If dinner time is chaos in your home, or if it tends to be a last-minute decision most of the time, then you have the most to gain from meal planning.
It isn’t as hard as you think — a little organisation can go a long way, and the whole family can get involved.
There are so many benefits to having a meal plan: and it deals with all those things that we complain about most!
The most significant benefits to meal planning are:
- It helps you and your family to feel more organised
- It’s a way to get the family contributing to the all-important meal times
- It’s good for you and your family’s health — cuts back those snack/fast food temptations
- Reduces stress for both you and your family — mealtime stress affects everyone!
- It saves money because you buy less fast food and buy only what you need when shopping.
- It saves you time! Who likes searching the pantry up and down or waiting for frozen food to thaw because you haven’t organised something already?
- It will save you precious energy — all that running around and stress you don’t really need will be gone! More time for that glass of wine or a cuppa and a Tim Tam!
- You will feel happier — and when mum’s happy, the family are happy!
Here’s How To Make Meal Planning Work
Here are our 8 best tips on meal planning:
Meal Planning Tip #1: Commit Yourself To A Time
Do it now! Set yourself a day and time when it will be your weekly planning time. Weekly plans are much better than monthly plans, which can quickly become too overwhelming and too much work, and all the easier to give up.
Meal Planning Tip #2: Spend Only 15 Minutes A Week Planning Your Weekly Menu
Sit down somewhere comfortable without distractions, with a cuppa or a glass of wine and browse your cookbooks or online for recipes for the week. Once you have chosen the recipes for your meal plan, put the ingredients you need onto your shopping list — so you can go out and buy the things you don’t currently have.
Meal Planning Tip #3: Plans Can Still Be Flexible!
Don’t feel like you have failed if you don’t stick to your plan — always ensure that you plan some quick and easy meals in your week as well as meals that require longer preparation, so if you need to swap days around, it’s not a problem. Sometimes life just happens and the plan is there to make it easier for you!
Meal Planning Tip #4: Keep Your Schedule In Mind
This one is pretty obvious, but plan to make meals requiring longer preparation time on the days you have the most free time, not on the days where you will be running around like a mad chook! Plan quick and easy meals for your busier days.
Meal Planning Tip #5: Involve The Family
It’s important for the family to share the load of cooking — they’ll learn the importance of contribution, responsibility and cooking skills too! Especially the younger ones benefit from this as they tend to eat more of the things they have put their energy and creativity into!
Meal Planning Tip #6: Incorporate Everyone’s Tastes Into The Plan
If you involve your family in the decision-making process of what’s on the menu for the week, they will be more likely to eat it and be more accepting of other family member’s choices, knowing they all will have their ‘turn’. They are also more likely to want to help prepare if it’s the night of their meal!
Meal Planning Tip #7: Reuse Weekly Plans You Have Already Created
Keep all of your old plans somewhere safe in a folder, so you can use them again and again — you don’t need to keep inventing the wheel, especially during those times when you don’t have much time or just want to reuse the family favourites!
Meal Planning Tip #8: Put Out The Ingredients At The Start Of The Day
Not only will it be quicker and easier to get started making dinner (isn’t that ingredient you need always up the back and hard to find!) but you are also reinforcing your commitment to planning. So put out those ingredients at the same time each day in the morning!
- Watch for sales and specials to help your budget, it also may help you decide on your weekly plan.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry or thirsty! We all know you tend to buy more food and make less healthy choices when we do.
- Stick to your budget and shopping list
BellyBelly Member’s Meal Planning Tips & Comments
“I basically sit down before I do my shopping list. I see what I have in the fridge, freezer and cupboard and go from there. I have about 10 meals which are on high rotation (the easy thing that takes less than 20 mins to prepare) and I try to make a new dish every Monday night so we don’t get bored. If it gets hubby’s approval (he’s very fussy!) then I will make it again”. — Shoegal
“I am a bit obsessive about my meal plans! We have around 40 meals that get the hubby’s tick of approval that gets rotated over a month. There are some standard faves that get repeated in a month (spag bol, cos we all love it).
All I did was spreadsheet all of our tried and true fave meals, then classified them (i.e. fish, beef, lamb, veggo etc), then re-sorted them over a months calendar, so we get a huge variety, but I know exactly what to shop for and what to cook for.
It does sound obsessive, but otherwise, I go barmy… I started it when my third baby was firstborn. It means we all get a great cooked meal, the pantry/freezer is always stocked with what we need, shopping is easy and it means we utilise seasonal vegetables properly, and it means I feel organised”. — Lucy
“I shopped online! I did it a couple of weeks ago and I love it! I HATE grocery shopping and I had a particularly bad week, so I just did it all online and it was delivered the next day. It was a little more expensive than going to the supermarket but so convenient! And I didn’t have to do it with a crying baby” — JoMarie
“I am fanatical about meal planning! I believe it makes me a more efficient shopper! I go as far as to plan lunches as well – otherwise hubby buys lunch… I’ve also done online shopping and found it a blessing – totally avoids impulse buys! Only downside is I find it more expensive”. — Mother Goose
“When I am super organised I have a planner that has the days of the week in the left hand column and across the top it has “lunch”, “dinner” and “prepare”. Hubby and I always have a planned cooked lunch (we are not big bread eaters so sambos are out) and the “prepare” column is for stuff like “take meat out of freezer” or “buy fresh herbs on way home” — things I can do today that make tomorrow easier.
I have a huge amount of cookbooks so I am constantly scouring for new meal ideas. Lately I have been playing around with Recipe Centre, a free program you can download that saves recipes and lets you create shopping lists and meal plans AND TALLIES UP THE INGREDIENTS AS YOU GO! If you need say 500g mince for Wednesday’s spag bol and 500g mince for Friday’s meatloaf, it automatically tells you (in your shopping list) that you need 1kg of mince etc”. — Roryrory
“I’m about to sit down and do a 6-week rotation of food, a girlfriend and myself will be doing a monthly shop in the Lockyer Valley, so we need to know what F&V and meats to buy. We decided to do it this way, as the food was fresher (most of the fruit and veg is from the area and so is the meat) and a hell of a lot cheaper. Not that money is an issue for us — but freshness is. — Punkin