If you’ve started on the journey to home-cooked heaven, then hopefully you’re already reaping the benefits of meal planning and shopping lists: more variety, less stress, more free time, less expenditure. Inevitably though, there are a few bumps along the road that you must carefully manoeuvre.
Or, perhaps, you’d like to start meal planning but don’t know where to begin?! Well, fear not. Here are my Top Ten Meal-Planning Problems Solved.
Problem #1 I find it hard to come up with new ideas for meals every week.
Solution: Then don’t! Recycle a recipe from last month that you liked or ask friends and family for recommendations.
Problem #2 It’s hard to find the time to prepare dinner every day.
Solution: So put aside a regular spot each week for prep. You could batch cook, write your meals plans or even just chop and wash fruits and veggies – whatever helps you get ahead so you can save time in the week. If your schedule is fairly rigid, then you might suit the Rotational Menu which is based on how much time you have to cook.
Problem #3 We’re creatures of habit – we only like a few kinds of foods OR we have dietary restrictions that limit the foods we can eat.
Solution: Then why not try to theme each night and repeat every week? For example, you could make Monday ‘pasta night’ and then select from spaghetti bolognaise, a pasta bake, macaroni and cheese or a carbonara as options. Just pick a different one from your theme group each time and you’ll be enjoying a variety of foods in no time.
Problem #4 Our schedules change every week.
Solution: Then you need to sit down every weekend and plan in advance, just one week at a time, what you’ve got the time and energy to cook. It’s no good coming in late and then starting to think about food; you’re more likely to reach for the telephone and dial a takeaway. If your schedules are likely to change within the week at no notice (perhaps you’re on call) then it also helps to have a meal on ‘standby’ that you can cook if needed, or will keep until next week, if not.
Problem #5 I want to try something new but don’t know where to start.
Solution: It’s gotta be Pinterest for you. Did you know it’s actually a search engine? Type in ‘easy chicken one pot’ and you’ll get hundreds of free recipes you can try tonight. Now you’ve just got to stop drooling long enough to pick one! (PS. there’s a great selection of easy new recipes on
Problem #6 When I start to make dinner, I’m always out of an integral ingredient!
Solution: Then you need a list of all your tried-and-tested favourites! If you have a little notebook of the recipes you rely on time and time again AND you list the ingredients under each title, then you can check back when meal planning and shopping, to ensure you never miss out buying an ingredient again.
Problem #7 I don’t know how to start.
Solution: You need some friendly help to guide you through it step by step! Download my FREE workbook ‘Make a Meal of it: how to Organise your Food from Shop to Table’.
Problem #8 I am terrible at doing the food shop; I just grab what I fancy when I get there.
Solution: You need a shopping list, pronto! A list will help ensure you get everything you need while not grabbing additional “bargains” just because they look good at the time.
Problem #9 I always seem to have duplicate items in my cupboards.
Solution: If you’re already using a list (see number 8) then you should only be buying what you need week to week. But if you still find that you grab a lot of items “just in case” and then get home to find you’ve already got three jars of coffee, then use your phone to snap a few quick photos of your pantry/cupboards before you go out, so you can check for yourself what you’ve already got!
Problem #10 I find the idea of a written meal plan too rigid; I want to be able to change what I cook based on the weather / how I’m feeling.
Solution: You might have more luck with a Pantry Pool. This is a small number of recipes that share the same pool of ingredients and are interchangeable at whim. When you think ahead to the week’s meals, try to come up with a number of meals that fit this brief so that if you don’t feel like cooking meal ‘A ‘, you can substitute it for meal ‘B’ without needing another trip to the shops.
And there you have it. My Top Ten Meal-Planning Problems Solved by a bundle of easy solutions to fix them.
How do you like to plan your meals? Is there a problem you encounter that’s not on the list? Get in touch and we’ll have a chat!