Before you can get down to the nitty gritty of planning your meals, there is one major factor you should consider: which Types of Meal Planning will work for you?
The first step
First of all, were you even aware that there are different Types of Meal Planning? Sure, everyone knows that meal planning involves choosing your meals in advance to help with shopping, preparing and cooking (and if you didn’t know that, you should check out What is Meal Planning?), but the whole process of picking what you like the sound of and then shopping for those ingredients is merely the tip of the iceberg! In fact, there are many different ways that you can expand on the process to bring more variety into your diet and to ensure that you are planning in the way that will work best for you.
Let me introduce you to some of the contenders:
Theme Nights is probably the method of meal planning that most people have heard of. Once you’ve got the art of picking meals that you like the sound of, and cooking them successfully for a few weeks, then you’re probably going to want to expand your repertoire and start including different dishes. That’s where Theme Nights comes in.
The idea is that you choose a theme (pasta, meatless, family fun) for each night of the week and then pick a meal that suits that theme. It’s a great way to jog your memory and ensure that you’re getting lots of different kinds of foods, while sticking to themes that you know you like. Read more about Theme Nights and get my list of 20+ themes with 80+ matching meals!
Meal Planning by Time (Rotational Menu)
If you’re a household that works on a very rigid/strict schedule, then you would benefit from meal planning by time. For example, if you know that you are always late in from work on a Tuesday, then you might like to always plan for a slow cooker (‘low and slow’) meal that day, so that it’s ready when you come in. You can simply pick four or five meals that suit the bill and rotate them, so that you always have a different, slow-cooked meal on a Tuesday. Bingo: convenience and variety.
There are lots of different categories of meals that suit Meal Planning by Time, such as low and slow, quick and easy, freezer meals, no cook, repurposing/leftovers and pot luck. Read more about planning by time and take a look at how you can fit meal planning around your schedule.
Meal Planning by Ingredients (Capsule Pantry/Pantry Pool)
Picking meals that share common ingredients is a great way to cut down on your shopping list and therefore, your spending. If you’re on a budget or you just like to be really frugal and use up things straight away, then having a single pool of ingredients that you can use to create a variety of meals is a method that’ll ring true for you.
The trick is to be selective about your initial pool and include adaptable ingredients. Then you’ll be surprised by how many different combinations you can come up with! Here I used 24 ingredients to make 24 meals and
Meal Planning by Season
Imagine you’re on holiday in France and you wander down to the local market in the morning to see what looks good for dinner that night. The fishing boats have just brought in a huge haul of swordfish, so that’s on the menu, definitely. Then, you go around the corner to the epicerie, boulangerie, patisserie to see what looks good there…
Wonderful, isn’t it? If only we all had the time and resources to do this every day!
If that sound like something that appeals to you, then you’re probably a seasonal meal planner, choosing only the freshest and most local ingredients for your meals. However, it’s just not practical for most of us in our daily/weekly routines.
You can, however, begin to reclaim some of that holiday magic by looking carefully around the supermarket when you are there. What is new in? What is labelled as local? Talk to the butcher and fishmonger; what do they recommend? Once you begin to get a feel for what grows in your area in spring/summer/autumn/winter, you can build your meal plan around those. Start seasonal planning and download my list of UK and US seasonal ingredients and meals!
Sometimes you just need an easy meal that the whole family will eat. Hey, I get it, I’ve got two little ones – no more chicken nuggets, please! When you’re racing around doing the school run, packing lunches and refereeing between the kids, cooking a healthy, balanced meal is the last thing on your mind. You need a miracle meal – quick, easy, delicious and family-friendly. Luckily, I have some of those 😉 Get my Midweek Miracles, here!
and find out How Meal Planning can Help with Feeding the Kids.
Meal Planning on a Budget
If you’re on a budget then the practice of meal planning alone should save you money. You’ll be buying less, throwing away less and repurposing ingredients better, anyway. But if that’s still not enough, then take a look at these suggestions, too: How I Save £100s by Changing my Eating Habits – quick swaps you can make today.
How to Shop like a Frugal Foodie – sneaky tips and tricks so that you win, not the supermarkets.
Meal Planning on a Budget: How to Make the Most of Your Money – simple tips on how to make the meal-planning process work best for you.
Still not sure which meal-planning method will work best for you?
Take my fun quiz and find out which type best suits your personality and needs!