Posted on May 01 2020
In this fast world, when no one seems to have time for structured meals, meal planning might not seem a necessity, but it is exactly due to our fast lives, and our limited time to take care of our health, where meal planning comes in action, making sure we remain as healthy and fit as possible. For instance, if you want to eliminate the stress of wondering what to cook next, especially if you do it for a large family, with difficult eaters or people with dietary restrictions, menu planning will definitely improve your life.
How to pick the right recipe?
Meal planning means, first of all, creating a well-thought eating plan by choosing the right recipes. Don't just use a random set of recipes, but think them through, a couple of days earlier than when you actually want to start, making it easier to prepare a shopping list, shop, and then actually prepare the dishes.
Decide how many meals to plan for and what they need to do.
Five nights is the most common number of days that people cook dinner at home, but in most cases, three is the best they can actually do. Take a look at the calendar beforehand and decide what works best for your schedule. For example:
- Think about the leftovers - they are truly helpful a few days later. Choosing recipes that will last you for more days means you don't have to cook every day and you can repurpose the main elements in different combinations
- Mix the old and the new. Always keep close a list of recipes you know by heart and your family loves; the ones that you could eat over and over again
- Spend some time to cook the perfect recipe for you. Sometimes it might seem like a recipe will take too long to make, but it's usually worth it if is something you can't wait to try but never find the right time
- Common, simple, and healthy ingredients are your friend. Think about what you already have in the kitchen, and start from there - this is the easiest and fastest way to start. That way you also avoid wasting food and saving some extra money, a very beneficial effect of any good meal plan.
How to begin meal planning?
Just grab a pen and a piece of paper and you're good to go. Here are some good extra tips:
Plan ahead, but not too far ahead as well
Shopping and planning for a week in advance works best in most cases and for most people, but there are, of course, some exceptions. It's essential to always keep in mind how many meals you will eat at home until your next meal planning and shopping trip. It's important to know exactly what you want to buy before entering the grocery store, even when you shop every single day.
Shop from your fridge and cupboards first
Don't forget about every single item you already have in the fridge, freezer or cupboard - you want to save some money and make use of ingredients you already have at home. Create your meal plan based on what food will waste quicker, and then add the rest of the ingredients to your list. You can keep track of your food by keeping an inventory list on hand. This way you won't forget about that extra food that's waiting for you deep in the freezer.
Plan your menu around your weekly activities
Here are three rules: be realistic about your menu, take your schedule into consideration and don't forget how busy you are every day. Will you actually feel like making that tedious veggie roast on Wednesday night? Maybe you should consider a lighter, quicker meal - this way of thinking will work better for any busy night, and the creative recipes can be kept for when you actually have the time and enthusiasm to enjoy making them.
Plan a leftovers night
Each week, make a special, dedicated day of eating leftovers. These can also be used as lunch portions for the next day - take them with you at school or work for an easy and fast meal. If you don't want to cook every day, combining meal planning with meal prepping can be a very helpful practice to save a lot of your time and energy.
Use your menu plan to make a shopping list
There is a balance that needs to be kept between running low on essential items and waiting for them to get spoiled (especially when you have fresh items in your kitchen), so it's best to also include fixed quantities on your shopping list. This will help you remember how much of each ingredient you need and also how many meals will you use them for.
Place your menu plan on your fridge
The menu plan should be placed somewhere where everybody can see it. That way, no family member will start picking up extras that aren't in the plan, which is a great way to stay organized and save some money in an efficient way!