If you’ve been reading my newsletters for a while, you will by now have realised that I cannot survive unless most of my life is organised to the extreme – this excludes packing (which I HATE HATE HATE doing in advance) but includes meals planning .
I have been planning our family meals on a weekly basis for many many years – probably before children (!!!) – and this removes so much stress on a daily basis that I seriously have no idea how I would cope without. No more pulling your hair off in the kitchen every other day wondering what on hell you’re going to cook. No more throwing food away (as you only purchase what you need). No more daily trips to the supermarket. And maybe most importantly, no more children asking you constantly what they’re going to eat for the next meal (or it is just my children who are food obsessed?).
If you’ve been toying with the idea of meal planning but don’t know where to start, here is how I do it:
- Pick a day for meal planning . Mine is Thursday: by the evening, my meal list for the forthcoming week needs to be completed, all my shopping lists finished (if I need to shop from different places) and my online order passed. My meal planning rolls from Friday to Thursday and my online order is delivered on Friday.
- Choose which meals you want to plan and only plan as much as you can bear . I only plan our family meals for one week ahead (weekday dinners and weekends lunches + dinners during school, all lunches and dinners during holidays). I’ve also realised I cannot plan more than 10 meals at one go, so during holidays where I have to plan 14 meals for a week, I split the process in two. My dream is to do monthly meal plans but I’ve never managed…
- Keep past and present meal plans always within reach . I have a specific “Menus” note on my phone, where I’ve stored all past and present meal plans. I use it constantly to write down ideas of forthcoming meals. It’s a nice way to know what you’re going to cook in the day (and what time commitment it’s going to involve). It also enables you to go back to previous meals you’ve cooked and liked and use them again.
- Think about what you’d like to eat over the week and which recipe sources you prefer. I try to use “wasted time” (tube commute, waiting for the kids in the car, etc) to progressively jot down ideas of meals in my notes – this way I don’t have a blank page on Thursday morning. Currently a lot of my meal ideas come for the Yummix blog and the associated two books; from the Cookidoo App, which I’ve mentioned previously; and from this book about Bouddha bowls. I always put the reference of the recipe on my notes, so that I can track it easily.
- Alternate easy/ harder meals and plan according to your schedule. For instance when we go out and need to cook dinner for the children, I very often get ready meals or cook them pasta. When we all eat at different times due to after-school activities, I cook something that can be easily re-heated. I only get ambitious with new complicated recipes when I have plenty of time in my hands.
- Once you’re done, stick the meal plan on your fridge. It means everybody knows what on the menu and there won’t complain when it’s in their plate. It also means anybody in the family who is keen to cook can just go ahead.
- It’s painful but it’s really worth it. Sometimes I just hate doing this meal planning thing, especially if I haven’t done any work before the Thursday and I have to make up a full meal plan on the spot. But then I know how much it’s going to help during the week and I just bear the pain…