When and What to Meal Plan
As promised this week’s post is continuing on with our theme for Meal Planning and more specifically how I Practice Meal Planning. If you are new here, check out last week’s post (click here) which will explain what I am talking about when I say ‘Practising Meal Planning’!
For those of you who have signed up to be Ultimate Family Planners, you should have now received your FREE copy of the Ultimate Weekly Meal Planner Downloadable. If you aren’t one yet, what are you waiting for? Sign up below!
Okay, now what you came here for…
When to meal plan?
Whether you get paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly and what day you prefer to shop, will usually be a deciding factor to how you approach your meal plan. I use a weekly meal plan. This way I can keep track of what we need to use and how our week is looking!
I have tried fortnightly, to work within our pay cycles, but it was just too hard. Things I wanted to last the fortnight never did (hungry people), the meals I planned for 10 days time nobody wanted them anymore (annoying people), I had to make more regular stops at the shops (running out of the essentials) and worst of all we had heaps of food waste.
Often we’ll end up at my mums or even my in-laws for dinner, which means I haven’t cooked for a night and I will likely need to use those ingredients the following week. Hey, I might have even had a take out night because let's be honest, shit happens!
So the first thing you need to figure out is how often you want to meal plan?
Next, what day of the week are you going to set as your Meal Planning day?
For us, Friday night works.
It allows me time over the weekend to do what I love, cook! It also allows me to get some meal prep in (if I have time). If it doesn’t happen on the weekend, I have to squeeze it in while I’m cooking dinners mid-week. And that’s annoying! Doable, but not my preferred method.
You see, I love to cook. The thought of being able to cook whatever I want, whenever I want is just so appealing. I could get lost in it for hours but... I don’t like feeding people.
I know it seems ridiculous but it’s true. Then in the next breath, I love having people for dinner, which sounds even more ridiculous, but also true.
I know! I’m a walking contradiction!
Anyway, getting some of the cooking and prep done over the weekend means I don’t have as much to do on any given night while contending with work, school, after school activities, homework and everything and anything else motherhood inevitably brings (you know what I’m talking about). It’s no wonder there are some weekends where all I get done is the menu itself. AND THAT’S OK!
The menu is my priority! I need to get at least that done because I know that if I don’t get it done by Monday, it usually never gets done at all.
So... on that magical Friday Night, I put the Kidlets to bed. Look in the fridge to see what's about to expire and what I have to work with first.
I then move the dog (insert family member of your choice) over and sit down on the couch, in front of my latest guilty pleasure on the telly (insert you favourite me-time activity), along with a nice glass of ______ (drink of choice) and dream of all the awe-inspiring meals I’m going to cook…then I wake from my reverie and get realistic.
Sometimes I use Pinterest, I also use Thermomix Recipe Community and MyRecipes.com, and other times I go back and see what I’ve cooked before. When I’m really brave I’ll even ask the kidlets (before bed) what they want for dinner next week. Yes, there are often times when we have a chorus of take out options but they too wake from their reverie and get realistic!
So, you need to work out a time frame that you can commit to regularly, to create a meal plan. Is it a weekly meal plan? A fortnightly meal plan? Heck, some people can do it by the term! That’s not me, but some legends out there do.
Look at that, we are winning already.
Once you’ve figured those out now you just need to figure out what it is you’re planning for.
How many meals to plan for?
I would love to say that I plan for three meals, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year but I’m not going to lie. The truth is, I started out small and built up (or down) from there.
What do I mean by built down?
Because there are some weeks the kids have activities every night, hubby will work late or I can’t be arsed cooking for them today and I want a break, or, Christmas and Birthday parties mean I don’t have to think about feeding the masses on those days.
Not to mention two of the Kidlets have activities on the same night, one on another, one finishing at what feels like midnight on a Friday and then there are the days where hubby likes to tell me that he has “meetings” with “business associates” to “research new technologies”. Or as I like to say... “ he catches up with his mates online, to play video games”.
Besides, who wants to cook a three-course meal on a crazy busy day (Tuesday night, for us).
By knowing what our coming week looks like, I can meal plan better. Which is another added bonus of the Meal Planning pages being with the daily and weekly planning, in the Ultimate Family Planner. (Yep, shameless plug right there!) It’s so much easier to check where you’ll be and what you need to cook.
Now that I have been Practising Meal Planning for a while, my current meal plan consists of only six dinners. I’ve previously planned breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day and snacks, that we switch between. I have tried to be more regimented but found that for us it just didn’t work.
We still use the meal plan format I have included in the Ultimate Family Planner because it allows for some of the versatility we all need. Although I allocate dinner for each specific day, I have learnt that we need to have some flexibility and may end up having Thursdays planned meal on Tuesday night, so on Thursday, we will use what he had planned for Tuesday etc.
You need to work out what you think is realistic for your family. Start big and build down, or start small and build up. Whatever works for you. You’re Practising Meal Planning so there is no wrong or right. There is only what suits your family.
You will find things along the way that you will use, you will also find things you stop doing and things that you will be surprised you never tried.
The key is to keep doing it!
Now if you’ve followed along with the Meal Planning posts, at this stage, you should:
- Feel more confident about meal planning and knowing that the practice is just as important
- Know your first step of meal planning is looking in your fridge, freezer then pantry
- What day is your best day to meal plan
- Be thinking about how regularly you should be meal planning
- Decide which meals you are planning for
If you’ve missed anything and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, it's ok because the next post isn’t for a week and you have time to go back over them and have a think about how you want your meal plan to look.
I’d love to know how you’re travelling with it, leave a comment below with what day, how often and what you are meal planning for.
Until next week.
THE Ultimate Family Planner