The how and why of meal planning.
Planning meals for the week may feel like a lot of work. A one chore that you may just not be able to find the time for. To be honest the first couple do take a bit of time though it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. After that they are generally pretty quick and take around 10 minutes to prepare.
By planning your meals you are becoming more mindful about your food and food preparation. Being aware of what you are making and why, are part of this. Are you making it because it is quick as you know you are always pressed for time, and tired on that particular day? Do you make this meal as it is a family favourite and there will be left overs for either lunch or dinner on another night? This is making meals with intention. This in turn makes meal preparation a whole lot more enjoyable.
We all need to eat to survive. If we can make the whole experience of meal preparation and eating a lot more enjoyable we have nothing to loose. By bringing more ease into meal preparation we bring more joy into the experience. This is call mindfulness, becoming more aware of what we are doing and why. Making food with intention and love changes the energy of not only the kitchen and home but the food too. More time and thought has gone into each step of the meal preparation. This avoids any last minute decisions and rushing around and unhealthy choices.
Finally it can make you more adventurous in the kitchen. How many of us have recipe books that we never use? Or recipes torn from magazines we have yet to make. Now is your chance by setting aside a specific evening to make the new recipe. Helping decide if it is a keeper and will be made again or not. This also sorts out that pile of recipe books and bits of paper. By regularly going through the recipes and culling what will be used. Reducing clutter, that is something worth pursuing.
Benefits of Meal Plans
There are several benefits in making meal plans. It will ultimately save you time, save you money and will very possibly have a positive impact on your health.
Yes putting that 10 minutes aside for meal planning will save you a whole lot of time thinking about what you are going to make for dinner on any given day. Meal plans also save yet another unnecessary trip to the supermarket. Time better spent on other things, I’m sure.
Planning your meals will save you money too. There will be little waste, as you will only be buying what you need for the planned meals. So say goodbye to the limp veggies in the crisper draw and the overfull fridge where you can’t find anything. It can also help your budget by planning to buy what is in season or on special. There the added benefit as buying what is in season is far healthier having travelled less, is more nutrient dense and a lot cheaper.
Another benefit is that the week’s meal plans can be reused at a later date. Previous meal plans can be used in the weeks ahead and swapped around a little. They can even be reused 12 months time when the same veggies are in season.
Where to Start
So how to begin making a meal plan. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. It can be on a spreadsheet, a piece of paper or a white board for everyone in the family to see. Any of these will work. How far you take it depends on your personal preferences too. You can start with just planning dinner for the week and move on from there to include lunch. I would recommend starting with dinner plan first. Once you have the hang of that maybe include lunch as well or maybe breakfast too.
I like the ratio of a 5:2 plan. This is cook 5 meals that you know off by heart, like and are relatively quick to make. The other 2 days are one for something new that you have wanted to try and haven’t. The last day is left to make your own meals, left overs, or eat out. This makes a good start, you may need to change it around a bit to suit your lifestyle and needs. Maybe 4:3 would suit you better; it doesn’t really matter as it can change from week to week to suit your lifestyle and needs.
Another helpful idea is to become aware of what fruit and veggies are in season. Print out a list and tape it to the fridge, have a look online see what’s on special or cheap. This also helps you decide what to cook by narrowing your options. It will time when shopping, by not looking for something out of season or highly priced.
Once you have your meal plan done it becomes far easier to make your weekly shopping list. You will know exactly what to purchase and won’t be wandering aimlessly around the supermarket to have for dinner through the week. Better food choices will be made by purchasing whole food instead of premade meals with all the additives. Meals may become more enjoyable, as they will look a lot more inviting and probably taste a lot better too.
Taking a little time to meal plan can save you a lot of time throughout the week and save you money too. You may even find you enjoy cooking a lot more and have less clutter and waste in your fridge. You will definitely make better food choices and that pile of untried recipes will eventually be used or discarded.
Want to simplify your life a little? Try meal planning and see what happens.