I am not a last minute decision making person. There is little that frustrates me more than getting home near dinner-time and not knowing what dinner is going to be. I find that in the situations that I get overwhelmed with decision, as I progressively get hungrier and then just end up making mac and cheese because I need something fast. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my mac and cheese and really enjoy having it, but I much prefer when I have meals planned and ready to go that I can choose from.
This month Nigel and I have also challenged ourselves to buy no groceries at all (which I will write about in another post at the end of the month) which makes meal planning even more important. Nigel has also just started working a new job, a job that he goes to every day which is so different from him being at home all the time with more time to make and plan dinner so that has been changing how we are meal planning.
Why I think it is important to meal plan:
- Food Waste – It is less likely that I will have things that are going bad in the fridge if I am proactively planning to use them and know what needs to be used first
- Time – As shown above if I know what is for dinner it can be started right away instead of standing at the fridge for 20 minutes figuring out what I want. This is also shown in being able to prep and make crockpot meals that are ready to go when we both get home
- Variety – When I plan my meals ahead of time I can space out different types of meals and have a variety. For example, most days we don’t eat meat so I try to space out when we do so it isn’t right next to each other or I will look at the weather forecast and make a soup or stew on a day that is cold and wet
- Shared Tasks – As I will explain later most days Nigel is making dinner, previously because he was home all day, and now with his new job he is home before I am so it makes sense for him to be the cook, but I try and do all the planning so we are both involved. He then knows what to make when he gets home which saves mental energy at the end of the day
How we Meal Plan:
- Look at the fridge/freezer/counter – I always start by looking at what we have and what needs to be used. Do we have potatoes that are starting to go? Something starting to get a bit icy in the freezer? Lettuce going wilted in the fridge? That determines some of the things that we need to use first. Personally I don’t meal plan/grocery shop in tandem most of the time, but sometimes I do buy things for specific meals that I want to make
- Look at Cookbooks, Pinterest, recipe cards I have – Once I know what I need to use I take a look at some recipes for ideas. We always have at least one cookbook out from the Library so I try and cook from that as much as possible, but then go to the cookbooks we have at home, our favourite meals, and things I have saved on Pinterest
- Take a look at the week – I then take a look at the week ahead and see what is happening. While Nigel’s schedule is fixed, mine changes every day and there are days I am home sooner than others. Maybe we have things going on in the evening that means we have to have a fast dinner, or maybe we have the day off and want to order in or get food out for dinner. Friday’s are always marked off as “Fun Friday” where we always plan for a super unhealthy meal that generally comes from the freezer as a great way to end off the week.
- Assign meals to days?? – This is something that sometimes happens. Some weeks I just plan the meals and sometimes I decide what days we should have everything, it really depends on how the week is looking and how we are feeling
- Cook – Like I said, most of the cooking currently falls on Nigel’s shoulders, but I do try to help out where I can with the planning, trying to make a crockpot meal during the week, and making dinner on the weekend (though since those are the days we are generally out it doesn’t happen as much as we may want). Now things always happen throughout the week and we may not always get to every meal planner, but that is okay and generally means that I already have meals planned for the next week!
The weeks where we don’t meal plan always seem more stressful than when I do. It doesn’t take me much time on a Sunday to get ready for the week and it makes the rest of the week so much simpler and less stressful.
Do you meal plan? What are some of your meal planning tips and tricks?