Whether your aim is to start eating healthier, plan your budget or just trying to make your life a little bit easier, proper meal planning can really make a huge difference. The entire process sounds intimidating, time-consuming and restricting since it does not leave room for spontaneity. I know, it doesn’t sound like much fun at all. It’s all worth it in the long run though.
Some of the benefits of meal planning:
- Prevents impulse buying
- Saves the time you waste every day trying to decide what to eat
- Promotes healthier eating and is cost-effective
- Allows more time to spend relaxing with your family at the end of a busy day
Meal planning seems like such a daunting task, let’s look at some ways to make it a bit easier and ensure you get the best out of this exercise.
Before you start, ask yourself these questions:
1. How many meals will you need?
Look at everyone’s plans for the week ahead.
2. How much time will you allow yourself to cook?
Knowing how much time you have to prepare your meal will help when deciding what to make.
3. Will either of your meals have leftovers that could be repurposed?
Does your recipe allow you to cook anything in bulk that could be used for another meal?
Once you have these questions answered, it’s time to start planning your meals.
The basic steps to planning your menu:
Do a pantry purge, throw away old food, note what needs to be used soon. List everything you have.
List your recipes for the week. Consult recipe books, Pinterest or the internet for inspiration.
Write down all the ingredients needed for each recipe. Cross-reference it with your “pantry list” and create your grocery list accordingly.
Now that you have your menu planned out, it’s time to put this planning into action. A big part of meal planning is doing some (if not all) of the prep work beforehand.
Tips for meal prep:
- Use one day over the weekend to plan your menu, shop, and prep your meals for the week ahead.
- As far as possible, try to clean, chop, portion and freeze your vegetables and meats.
- If you are making any freezer-friendly meals, cook them ahead of time and freeze. Frozen cooked meals are the ultimate time-savers and great to keep as a backup meal.
- Sauté a few basic vegetables together and keep them in your fridge.
- Another time-saving tip is to cook grains (rice and quinoa) in large batches beforehand and store them in the fridge.
- Cook similar ingredients and pre-make various elements of your meals as you have them available.
- Parboil potatoes, measure out spices into plastic bags, pre-roast vegetables, make sauces, and grated cheese.
If you aren’t too much of a control freak, consider including the family in some of the prep work (especially if you have children in the “helpful” stage). Yes, it can take a lot of time to get it all done. But think of it this way: Throughout the week, you will be able to come home and enjoy some relaxing family time every evening instead of rushing to get dinner done. Wouldn’t it be worth it then?