24 Jun Meal planning – if you don’t do it, you should.
What do you think about meal planning? Do you swear by it? Does the thought of organisation fill you with fear?
Sorry to risk lecturing you guys, you can shop however you like. But, I really believe everyone should plan their meals for the week. If you don’t, I challenge you to test it. Spend one week shopping like you usually do, and one week creating and following a meal plan. For both weeks note down:
- The time you spend thinking about / deciding what to buy and and what to cook.
- The time you spend shopping.
- The amount of food you throw away at the end of the week
- The amount of money you spend on all food during the week.
- How you feel in your own skin at the end of the week.
Compare both weeks and seeing there’s any difference. I’m happy to be proved wrong, so why not give it a go and let me know?
Why am I so bothered? Well, I’m glad you asked…
It makes food shopping cheaper
Let’s start with an obvious one. If you plan your meals for the week I guarantee you will save money (well, not if you plan to eat steak every night, but you get my drift I’m sure). There’s a few reasons why meal planning saves your hard earned pennies:
- You won’t have to nip out several times in the week to get the ingredients you need, which means you won’t be tempted by all those extras the marketing experts have lined the aisles with. I used to believe shopping for reduced items a few times a week would save me money but I’ve now realised I don’t have the willpower to only buy the yellow-stickered-bargains. I end up spending money on other items too (wine, crisps, magazines etc) so it didn’t really save me money at all.
- Planning allows you to utilise similar ingredients which reduces the amount of food you need to buy. For example, choosing two recipes that use a broccoli, half in each.
It saves you time and emotional labour
Yes, there’s an initial investment of time needed to plan your meals. However, it’s a valuable investment because spending an hour or so at a time of your choosing planning what you will eat for the following week saves many more hours during your week thinking about, choosing and shopping over several days.
The key for me here is the time saved thinking about meals. Now, not to open a can of feminist worms but have you ever thought about the emotional labour involved in food shopping? I’ll just leave this article link here for you to ponder that one… Of course I know plenty of men also plan, shop and prepare food, but can we agree it still mostly falls to women? Whatever your gender, don’t you deserve to spend your precious time pondering things that make you happy rather than things that are a chore?
It reduces waste
Another fairly obvious one. Planning reduces the amount of food waste you produce because you don’t buy more than you need.
How much food do you throw away every week? I mistakenly blamed supermarkets for the mountains of food wasted but I’m afraid most food waste in the UK comes from our homes; 4.2million tonnes of food a year is currently thrown away from our fridges and cupboards – that’s £700 of wasted food per family per year. £700 a year! WTF?!
It gets more nutritious good stuff inside you
Planning meals gives you the opportunity to create meals full of fabulous real food; rather than grabbing ingredients a few times a week because they’re on offer, or because you’re shopping when hungry, or because you’re dialling a takeout…
So, all sounds good in principle right? Meal planning saves you money and time, reduces waste and is likely to increase the nutrients in your diet fuelling your precious body and mind. There’s no ‘right’ way to do it. Be warned though; food containers are suddenly really exciting. Basically food planning makes you old. Top tip: Home Bargains currently have some glass food containers with a plastic clip lid that can be used straight from the freezer to the oven or microwave. I love them.
Below is what works for me, but find your own way.
How I plan
- I start with fruit and veg; I look at what I have left from the week before (when I say look I mean remember, but best practice would be going and actually looking in your fridge!). I also look at the fresh fruit and veg I have delivered in my awesome box from Gardners Fruits and plan around those items (I take photos/make a list of the contents delivered to me on Friday afternoon so I know exactly what I have without physically moving out of bed to go look!).
- I search online and/or in recipe books for recipes using the fruit and veg I have and choose some meals I fancy making. Some meals are just favourites I cook often and so I don’t need to search for those.
- I list the meals I’ve decided to cook including links to recipes I’ve found or page numbers in recipe books. You could use pen and paper, but I use evernote to make my lists (and to organise most other parts of my life, I love it). Evernote works well for me because I can access the info on whatever device I happen to have to hand (yes I’m an apple wanker who regularly switches bewtween my iphone, ipad and MacBook). I can also share the note, so it’s great if more than one of you is doing the shopping and/or cooking.
- Below each meal I’m going to cook I write down all the ingredients needed. I then use a super simple key to record whether I already have the item in my kitchen or if it’s something I need to buy. I just use a dash – to signify I need to buy it and a close bracket ) to signify I already have it. I do this this to absolutely ensure I don’t forget anything I need to buy when I do my weekly shop. Why? Because if I forget one or two items and have to pop to buy them later in the week, I don’t just buy what I need, I end up also buying other things; which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to stick to a budget and minimise any waste.
- A boring sandwich for lunch is not my bag. My top tip for creating a #smuglunch every day of the week is to prep a load of delicious stuff, put it in containers in your fridge and then just chuck stuff together in the morning to take to work with you.
- I don’t assign a day of the week to any meal because I’d rather choose throughout the week depending on time and tastes.
So, that’s the theory. What about the practice?
Example meal plan:
I get my fruit and veg box delivered on a Friday afternoon. It takes me about an hour or so to complete the meal plan and it will take me about 45 minutes to visit the two shops to get my dried food (Replenish Weston) and dairy goods (Tesco). I plan my meals on the Saturday morning before work and then do my weekly shop on a Saturday after work. Below is my meal plan for the week commencing Sunday 25th June.
For context: This feeds a family of three for breakfast packed lunches and dinners – one vegan adult, one omnivore adult, one omnivore 11 year old.
This meal plan cost me a total of £43.73. That’s £2.08 per person per day for all of our meals. Told you meal planning will save you money!
£20 for the fruit and veg, plus £11.80 for the dry goods from Replenish Weston, plus £11.93 for the ingredients from Tesco.
Sunday prep (for lunches)
- Roast carrot, swede, potato, parsnip and (half) cauliflower for lunches
- Cook brown rice for lunches
- Cook bulgar wheat for lunches
) bulgar wheat
- Hummus – classic and roast red pepper
- Easy black bean and kidney bean chilli
- Easy spelt bread
- Fruit salad and citrus syrup
- Tomato salsa?
Lunches (prepare night before)
- Kale & pomegranate salad
- Broccoli, goji and poppy seed mayo Broccoli slaw with poppy seed mayo
- Tuna, sweetcorn and mayo wraps
- Egg mayo and cress wraps
- Grapes / apple
- Overnight oats
- Buckwheat bircher muesli
- Bagel and cream cheese / marmite
- Sweet and sour tofu / chicken with brown rice and crispy seaweed
- Breakfast for dinner
- Cabbage, cauliflower and potato (and bacon) soup
- Wholewheat pasta and pesto, broccoli & side salad
- Lentil Ragu base with spaghetti, served with side salad
- Leftover lentil ragu with added passatta, butter beans and paprika to make chilli served with baked potatoes (or mash)
- Pizza wraps (with wedges?)