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Wondering how to meal plan? This simple guide with printable meal planning templates will have you meal planning like a boss in no time.
Are you looking for the answer to the eternal question, “What’s for dinner”? Meal planning will help you answer this on a weekly basis. Find out how to start meal planning with easy printable meal planning templates to help you begin.
How to meal plan like a boss
Read on for the ultimate guide on what meal planning is, how to get started, how to go shopping and print out templates to help you.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is simply planning your meals in advance. It makes life simpler as you know what to buy when you go shopping and you know ahead of time what you are making for dinner. This saves both time and money and prevents unnecessary trips to the shops.
In these uncertain times popping out to the shop is difficult and it can be impossible to get a delivery slot. Meal planning will help get all your food for a week or more in one shopping trip. It uses up ingredients you already have in and prevents food waste. Any leftovers can be used for lunch the next day or frozen for a different day. Leftover vegetables make a great soup.
Read more: Northumberland ham broth recipe.
Why meal plan?
Meal planning in advance helps you:
- Take control of your pantry and feel more organised.
- Reduces the number of times you need to go to the shops.
- Spend less money on food each month.
- Reduces food waste.
- Gives you more time as you know exactly what’s on the menu.
If you are wondering where to start and what to put on your meal plan, this meal planning guide with printable templates will help you begin.
Points to consider when meal planning
To make your meal plan successful you should consider the following points:
- Make some time to plan – set aside some time before the week starts. I usually meal plan on a Friday night and shop on a Saturday.
- Schedule your shopping and prep day
- Consider who are feeding – think about their likes, dislikes and any allergies you need to take account of.
- Keep a list of family favourite recipes – always include a few of these.
- Think about what you are doing – you might need a slow cooker recipe for a particularly busy day.
- Take the weather into account – you will not want a filling meal on a hot day.
- Consider what food is in season – this will save money and make food more flavourful.
- Include leftovers – you can use these for lunches the next day.
Here is a quick look at our five step meal planning process:
- Pick your meal planning day.
- Take your food inventory
- Plan your meals.
- Make your shopping lists and shop
- Do the preparation
Get into the habit of meal planning for the week!
Worried about how to get started? Don’t … I’ll walk you through it.
Step 1: Pick your meal planning day
You will need to set aside some time to meal plan. Allow a few hours the first time you do it. The next time it will be quicker.
What day you pick depends on your routine. Most families have some down time and a time for shopping.
I like to meal plan on a Friday night or early Saturday morning. This allows me to go shopping on Saturday and prep on a Sunday. I then have meals I can get ready quickly during the working week.
You will know what time will work best for you.
Quick Tip: If you have older kids, let them help with meal planning and suggest some meal ideas. If you have younger children, wait until they are asleep before meal planning. Just make sure that you use the time to plan for 7 days.
Step 2: Take a food inventory
Before you start your meal plan for the week find out what you already have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer.
- Start with your cupboards – take everything out and get rid of anything that is out of date. When putting everything back organise your pantry into zones. For example a baking cupboard for flour, yeast, salt,etc. and a tins cupboard for tins of beans, tomatoes and others. Write everything on a list as you put it back.
- Clean out your fridge and freezer – write down the contents on a list as you put it back.
Now you know what you have in you can start planing meals which use the ingredients you have. It also prevents you getting duplicates so you no longer end up with five bags of flour in the cupboard.
Why not use my printable inventory templates to get started? You can pin them to the fridge with magnets so you know exactly what you have in.
Step 3: Plan your meals
Do you have ingredients on hand that can be used for this week’s meal plan? Is there anything you need to use before it goes off? Do you have any leftovers that you can include in your meal plan or need to freeze for another week? Start with these and include the recipes in your meal plan.
Now you can fill in the gaps in the plan, choose a mix of family favourite recipes and new recipes you want to try. Write these into your plan. Remember to include leftovers to use them up and snacks.
Don’t forget to take account of the weather. You want to choose food appropriate for the season.
Why not try these printable meal planning templates to help you start? You can start your plan on a Saturday or a Monday, whichever works best for you.
Where do I find recipes?
Recipes are everywhere:
- In the cookbooks you have on the shelf.
- In the recipe notes your grandmother made
- On recipe websites.
- On television and online recipe videos.
- There are also plenty in the recipe section on this blog and other food blogs.
You don’t have to create new recipes every week. Stick with tried and tested family favourites and mix them up with a couple of new things.
Step 4: Make your shopping list
Now it is time to plan your shopping trip. You need to prepare to get everything in one trip which takes a little organisation.
First go through all the recipes and make a master ingredient list. Some recipes will use the same ingredients so make a note of the total amount you need to buy.
Once you have all the recipe ingredients add in snacks, bread, milk and other essentials. Don’t forget to add cleaning stuff, toothpaste, pet food and other essentials. I have a need to buy list on my fridge. When I run out of something I add it to this list and this ensures I add it to my shopping list.
Now you have your master list compare it with your inventory and cross off anything you already have in.
Finally write your shopping list. Put everything left on your master list on here as well as anything on your need to buy list. Group what you need to buy by department so you don’t miss anything when you go to the shops.
Now it is time to go shopping. Don’t forget your list!
You might like to use these printable shopping list templates.
Step 5: Do your preparation.
When you plan your recipes for the week you will notice that many recipes use the same ingredients. Why not save time and prepare these in advance?
Taking care of all the preparation is a huge time saver. See how much you of each ingredient you need for each recipe. Chop, slice and dice for the week and pop the ingredients into bags or casserole dishes.
Any meats you are using can be marinated ahead of time which will improve the flavour. Just make sure you store it all correctly.
Even better you could cook some meals in advance. At dinner time you just need to reheat them. Spaghetti bolognese and beef nachos are great for this. Make the mince in advance and the meal can be made really fast.
How long does food last?
Make sure you are following food safety tips when preparing and storing your food. Remember you can freeze food after preparation if you want to keep it for later in the week.
Also keep an eye on how long food lasts. Look at the best before and use by dates and use the soonest ones first.
Here is a quick guide to how long food lasts:
- Fresh herbs will generally last 1 to 3 weeks if stored properly. Why not plant some herb seeds so you have some growing?
- Uncooked meats, poultry and seafood can be kept for 1-5 days in the refrigerator, depending on the type.
- Some fresh vegetables will last for days, others for weeks. You need to make sure you store them properly.
Let’s look at what we have learnt.
We have learnt that meal planning will take a little time. You need time to:
- work out what you are doing this week
- check out what food you have in
- look through recipes
- make a meal plan
- make a shopping list
- go shopping
- prepare your meals
In the long run meal planning is worth it. It will save you time and money and will prevent you from having to pop out to the shops if you forget something. You can have a home cooked meal every night while spending less time in the kitchen. What is not to like?
Meal planning is flexible so you can deviate from the plan if you fancy a takeaway. You can just have the planned meal another night or freeze for next week.
Do you meal plan? Let me know your tips below.