One KEY thing that takes the effort out of meal planning
How are you with meal planning? Maybe you have been doing it consistently for years. Maybe you go through phases where you plan and then phases when you don’t. Perhaps you think it’s a good idea, but have never got around to doing it, or perhaps you’ve tried it but found it didn’t really work for you.
If you don’t plan your meals, what stops you? Is it a lack of time, or is it that you don’t know where to start? Does it just feel like too much effort, or do you feel you don’t have the resources or knowledge to do it?
And what happens if you don’t plan? Do you have cupboards and fridge full of food and you know you have enough for the week? Do you shop a few times throughout the week for individual meals, or do you still do a full week’s shop, but somehow come home having spent as much money, but feeling like you still haven’t got a grip on the week’s meals? Perhaps you resort to food in the freezer, or takeaways.
If any of this rings true for you, the video and blog below explain why planning is good and reveal one key thing (plus some other tips) that could help you to get started.
Planning your meals doesn’t necessarily mean knowing what you going to eat on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on, it could just mean that you’ve got 7 nights of meals so you know you are covered for the week. And there are so many benefits. Planning does save time in the end. It takes a bit of effort in the beginning, but the reward is that you don’t have to think about what you are going to cook every day, and this can take some of the stress out of your week. Planning also means that things work out a little bit cheaper and you have less waste, because you can buy what you need for the week’s meals, and don’t end up with things you don’t use.
For those of you that don’t have much time, meal planning will save you time. At first planning for the week may take you half an hour or so, but as you get more experienced you should be able to get this down to around 5 minutes a week.
The one KEY thing that has helped me is themes. Rather than starting with a blank page, thinking I must pluck 7 ideas out of thin air, I have themes for different nights. So instead of choosing from 20, 30, or more recipes that you may have in your repertoire, you may only be choosing between two or three for each day.
You could have:
- Stir-fry night
- Slow cooker night
- Roast night,
- Jacket potato night
- Leftovers night
- Vegan night
- Chicken night
- Pasta night
- Curry night
The list could go on!
And when you come to planning, it’s a good idea to look at your diary for the week too. If, for example, you don’t get home until 8 on a Monday night and need to eat quickly before you got to another meeting, Monday might be a good day for a slow-cooker meal that will be ready for you when you get home, or for something that you can heat up quickly from the freezer. And the meals that may take longer to prepare might be more suited to an evening when you have a bit more time. So, decide your theme for each night.
And having themes means your repertoire of meals can be divided into those themes, so once you know the theme for each night, you only have 2 or 3 choices. This makes the planning process much simpler, and more appealing because you just don’t have to think as much.
Another top tip is to prepare a ‘default week’, of meals for 7 days the shopping list you need to make them. So, when you have one of those weeks where planning is just not a priority, or you are a bit stressed, or you have simply run out of time, then having a default menu with a shopping list you can order online or shop for quickly will really help. You won’t have to give it too much brainpower or energy, but you’ll still reap the rewards of having a planned week.
Batch cooking is another great idea used by a few people in our Fitfish community. If you cook more than you need some nights, you can freeze the extra portions so that you have meals ready for another day and can save time. Another good tip to save time planning is to have all your recipes and ideas in one book, so you don’t have to look for them in different places.
Do you find you can put yourself under pressure trying to measure up to a professional chef in the kitchen? If you don’t like cooking extravagant recipes or you haven’t got time, then don’t do it! When we were growing up, we probably ate a limited number of meals on rotation. We might not really remember that, but that’s probably what happened. You shouldn’t feel pressured to create lots of different meals and recipes so that no one remembers having the same thing twice; it just doesn’t matter! If this season of your life is busy, it really is OK to try to get a healthy balance over a week, or two weeks and just keep repeating the same plan.
You can add a bit of variation by throwing in a few different vegetables or making a Bolognese instead of a chili the next time around, but if now is not the time for you to be expanding your culinary horizon’s that’s fine. You don’t even need to follow recipes. I like recipes, but not the kind where you open the book and it says, “soak for 24-hours”. My first thought is “I won’t bother with that one”! It is fine to have some simple meal ideas in your repertoire where you don’t have to refer to a recipe book or think too much about it.
We might not have a perfect plan every time, but this is all about trying to make it easier for ourselves. My no-brainer go-to recipes are the Butternut Squash Dahl or Great Veggie Chilli on the Fitfish website – both really easy to cook and everyone loves them. If you you’re your own recommendations for simple, no-brainer-everyone-likes-this-meal recipes, we’d love to hear them!
And if you aren’t a part of our Motivationfish Facebook group and would like to share ideas, come and join in the conversation here!