Guest post written by Natasha @justaddloveuk
Before children, Natasha worked for a global company; planning and executing projects which saved millions of pounds. After becoming a mother and feeling the effects of chronic illness (endometriosis), she’s swapped the board room for the kitchen and has put her planning skills to use creating tools which can help other mamas like us save money and time where it matters most. Here she shares tips on how anyone can start meal planning.
Do you stare at the insides of your fridge on the daily, hoping that it will hold the answer? Dread ‘that’ time of day approaching and still have no idea what to feed your carefree kin? If you are the lucky human responsible for the nourishment of your tribe, meal planning will save you from this common conundrum. Ready to save time, money, and most importantly your sanity? From just 20 minutes per week, you can take the dilemma out of dinner times and set yourself free. Sound impossible? Here are five super simple steps to get on the path to Meal Planning precision.
1. Pick a day – just 20 mins at home should do the trick. Ideally the same day each week for consistency.
WHY: Keeping to a set a day takes away any future decision making; it will be just something you do on that day. Doing it weekly should still give enough space in the fridge freezer for the food you buy for one week.
TIP: Stack the activity with another habit that you have already nailed. Habit stacking will prompt you, so you will keep it up. Or pair it with something pleasurable like a nice cuppa.
BONUS: Grocery shopping at the beginning of the week helps stick to plan. Supermarkets are busier at the weekend, plus you may be tempted into buying unplanned ‘extras’ or ‘treats’ which may get wasted or not be what you have intended to eat. Am I right?
2. Stock Take – boring, but this is the magic ingredient of successful meal planning. Excuse the pun.
WHY: Last week’s leftovers in the freezer and half a lettuce in the crisper drawer are perfectly good to make another meal but often get forgotten about. If it’s counted, then it will get used.
TIP: Have someone help you; one of you shout out what’s in the fridge, freezer, cupboards while the other jots it down. Speeds things up and gets the clan involved. Wins all around.
BONUS: Keep a running list on a smart speaker/phone notes/paper list of the essentials you have run out of so you don’t have to worry too much about these in your stock take. ie pasta, oil, frozen peas, herbs & spices etc.
3. Go to meals – Make a good list of meals that you and your household love and enjoy plus some that you’ve always wanted to try but never got around to and foods you want to eat more of.
WHY: Speeds up the planning process, serves as a reminder to try some new meals or old favourites plus encourages us to add in extras which we often forget to add, ahem broccoli.
TIP: Include the whole team for improved stakeholder sign off on the day and always keep adding to this list to keep it exciting.
BONUS: Note any dietary/special ingredients to make it easier when meal planning for those with different needs.
4. Batch cook – go big or go home.
WHY: If you’re already chopping, weighing, cooking for one meal, doubling or even tripling it up will be a huge benefit for the weeks ahead but doesn’t take too much extra time.
TIP: Making 1-2 batch meals per week will really take the pressure off dinner times in the future and start to build up your quick serve meals, then by just adding some veg/carbs to it, dinner can be on the table in under 15 mins. Just make sure you have the space to freeze it before you start (check when stock taking).
BONUS: A large (6.5litre) saucepan can easily make 8-10 portions of a meal like a curry or bolognaise, a very good investment. Having quick serve meals in the freezer will save you money ordering takeaway when you’re short on time to get dinner on the table.
5. Check your calendar – for any playdates, evening activities, dinner parties, day trips etc.
WHY: These can throw us if we don’t account for them; ending up in a last-minute dash for convenient often expensive solutions or throwing extra food away which we didn’t actually need.
TIP: Having several servings of cooked meals in the freezer can often save us from a pickle with last minute visitors.
BONUS: Soup served in a thermos is a great make ahead food suitable for taking on trips, just remember to pack a spoon!
P.S. Remember to keep it in the kitchen – a little bit of time spent well adds so much more to your life. Keep the matter of meal times in the kitchen get on with everything else in life. Follow @JustAddLoveUK on Instagram and Facebook for more tips and sign up to tiny.cc/JustAddLove_MealPlanner to download your free Meal planner with stock take section and to keep in the loop for more exciting stuff to come. Have a great day!