How to master meal planning (and why you need to!)

meal planning

In a fashion, I’ve always tried to plan our meals. Meaning that I have a rough idea of what I’ll cook during the week and will make a list of the ingredients I’ll need for my supermarket shop. But this year, in an effort to get our family more organised, I’ve taken meal planning to a whole new level with a weekly plan that I write up, put on the fridge and actually stick to. So far, it’s making the world of difference – saving our family both time and money.

You can find tons of printable meal planners online. I love the one below, which I found via Pinterest. The Shopping List section also means that I’m able to make a note of anything I think of throughout the week that I’ll need to order in the next food shop. But writing up a weekly meal plan is just the first step and you may want to introduce other changes to your meal choices and lifestyle to ensure that you stick at it. Here’s what’s been working well in our household so far…

meal planning

Do your food shop online

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I’ve become a bit of an Aldi fan over the last few years. And I still am – their products and their prices definitely make them my favourite supermarket. But in between the weekly shops, the ‘shit we need more nappy’ runs and the ‘poppings in’ to grab a pizza or milk, I found that I was spending far too much time there. Plus I started to resent the ‘food shop’ being one of mine and Taylor’s trips out, especially now that I work part-time.

So as of the New Year I returned to doing my food shop online via Tesco. Not only does it save me time, but it means that I can sit at my laptop and do the food shop alongside writing up my meal plan so that I don’t forget any of the ingredients I’ll need. I’ll still pop into Aldi for a few of my favourites, especially nappies and wet wipes, but on the whole I’m enjoying not having to brave the supermarket with the toddler in tow.

Only buy the ingredients you’ll need

One of my favourite things about meal planning is knowing exactly the ingredients you’ll need for the week’s meals. We used to waste quite a bit of food as I would always overbuy and we wouldn’t get around to eating some of the products within the use-by-date. Now I try and only buy those ingredients that I know we’ll need (other than perhaps a few mid-week treats!…) We’ve reduced our waste and our food bills.

meal planning for the family

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Choose meals the whole family will enjoy

Where possible, I find it really helps to stick to meals that Taylor will eat too. Classics like spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry and pesto pasta are all popular with all of us, so I’m not having to think up separate meals for Taylor each evening. If you need some inspiration, read my post on family meals that double up as baby food. I also love this round up of healthy family recipes from Talya.

Cook large batches

If you’re going to the effort to cook a recipe that takes a bit of time, cook double the batch so that you have some to eat the next evening, or freeze for another week.  Most Mondays I’ll try to make a dish that will last several portions, such as a fish pie or a lasagne, so that it saves me cooking on Tuesday when I’m back at work. Taylor’s usually chomping at the bit by the time I’ve picked her up from nursery and being able to just heat up a dish in the microwave is a godsend. It also means that I don’t fall back on the canned meals for her more often than I’d like.

Prep your lunch the night before

If you work during the day make sure that you prepare your lunches the evening before. The hubs and I were always grabbing convenience food during our lunch hour which was not only unhealthy, but also costing us quite a bit. One of us now makes the lunches on the evening, whilst the other baths Taylor. Make sure that your meal plan includes your lunches, as well as your evening meals.

Have some standby meals for when you just can’t be bothered…

It’s not always practical to cook fresh every night and we often don’t have the time we’d like. On the days that I work it can be pretty late by the time we eat and sometimes I just can’t be bothered. Some weeks we go out, others we’ll grab fish and chips, but for the majority of those nights I prefer to keep something in the freezer that I can just cook in the oven, such a a pizza or a chicken kiev – even the meal planners are entitled to a night off every once in a while!

Have you started meal planning? If not, do you think it would help you to get more organised?


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5 Comment

  1. Kim Carberry
    February 7, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I meal plan and I have been for years….Before I did I used to buy so much random things and half of it would be thrown out at the end of the week….Now we have hardly any waste.
    Kim Carberry recently posted…Tips for keeping children safe online – #SID2017My Profile

    1. Natalie Mudd
      February 23, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      It definitely does help so much with reducing waste and saving money – can’t believe I didn’t start years ago

  2. Aleena Brown
    February 13, 2017 at 8:14 am

    I do all of this too, and it’s such a weight off knowing that there’s one less thing to stress about during the day. I plan on going back to ordering online when I’m back at work in March, because like you I just can’t bear the thought of dragging the kids shopping on my days off. X

    1. Natalie Mudd
      February 23, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      It really does make life a lot easier. And yes, online shopping is definitely a good move when you go to work too – there are definitely better things to do than going to the supermarket! x

  3. Roy
    March 8, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for the great tips. Very practical and beneficial.

    I’ve been using meal planning for a while know and it works. I used to eat the same week in, week out before I started to plan my meals.

    One thing I’ve been doing for the last couple of years is to cook large suppers. A healthy left over lunch the next day saves me a lot of time and money. Or like you mentioned it’s especially useful for a second night’s supper when you know your working late.

    I find stews and soups work well for batch cooking. (As well as lasagna.)
    Roy recently posted…Kid Friendly Smoothies: Smoothie Recipes For Kids That Won’t Get RejectedMy Profile

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