A few handy meal planning tips, tricks and ideas to get you started on the path to being more organised and feeding your family healthy and easy meals on a budget.
Happy New Year!! We’re all in the right mindset, making goals and ready to eat well so today I thought I would share with you a few meal planning tips and tricks to help get you off on the right foot this year.
And guess what…we are starting slow! There is no point in starting with a bang, only to fizzle out in a week or two. What I want to talk about here is how to make small, simple changes that are easy to implement and easy to maintain so that you can eat delicious home cooked meals all year long!
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Meal planning is something that I only got on board with last year. Having a small child around means that dinnertime is chaotic and even if I’m cooking after she has gone to bed, the last thing I want to be doing is a) panicking about what’s for dinner at 5pm and b) spending hours in the kitchen cooking a meal that we won’t be eating until 10pm.
Since I’ve started making a plan at the beginning of the week I have found that I feel so much more in control come dinnertime – it’s one thing taken care of already. We are better at eating what we have and I am shopping smarter as I know exactly what we need for the week.
How to meal plan:
Pick your plan:
There are a few ways you can plan your meals for the week:
- Based on meat – mince, pork, chicken, steak, sausages, fish, etc
- Based on grains/carbs – rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, lentils, tortillas, etc
- Based on cuisine/meal type – Italian, Mexican, slow cooker, pizza night, BBQ, sheet pan dinner, etc
As we have a freezer full of homekill meat, I base our meals around meat. For instance, I try to not cook the same meat 2 nights in a row but I also try to use a mix of different types and cuts of meat throughout the week.
Make master lists:
Keep a list (handwritten or in a google document or spreadsheet – my favourite!) of all your families favourites. Then you can refer back to these if you are stuck for ideas.
I find it helpful to have the lists broken down into the categories I plan my meals under, so for me I have a list of things I do with mince, with chicken, with pork etc. Here are a few ideas based on creating a meal plan around type of meat.
Chili con carne
Sausages, eggs and chips
Easy baked mac & cheese (bacon optional!)
Write your weekly plan:
Once you have decided what you are going to eat for the week, allocate each meal to a night! You might have a piece of paper on the fridge, a list on your phone or a blackboard to write it on. I have a large blackboard on the kitchen door so at the start of each week, I erase it and start again. And if for some reason we haven’t eaten one of the meals the previous week or if we are loving one particular meal at that time, I’ll usually leave it there!
If you have a weekly planner with after school activities, meetings and other things written on it, have this handy as you write your meal plan. That way you will be able to see which nights are already going to be busy (and you may want to plan a slow cooker or freezer meal for this night) and which nights you will have a little more time to prepare and cook dinner.
Meal planning tips:
Make the plan before you go to the supermarket – this way you can look at the plan and work out exactly what you need to buy. And don’t be trapped by the day you shop! If you shop on a Thursday, start your meal plan from Thursday. And remember that if you get to the supermarket and there are great deals on something that’s not on your meal plan, you can change it! Or stock up for the next week – this is also where the freezer comes in handy!
Don’t feel like you have to cook a recipe every night. Some of our favourite dinners are simple – sausages and mashed potatoes with veggies, steak, chips and salad or plain old pork chops with rice and salad.
Plan a sheet pan or stir-fry dinner for the last night of the week – these are great ways to use up whatever veggies you have left sitting in the veggie bin
Leave the weekend free – this can mean leftovers or everybody fend for themselves! It takes the pressure off you to be cooking something every single night and it also means that if something crops up during the week, you’ve got something else to make over the weekend.
Utilise your slow cooker – I’m not very good at this but I’ve gotten better in the last few months. Now if I know I’m going to have a busy day (or a town day) I’ll plan to have something in the slow cooker that day that will be ready when I get home.
Utilise your freezer – Some people don’t like using the freezer for meals but I’m telling you – it’s a sanity and a money saver! If you are going to all the effort of making a lasagne or mac and cheese, make 2 and freeze one! Those tinfoil BBQ trays are the perfect thing for freezing meals in and it also means no dishes! And then if someone you know has a baby or needs a meal, they are the perfect thing to drop off to them.
And if you need more inspiration, come on over to Facebook and join my group “The Kiwi Country Girl – Made From Scratch” where I share our weekly meal plan each Monday and so do other members of the group! There are so many great ideas in there!