Meal planning is such a fabulous way to be organised with so many useful benefits, from saving money by wasting less, saving time and taking some of the stress out of an already busy schedule.
Yet so many people who try meal planning fail… Badly.
It’s not too surprising really. I’ve been there. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming planning life to so much detail. Not all of us are so good with strict routines and schedules.
Often when you are not successfully meal planning, the reason for it is because you are making it seem bigger and more difficult than it needs to be so by the time you get home from work or school pick up or whatever else it is that has given you a busy crazy day, the last thing you want to do is create that dinner masterpiece you planned 3 weeks ago and now cannot be #$%^ in making it happen! Am I right???
Trust me, I’ve been there too. So many times. Ohhhh I don’t feel like making that now, maybe tomorrow night. I will just order pizza! And then tomorrow night comes and that meal still seems like more effort than I’m prepared for mid week so then the fresh ingredients lose their freshness and you run the risk of wasting them entirely. Oh dear… that is not successful meal planning at all!
But meal planning does not have to be so stressful or strict. It’s all about making it work for you. Here’s how:
SUCCESSFUL MEAL PLANNING
1. BE FLEXIBLE
You’ve planned your meals for the next week, purchased ingredients and suddenly you get an invite out to dinner on taco Tuesday. No problem. A quick reshuffle and you can do both. Move your menu back a day or do some switching so you can go out for dinner and still make use of your fresh ingredients before they spoil. If we set unrealistic tight schedules for ourselves, we could miss out on some pretty amazing opportunities and spontaneous plan changes. Flexibility is key!
2. COOK AHEAD
Some meals can be prepared a day or two in advance, or even frozen, so cook an extra meal or two earlier in the week to give yourself some time off at least once a week by having pre-prepared meals prepped and ready to go. All you will need to do is heat, or defrost if freezer cooking. Plus one less night in the question means more quality time together with your family enjoy each other’s company!
3. LEFT OVER NIGHT
One of the complaints of meal planning is there is no room for leftovers so it either gets wasted, encourages smaller servings or becomes lunches. You can always have a left over or make your own dinner night each week to give yourself a break. This is a great way to use up the extras you have made with big meals and a chance to enjoy your favourite again. But of course, leftovers are pretty much perfect for school and work lunches too!
4. SHARE THE LOAD
Who says cooking from the meal plan is your responsibility alone? Have hubby or bigger kids/teens do their part in the kitchen each week by planning meals others can cook. A family that cooks together is a happy family… hopefully! Plus it is a chance to work together and strengthen those relationships!
5. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Experimenting with a new recipe is great fun, but it can be time consuming. Do this maybe once a week or a night when you have some extra time up your sleeve. We tend to plan bigger dinners or new recipes on the weekend when we don’t have work or school, so we can kick off our prep earlier and make an evening out of it.
6. QUICK & EASY IS OK
Sometimes we get caught up in that Martha Stewart perfect housewife fantasy (before she went to jail…) and want to give our family a fancy, from scratch meal every night. It sounds fab but it’s a lot of pressure. Don’t feel guilty about using a recipe base or packet mix to save some time. Not everything needs to be from scratch. We ain’t perfect!
Reflecting on those tips, hopefully meal planning sounds a whole lot less stressful and easy now and putting them into place will help you to be successful in meal planning.
And to make your meal planning even easier, check out the ultimate meal planning bundle with recipes, tips and loads of resources to get your organised at meal time:
What is your favourite family dinner?