Have you been thinking about starting meal planning but aren’t sure it’s for you? Maybe you think it sounds too much like hard work? Or perhaps you’re worried you don’t have the time?
More and more I am contacted by people needing help with planning their meals. As life gets busier, it’s often the family dinner that falls by the wayside to make room for other commitments. But there is a solution to long-term family meal time and yet it’s still to be discovered by so many. If you’re undecided about whether meal planning is suitable for YOUR family and whether it can help YOU, then read on to discover ten reasons Why You NEED a Meal Plan, Pronto!
#1: You’ll never run out of ingredients again.
Imagine you’ve decided on a stir fry for tonight, but you go to the pantry and there are no noodles to be found! Uh-oh, back to the drawing board for you then. UNLESS you planned for noodles when you made your meal plan. And you purchased them in advance. And there they are sitting in the pantry waiting to fulfil their noodle destiny (ok, I went a bit far with that one). Anyway, stir fry, here we come!
#2: You’ll save money by planning in advance.
Let’s use chicken breasts as a good example here. If you’re the kind of person that decides what they want for dinner when they pop to the shop each day, then you’re probably also the kind of person that will buy a packet of two fresh chicken breasts when you need them. But fresh chicken breasts are expensive. And perhaps later in the week, you’ll want them again for another meal. BUT WHAT IF you decided on two chicken-based meals when you made your meal plan on the weekend and you bought a bigger packet of four chicken breasts instead (which is definitely cheaper than two + two)? You use two for the first meal and two for the second. And you dine out on it. Literally. It’s even cheaper again if you bought a frozen bag of eight in advance and just pulled two out whenever you needed them, in time to defrost. And of course you had time – because you planned in advance. You clever thing.
#3: You can repurpose food and reduce waste.
A new survey published in 2017 says the UK throws away £13bn worth of food every year; I really hope I’m not adding to it for my part. One of the greatest things about meal planning is that you can repurpose food you might otherwise have thrown away. For example, if you roast a chicken on Sunday, then rather than binning the leftovers, why not use them for chicken sandwiches/salads on Monday and chicken fajitas on Tuesday? Most cooked foods will keep a good three days in the fridge if they’re stored correctly. And you’ll save money while saving the environment too.
#4: You’ll always have recipe inspiration.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from other home cooks is that they get bored with the same food week in, week out. They’re stuck in a rut. People are always surprised though, by how many meals they actually know how to cook and how many their family enjoys. And once you start meal planning too, there’s no limit to the possibilities. Firstly, it’s great to build a ‘something new’ night into your plan. Go on your favourite website (like www.thefoodbrood.co.uk) and find something simple that whets your appetite. Then give it a go! Soon, it’ll become part of your weekly rotation. Secondly, keep a list pinned up in the kitchen of all your go-to meals and refer back to it whenever you feel a rut coming along.
#5: You’ll save time.
Ah leftovers, how I love thee. There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking something early in the week and being able to heat it up at a later date, when you really don’t have time to cook from scratch. What’s more, if you cook a double portion (or even triple) then you only have to prep once and clean up once. Now if that’s not worthy of giving meal planning a go, then I don’t know what is!
#6: You can provide healthy, home-cooked food each day.
With two children under five, this has to be my top reason for meal planning at the moment. I really hate that children would exist solely on chicken nuggets if we let them. And what better way to make sure you know what they’re eating, than to cook it yourself? And it doesn’t have to be difficult (you don’t have to be a chef). Just think of their favourite foods and start making your own: Pizza? buy pre-made bases and add healthy toppings. Fish fingers/Chicken Nuggets? buy pieces of cod/chicken and roll them in breadcrumbs before baking. Chips? try baking them rather than frying, and substitute sweet potatoes for the regular kind.
#7: It’s really easy to begin.
And I’m not just saying that. Start with a blank piece of paper and write down your family’s 15 favourite meals. Cook them over the first half of the month, then repeat over the second. Bingo! 15 meals and one month of deliciousness.
#8: You can pick the method that best suits you.
If you’re ready for a more in-depth go at meal planning, then why not try planning by Theme Nights, Rotational Menu, Cooking style, Cuisine, Season or Firm Favourites? Just like a diet, if you find the plan that best suits YOU then you’re much more likely to stick with it. Or why not try a combination of methods to hone your own perfect plan?
#9: You can do it in just 30 minutes a week.
Honestly. I’ve got the planning down to just half an hour a week by having a simple process in play: a) I always keep an inventory of what I already have; and b) I start my shopping list with a template of what we always like to keep in the house. Then, when I come to write my meal plan, I look at what we already have (the inventory) and add what we want (the meal plan), making sure I include all our favourites (the shopping list). Simple!
#10: It guarantees you have a Plan B.
Stuff happens, things go wrong, plans change. If you’ve planned ahead though, and suddenly you find the meal you were going to prepare can’t happen (for whatever reason), then just go back to your meal plan for the week and sub it with another one of your planned meals. And no extra trip to the shop needed!
And there you have it. Ten reasons Why You NEED a Meal Plan, Pronto!
-Are you a star meal planner? Do you have a method that suits your household? Why not get in touch?