I have to admit I’ve turned into one of those people who can be found clutching a meal planning folder, I blame Pinterest. I’ve been meal planning for a few years now and find it a great way to cut down food waste, keep within a budget and stop the faff in the evening of deciding what to eat. I used to just plan mains, but now also plan lunches.
I have tried in vain to find a site or app that meal planned the way I wanted, but too often it didn’t’ do it exactly right so decided to go old school and use pen and paper. This way it could also be displayed on the fridge so we could both remember what was for dinner and easier also for us both to edit. Who needs syncing and technology?
How to meal plan:
Pick a weekday to start on
For us it works best to start on a Friday.
Decide what meals you need for the week
We plan 1 weekend treat breakfast, 4 lunches and 6 dinners a week.
Do you have any ingredients that need using up?
As much as you try you’ll nearly always have food left at the end of the week. Can these be used up in the following week or put in a dish to be frozen?
Do you have anything in the freezer that would make a good meal? Maybe some tartlets that will make a quick weekday dinner or a tupperware box of lentil ragu left from when you batch cooked last week.
Weekend feasts and low-faff weekdays
Weekdays can be busy for us but we always make an effort to eat together in the evening, as old fashioned as it sounds I think it is very important. Working with food for a living can mean the last thing you want to do in the evening is to head to the kitchen some more and cook so weekday dinners need to be low faff. At least twice a month we have a roast dinner and the leftovers are eaten over the following days.
Some of our favourite weekday dinners:
- Savoury tartlets – Cook in advance and freeze.
- Oven-baked frittata with jacket potato and salad
- Falafels with pitta breads and salad
- Sausage, mash & beans (a classic!)
- Cauli mac & cheese
- Vegetable fried rice
- Lentil chilli (from the freezer)
- Italian pesto chicken – essentially chicken fillet baked with cherry toms, pesto and mozzarella.
- Pizza – I make the dough in the morning and leave to prove in the fridge.
- Spinach pancakes stuffed with ham and cheese
- Gnocchi with creamy spinach and lemon sauce
The weekend is the time to try new recipes and take time over cooking.
Our favourite weekend recipes:
- Roast chicken dinner
- Thai Pie
- Murgh Makhani
- Beef and butterbean stew
- Feta, pesto and sundried tomato slice
- Mushroom & spinach pancake bake
- Lamb, pistachio and mint burgers with Hub’s amazing chips
Plan one store cupboard dinner
This is a meal that only uses ingredients from the freezer, cupboards or fridge that aren’t going to perish in the next few days. This means if plans change and a dinner isn’t eaten no ingredients are wasted.
Good store cupboard dinners:
- Pea & parmesan risotto
- vegetable egg fried rice
- quick pasta bake.
Write it down
I started writing my meal plans in a diary but it didn’t work for me so now I use my newfangled printable. My printable is based on this fabulous one from The Project Girl which I have adapted to fit us.
It has space for recipe location, reminders on what I need to cook in advance along with an essential treat box. I’ve also made a bit of room under the dates to write events that may impact on that evening’s meal (e.g. working late or meeting). I’ve also marked weekends so it easier to see it at a glance.
I then file these printables once I’ve finished which helps meal plan for future weeks and remind me of dishes that we’ve eaten and enjoyed.
Bookmark, bookmark, bookmark
Anyone who has seen our dining room will see we have a bit of a cookbook habit. Many of the books have bookmarks in them for recipe we want to make soon. The same goes for the file of recipes torn out of magazines and my pinterest boards are getting full. Regularly flick through your bookmarks for inspiration.
To download the meal planning printable (PDF) click image below.
Alternatively find a blank/editable meal plan here
So do you meal plan? How do you do it?