Meal planning is the ultimate tool for busy people. It means you only spend 10 minutes a week thinking about the evening meal instead of worrying every day about what’s for dinner. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but how can you get started?
The benefits of meal planning are that you are not panicking at 5 o’clock every night, you only have to do a shop once a week and you have all the ingredients on hand for your meals, and you are prepared for the time you need to cook each recipe. The average Australian household heads to the supermarket three times a week, which gives the supermarket two extra opportunities a week to sell you products you may not need.
If you have fussy eaters, you can involve them in the planning process as they are less likely to complain about meals they have been involved in choosing than ones chosen for them.
You tend to only have one time on the weekend to get organised. Ideally if you can use that time to cook a few meals you can then do some fast meals during the week. Doubling up on recipes is a great way to manage your evening meals when you are super busy. If you look for meals that are freezable and cook double the quantity, then you can have plenty of food in the freezer within a short period of time. If you need some dinner inspiration, why not join our FREE Dinner Done Challenge, which gives you 4 weeks of meal plans and how to cook them.
When you start it may feel like you are spending a lot of time in the kitchen. But the reward comes in the following weeks when you have plenty of frozen meals that only require heating or straight onto the barbecue with a quick salad on the night.
Alternatively, you can do a fast meal and the prep for the next night’s meal at the same time. If you are cutting one onion, you can cut another one in no time at all and be on your way to another meal.
Consider shopping online to save time on the grocery shop. Even if you don’t have everything delivered, milk and bread are the two items that you can often not live without so having these home delivered can make a big difference.
If you are working part-time you have some more flexibility and may have some more time to cook. You can use a block of time a couple of times a week to cook things that take longer. While you have one meal in the oven you can have another on the stove cooking away.
Doubling up on the recipes is a great way to stock the freezer with busy weeks ahead or those nights where you have late afternoon commitments.
If you are home around 4pm then this is also a great opportunity to put two meals on: one for tonight and the other for later in the week. Meals do keep once cooked for four or five days so don’t be afraid to pop them into the fridge rather than freeze them if you are planning on eating them in the next few days.
Regardless of your working hours, it is good to have a weekly schedule of after-school activities or commitments so you know which days are manic and which days you have more time. You can then cater according to the time available.
How meal planning saves you time and money
- Cut down visits to the supermarket – also consider online shopping to save time
- Not stressed each night at 5pm – you know what is on the menu each night
- Kids involved in food choices – less likely to complain
- Reduce takeaway bill
- Your freezer is well stocked with home cooked meals.