When properly planned, cooking can be a wonderful way to practise self-care, add some peace to your day, or exercise a little creativity. Whether you’re wondering how to plan an elaborate dinner party, or you’re simply taking a moment to make your morning muesli more special, proper planning can ensure that you always have exactly what you need.
Our meal planners allow you to see all of your dishes for the week on one page – you can figure out the food you’ll be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then write a shopping list which you can tear off and take to the supermarket. Meal planning allows you to spend time thinking about the way you nourish yourself, saving you time, money and creating less food waste. Here are our favourite tips and tricks for using a meal planner.
Make time to plan
Meal planning should be a soothing activity that makes your life a little easier. One way to ensure that it’s a helpful habit is to set aside time to do it every week. You may find Monday mornings are a great time to sit down with your weekly meal planner, coffee in hand, or perhaps on a Sunday evening as you wait for your roast to cook. Try plotting meal planning and food shopping time in your planner as if they’re important appointments. A few moments every week will ensure that your menu will shine.
Prepare your shopping list
For each weekly page, you’ll be able to prepare a tear-off shopping list that you can take with you to the shops or market. Seeing the contents of your fridge on paper can help with meal ideas – plan to use half your carrots in a stir fry, grate some into a salad later in the week, then use the last little bits to pickle and have as a zingy side. Doing your food shopping with a list makes sure you stay on track and only buy what you really need, saving you time and money.
Shop seasonal food
Choosing your food depending on the season has a range of benefits. If you can, have a chat with your local fruit or vegetable vendor to see what’s in season, and let that produce shape your weekly menu. Buying locally grown food will often mean it’s fresher and more full of flavour. Fruits and veggies that are in season are also usually cheaper because there’s an abundant supply. Locally grown food is also better for the environment, as it uses less energy to transport and store.
As soon as you get home from your weekly shop, try doing a little bit of meal prep. Take a look at your meal planner and see if there are any little bits you can cook or prepare to make life easier during the week. Some fail-safe suggestions? Chop your produce, pop some veggies to roast in the oven or cook up some rice, quinoa or legumes. This prep will differ week to week depending on what you’re eating, but anything you can do beforehand is a win.
Your freezer is your friend
Freezing meals is an excellent way to fend off takeaways after a long day. When you can, double the quantities of your favourite meals and freeze half to save them for a rainy day. Soups, stews, casseroles and pies are great items to cook and keep for when you’re feeling under the weather. Chop up fruit so you’ll always have something to throw in your blender for a quick smoothie, or keep your bread in the freezer if you know you won’t get through a whole loaf in a week.
And the pantry is your pal
Ensuring your pantry is well-stocked with herbs and spices will ensure that you can flavour any leftovers or end of week stir fries. Fresh garlic, onion, ginger and any herbs are great to buy each week, or keep a range of dried herbs on hand. Don’t forget to stock up on olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a quick salad dressing that goes with anything. We love keeping a list notepad by our pantry, so we can write down when we run out of any essentials.
Gather favourite meals in a recipe journal
Using a blank recipe book allows you to save all of your most-loved meals in one place. When you’re sitting down to plan your weekly menu, you can flick through the pages of your recipe journal for ideas on what to make. Ask your friends for their favourite mid-week meals, call your Dad for his famous ragu recipe or try and recreate your local restaurant’s most popular dish. If this sounds appealing, we’ve gathered some tips for using a recipe journal just for you.
Stay flexible with meal planning
Remember that meal planning is supposed to make your life easier, not more difficult. If you always buy your lunch on a Friday, pop that onto your meal plan. Or if you know that realistically, you want takeaway on a Sunday, write it down. You also don’t have to stick to your set meals every day, so feel free to make swaps between the days depending on what you fancy. Meal planning simply allows you to spend less time wondering what to eat, and more time cooking and enjoying your dishes.
Ready to plot out your weekly menu? Check out our range of meal planners.