal planning that suits you and your family. You might find the Big Year Long Meal Plan, or the Monthly Meal Plan is the way to go for you. You can even find websites that offer meal planning services, and smartphone apps that help you mealplan.
You could give it a try and see. You might find a new use for all that extra spinach you have in the garden, or those bags of dry beans gathering dust in the pantry.
You might find, like me, that it takes a bit of the stress out of that ‘what am I going to cook for dinner tonight!’ moment that can happen around kids/partner-very-hungry-o-clock….