When it comes to saving money and eating well, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success.
It sounds boring, rigid and time consuming but it doesn’t have to be. Here I’m going to be giving you a beginners guide to meal planning and help you learn more about how meal planning can change your eating habits for good!
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal Planning is how you organise yourself in order to put a meal on the table. Whether that be breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s the plan you make before you shop and how it converts into creating a meal.
Some choose to purchase ingredients months in advance and batch cook, others prefer to wing it shopping for that evening’s meal on the way home from work and picking up whatever looks good to them.
The beauty of meal planning is that you can do as much or as little as you like, there are no rules which means you can find out exactly what works for you.
Understand Your Eating Situation
We all know that depending on our personal circumstances, working schedules and family commitments our eating situations can vary greatly from week to week. So here are some of the things you’re going to want to consider as you start to understand your eating situation.
Start by considering how many meals you’re going to need to plan for. Check your calendars and working arrangements and you’ll start to understand exactly how many meals you’re going to be cooking in the upcoming week.
Looking at your schedule should also give you an idea of the amount of time you’ll have to dedicate to cooking those meals. If you’ve a crazy busy week then look into doing as much food prep over the weekend as possible, and batch cooking meals that only need re-heating once you’re ready.
Create A Map
Planning is super important and should avoid waste, so now you know how many meals you’re going to need and the type of meals you’re going to want to be cooking it’s time to figure out what you’re actually going to eat.
There are a number of different meal planning websites and mobile applications. However, if you prefer pen and paper then feel free to click on the image below, save it and print it off to use as a template.
Now, add in some vague descriptions i.e. Quick dinner, working at home, packed lunch etc.. etc.. then add them up.
Now you’ll know how many quick dinners, on the go breakfasts and packed lunches you’re going to need which is in turn going to help you decide what to eat.
Now we’ve two stages of converting. The first is converting your tally into meals. Avoid re-inventing the wheel and instead stick to meals you know. Not only will this help you save money as you’re likely to already have the spices and at least some of the ingredients to cook the meals but it’s also going to go down a treat and reduce that all important food waste.
That’s not to say you can’t introduce new recipes week in week out, but having meals you know work will save you time in the kitchen, boost your confidence and reduce food waste which in turn is of course going to save you money.
Plan for leftovers, and commit to making slightly larger portions than usual to allow you to take leftovers for lunch or re-heat later in the week. If that’s not an option then make extra for freezing so you’ve always got a back up meal in stock instead of reaching for the takeaway menu.
Now it’s time to convert again, this time converting you’re meals into ingredients and cross checking them with the ingredients you already have in-stock. If you find you’re buying too much then remove the meals that are contributing to you’re shopping the most and instead replace them with meals that are made from the ingredients you already have that are not already going to be used in the meals you’ve planned.
So, you’ve got yourself a list of ingredients that you need to purchase in order to create the meals that you’ve planned. Now it’s time to go and purchase those ingredients. While many of us would just head to our local supermarket I’d instead advise you to visit MySupermarket input the items you’re going to be purchasing and find where you’re shop is going to be the cheapest. 15 minutes doing so could save you up to 20% on your shop!
Now, to the supermarket. The trick to saving money here is to avoid promotions, avoid buying more than you need to and stick to your list 100% this is going to enable you to stick to the meals you have planned, avoid food waste, eat better and stay on budget.
The amount of preparation you need to do post-shop is going to entirely depend on the map you’ve created and the meals you plan to eat from the food you have purchased.
For some this maybe as little as putting the food away, for others this may include slicing and dicing fruit and vegetables ready to be eaten as a snack, and for those bold and brave when it comes to meal prep it may include creating fully prepared meals to store in the freezer.
Eat, Enjoy, Repeat
Now begin to enjoy the food you have planned, feel free to shuffle around meals and find what works for you. Being able to meal plan effectively is different for everyone so take feedback from you’re family and adjust until you find what works out for you.
Converting to a meal plan isn’t going to happen overnight, so be sure to stick with it and adjust, adjust, adjust until you find the best meal planning system for you and your family.
Let me know what meal planning advise you have in the comments below, or if you’ve tried meal planning before let us know your feedback.