Today is the start of Lent and although I'm not religious I like to give something up as a personal challenge for myself. Last week, I explained why I have signed up to the Love Food Hate Waste Lent Challenge to give up binning food and reduce food waste in our household. Today, the challenge begins! If you would like to join in too you can sign up here for lots of tips to help you keep on track.
This week the focus is on Meal Planning:
Five Reasons Why You Should Meal Plan
1. Save Time
When I meal plan I save time as I can buy all the ingredients that I need for the week in one go instead of lots of time wasting shops (even more time can be saved by online shopping). It also means I can prep food the night before or during the day if needed so I'm organised at tea time. I plan in quicker teas for busy nights.
2. Save Money
Meal planning can also save you money if you also weekly "stock take" and make a detailed "shopping list" alongside your meal plan. This means you only buy what you need. You can save money by buying less, planning more frugal meals and by throwing out less food. Meal planning and intentional shopping also mean you are more prepared for school/work packed lunches which saves money too.
3. Eat Healthier
I find when I meal plan I think of the nutritional value of the whole meal more than when I mindlessly open the freezer and throw in a "quick tea". I make sure every meal is balanced with plenty of salad and vegetables.
4. Reduce Food Waste
When meal planning, think about how you are going to use up any surplus food (for example, I plan a pasta salad for my lunch the day after a pasta meal as I often end up with too much pasta!) and plan that into the weekly plan so there are no leftovers. As I'm planning food the whole family like and portioning well (more on this in a future post) there should be no leftovers after meals.
5. More Variety of Tasty Foods
When meal planning, I feel more inspired to make a variety of delicious foods. Whereas if I leave it last minute and have to think on the spot then I'm likely just to serve quick processed food, such as veggy hot dogs and chips! I ask the kids for ideas for the week so everyone is involved in the planning and looks forward to their dish coming up! If I'm planning for the kids to try something new (three of my kids eat well but one is very fussy) then I can plan a meal that allows them to try some while also including well liked food so they eat well even if the new taste doesn't go down well (for example when said fussy child first tried guacamole (which wasn't a hit!) they still enjoyed the chilli, rice and tortilla chips and vegetable crudites).
How We Meal Plan
If you're interested in our meal plan, this is how we do it.
1. Stock take the fridge and food cupboards (I give them a wipe over so I can cross a cleaning chore of my list too!) If you haven't checked your cupboards for a while then it will take a while but once you get into the habit of organising them weekly it gets a lot faster! You could take a photo of the contents of your fridge and cupboard if you find this visual easier than a list.
Make a Note of Any Foods You Need
2. During the week if you find an "empty" of a store cupboard essential write it down on the shopping list. Only buy it if you need to.
Make a Note of Fresh Foods that you Need to Use Up
3. In the fridge and vegetable store make a note of fresh foods that will need to be used up first. Where possible use these ingredients to plan the first few days of your meal plan so they can be used up before they go past their best. We will talk more about leftovers in future weeks.
Meal Plan Around Your Week
Make your meal plan work for your week. If you're particularly busy on a certain night then you need to plan in a quick meal (or a reheat of leftovers or a dish you have "batch cooked").
Meal Plan Together
If you live with others then ask them for ideas for the week too so everyone gets to eat food they are looking forward to (and therefore more likely to enjoy and not leave any waste).
You will find that you may get into a habit of "linking meals". For example, if you make a big batch of stew, knowing you will have surplus, you may plan to cover this in pastry the next day to make it into a pie. Alternatively, you may freeze it for a later day (we really need a bigger freezer!).
Write Out Your Meal Plan
I have a notebook that I keep just for meal planning and shopping list but I also have a section in my A5 Personal Planner which helps me to remember throughout the week and at the bottom of our family wall planner so everyone can see what to expect on their plates each night!
Write Your Shopping List
Write out your shopping list and only buy what you really need.
Our Weekly Meal Plan
This is our evening meal week plan for this week:
Monday- Mini Muffin Pizzas and Salad (a quick tea due to Brownies and Guides!)
Tuesday- Pancakes! (Pancakes (and lots of fillings) are so filling so we have this as our meal on Pancake Day
Wednesday- Vegetable Chilli and Rice
Thursday- Vegetable Chilli Tacos (you guessed it- to use up the chilli!)
Friday- "Dad's Special Curry" (as ordered by Rebecca as she will return home from a trip on this day)
Saturday- Party Food (as we have a family birthday celebration)
Sunday- Vegetable Soup and bread (with leftovers being my quick Monday night meal!)
Are you planning to join in the Love Food Hate Waste Lent Challenge? Have you signed up yet? If not, you can still sign up here.
Win a Personal Planner
To help you meal plan I also have a great competition where one reader can win a Personal Planner of their own to get organised and record their meal planning and shopping lists.
For a chance to win just enter the easy Rafflecopter below- good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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