The Simple Guide to Meal Planning

This post was originally written as a Guest Post over at The Minimalist Mom
I am a huge advocate of meal planning, and here I outline the basics – enjoy!

The Simple Guide to Meal Planning by simplybeingmum

Meal Planning can seem a daunting task, and yet by following this simple guide, I guarantee you will save time, money and effort, and ultimately reduce waste.

By Meal Planning you will:

  1. Save Time – No more wandering round the store with no direction, or wondering what to cook for dinner that night. No emergency trips to the store for ingredients you don’t have, or ad hoc dinners out due to lack of supplies.
  2. Save Money – By only buying what you plan to eat and resisting impulse purchases, you will save money. There is no doubt.  You also reduce costs by not throwing away unused foodstuffs.
  3. Save Effort – Being disorganised requires more effort than being organised (in the long-run), you know what you are eating and when, you can prep in advance and it requires less decision-making on a daily basis.
  4. Reduce Waste – It is estimated that in the UK 8.3m tonnes of food each year gets thrown away by households. This equates to almost £700 a year of food waste for an average family. By reducing this waste in real terms the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars the road. (* source www.lovefoodhatewaste.com)

Six Simple Steps to Meal Planning

  1. The first step has nothing to do with food. Set aside 30 minutes with the family to establish everyone’s diary for the forthcoming week. I do this on a Thursday evening. I know who needs lunches and dinners and whether we are eating out at all.
  2. Write out a daily meal plan based on everyone’s diary, I plan Saturday-Saturday as I receive my groceries Saturday morning. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks are planned for. The first couple of times you do this it may be time-consuming, but as you start to replicate meals it gets easier. To reduce time and effort further you could draw up a monthly menu, and rotate 4 weeks worth of meals.
  3. Throughout the week note down anything that needs replenishing as you use it up.  This will be add-on items, such as herbs, oils and household items.
  4. Only plan for 6 days worth of meals! Seriously this works. Regardless of how good a planner you are, things happen, and you may need to use food up the day before your new batch of groceries. This also gives you an opportunity to get you culinary creative thinking cap on. If you do clear all food ‘treat’ yourself to a take away or a dinner out – you deserve it!
  5. Before you do your meal plan/grocery shop for the next week (online or otherwise) empty your food/perishables cupboard and do an inventory. Get into a routine. Strip it down and clean it, look to use things up or freeze, note down what you already have and base a meal around those items if they will still be edible. As you only keep a week’s worth of food in at any one time, waste should reduce, you will need less storage and cleaning will be simpler.
  6. Never shop without a list (based on your planned meals) or when you are hungry. I do my grocery shop online, as this eradicates any impulse purchases and also means I do not have to step foot physically in a supermarket (I’d rather be doing something else). If you don’t shop online, the principle is the same, do not deviate from the list regardless of what is on offer, or what new delights they have in store. Do not go into the clothing, toy, magazine section unless you want to add approx.20% to your food bill.
(Today’s post was inspired by Rachel tweeting she had placed her first UK online shop after the big move)
{ 124 comments… add one }
  • Jenny @ exconsumer June 4, 2011, 4:21 pm

    This is such great advice Jo. I find that on those weeks where I don’t take the time to plan out mos tof our meals, I always have more waste at the end of the week.

    I love the idea of getting input from everyone in the family! I’ve never done this before, and I can see how beneficial it would be.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    • simplybeingmum June 7, 2011, 1:42 pm

      As Good Ole Winston Churchill said “He who fails to plan is planning to fail” – this couldn’t be truer when it comes to the fridge!

  • Jenny @ exconsumer June 4, 2011, 4:21 pm

    This is such great advice Jo. I find that on those weeks where I don’t take the time to plan out mos tof our meals, I always have more waste at the end of the week.

    I love the idea of getting input from everyone in the family! I’ve never done this before, and I can see how beneficial it would be.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    • simplybeingmum June 7, 2011, 1:42 pm

      As Good Ole Winston Churchill said “He who fails to plan is planning to fail” – this couldn’t be truer when it comes to the fridge!

  • Jenny @ exconsumer June 4, 2011, 4:21 pm

    This is such great advice Jo. I find that on those weeks where I don’t take the time to plan out mos tof our meals, I always have more waste at the end of the week.

    I love the idea of getting input from everyone in the family! I’ve never done this before, and I can see how beneficial it would be.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    • simplybeingmum June 7, 2011, 1:42 pm

      As Good Ole Winston Churchill said “He who fails to plan is planning to fail” – this couldn’t be truer when it comes to the fridge!

  • Apple June 8, 2011, 10:11 pm

    Great advice Jo.
    In my house I make things even simpler by having one pizza-night, so only plan for 5 dinners. (one veggie, one or two fish/seafood, one pork/mince/beef, one or two chicken/turkey)

    • simplybeingmum June 9, 2011, 7:54 am

      You know this is a great idea! My daughter tends to have a friend to play once a week, and it can be hard second guessing what they will and won’t eat. Most kids love Pizza apart from my Son! We make a very simple Pizza from scratch, and I have done this with Leah’s classmates when they have been over. In fact yesterday the friend who came asked whether we would be doing that again. I may just have to add in pizza night! Watch this space! 🙂

  • Apple June 8, 2011, 10:11 pm

    Great advice Jo.
    In my house I make things even simpler by having one pizza-night, so only plan for 5 dinners. (one veggie, one or two fish/seafood, one pork/mince/beef, one or two chicken/turkey)

    • simplybeingmum June 9, 2011, 7:54 am

      You know this is a great idea! My daughter tends to have a friend to play once a week, and it can be hard second guessing what they will and won’t eat. Most kids love Pizza apart from my Son! We make a very simple Pizza from scratch, and I have done this with Leah’s classmates when they have been over. In fact yesterday the friend who came asked whether we would be doing that again. I may just have to add in pizza night! Watch this space! 🙂

  • Apple June 8, 2011, 10:11 pm

    Great advice Jo.
    In my house I make things even simpler by having one pizza-night, so only plan for 5 dinners. (one veggie, one or two fish/seafood, one pork/mince/beef, one or two chicken/turkey)

    • simplybeingmum June 9, 2011, 7:54 am

      You know this is a great idea! My daughter tends to have a friend to play once a week, and it can be hard second guessing what they will and won’t eat. Most kids love Pizza apart from my Son! We make a very simple Pizza from scratch, and I have done this with Leah’s classmates when they have been over. In fact yesterday the friend who came asked whether we would be doing that again. I may just have to add in pizza night! Watch this space! 🙂

  • Apple (Laura) June 9, 2011, 10:04 pm

    For us, Friday is the pizza & DVD night in. (or Saturday in X-Factor season). We take it (very) easy and eat in front of the telly. Other than on Friday night, the kids are not allowed to eat in front of the TV and they are not even allowed to wach TV or DVDs during the week…I’m an awful parent, I know 🙂

  • Apple (Laura) June 9, 2011, 10:04 pm

    For us, Friday is the pizza & DVD night in. (or Saturday in X-Factor season). We take it (very) easy and eat in front of the telly. Other than on Friday night, the kids are not allowed to eat in front of the TV and they are not even allowed to wach TV or DVDs during the week…I’m an awful parent, I know 🙂

  • Apple (Laura) June 9, 2011, 10:04 pm

    For us, Friday is the pizza & DVD night in. (or Saturday in X-Factor season). We take it (very) easy and eat in front of the telly. Other than on Friday night, the kids are not allowed to eat in front of the TV and they are not even allowed to wach TV or DVDs during the week…I’m an awful parent, I know 🙂

  • Amy Suardi @ Frugal Mama October 28, 2011, 6:45 pm

    Hi Jo,

    I like how you say that, in the long run, being disorganized requires more effort than being organized. So true!

    I’m convinced that the single most important action for saving money is planning ahead.

    Thanks for stopping by Frugal Mama!

    Take care,
    Amy

    • simplybeingmum October 29, 2011, 8:37 am

      Thanks for popping over Amy – I’m loving the posts over at Frugal Mama! I really need to have a good dig through your archives, I reckon it’s gonna be right up my street! 🙂

  • Amy Suardi @ Frugal Mama October 28, 2011, 6:45 pm

    Hi Jo,

    I like how you say that, in the long run, being disorganized requires more effort than being organized. So true!

    I’m convinced that the single most important action for saving money is planning ahead.

    Thanks for stopping by Frugal Mama!

    Take care,
    Amy

    • simplybeingmum October 29, 2011, 8:37 am

      Thanks for popping over Amy – I’m loving the posts over at Frugal Mama! I really need to have a good dig through your archives, I reckon it’s gonna be right up my street! 🙂

  • Amy Suardi @ Frugal Mama October 28, 2011, 6:45 pm

    Hi Jo,

    I like how you say that, in the long run, being disorganized requires more effort than being organized. So true!

    I’m convinced that the single most important action for saving money is planning ahead.

    Thanks for stopping by Frugal Mama!

    Take care,
    Amy

    • simplybeingmum October 29, 2011, 8:37 am

      Thanks for popping over Amy – I’m loving the posts over at Frugal Mama! I really need to have a good dig through your archives, I reckon it’s gonna be right up my street! 🙂

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