A Bit More on Meal Planning

Yesterday I was excited to see this comment from Amanda as I am sure many people feel the same way:

“I am way too fickle to ever be as good at planning as you are! I sometimes think “oh I definitely want tacos etc this week” but then when the time comes I am never in the mood for said food! How do you combat that? x”

I have been meal planning fairly consistently since August of 2010 and have found that keeping these things in mind helps:

1. Consistency – In the beginning I would plan meals and at least 2 of the nights we would order out, but as time went on eating what was planned became habit and now we plan in the nights out rather than skip already planned meals.

2. Plan things you want to eat – This might seem obvious but sometimes I get some wacky idea like lentil soup which sounds good and healthy and then I remember how much I dislike lentils and am grumpy and just want pizza. However if I plan meals that I know I and Mr. H like such as Minestrone soup instead which is still healthy and fulfills the soup urge I had then I will be excited to cook and eat it.

3. Be flexible – I know this seems to go against planning but you do not necessarily have to plan a specific meal for each day but can plan say 5 meals and then cook them when you want them. For a bit Mr. H was having trouble seeing the meals written out like in the picture below so I would just write a list of meals for the week on the fridge and then cook them in the order I wanted.

Fridge Meal Planning

4. Be Creative – So say you were really in the mood for tacos like Amanda said above so you plan and shop for them and then the day comes and you are like ugh tacos no way, well then you get creative and think what else can I do with these ingredients that sounds good. Doing that I have come up with some recipes like the one that I posted yesterday which are great and I end up making again. So with taco stuff you might feel stuck in Mexican but instead of the tortilla you can put all on rice for a twist or or make a salad etc, etc.

5. Be organized – I not only write the meals of the week on a magnetized fridge pad but also in my daily planner, doing that means when I am feeling out of ideas I can look back at past weeks and go “o yeah we loved having pasta salad when it was warm”. It also helps to spread out meals as I would eat chili all the time but I always check to see when we last had it and so it is spaced out more than once a week. One other thing about doing it in my planner is that I have Mr. H’s schedule written there too so I can see when he needs leftovers or lunch at home before work and can plan accordingly.

The last note is that it will save you money. When I told Mr. H I was writing this post and if he had any insight saving money was the first thing he mentioned, with the level of meal planning we are at we never throw out food because it has gone bad and very rarely go to the store more than once a week. Since we do a once weekly shop we can also budget for the month and surprisingly with all different meals planned and changes of food price due to the seasons we always are within a few kroners of each other each month.

What tips do you have for those starting out on the meal planning way of life?

Also if you have other questions or specific recipe interest let me know I love talking about food!

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20 thoughts on “A Bit More on Meal Planning

  1. Yes, I love all these tips! We’ve been meal-planning for about two years now, and I don’t know how I ever managed before! For me, the biggest thing is to plan around our schedule. Like if Andreas has a meeting to go to in the evening, I’ll make something like a casserole that I can make in the daytime, and just pop in the oven so I’m sure it’s done on time and he’s not left running late.

    Also, almost every week, I make something that I know will yield enough leftovers for another meal (or can be turned into something else, i.e. chili, then chili dogs, etc.) so there is a day where the cooking is minimal and I get a “day off”

  2. I think the fact that it saves money is a huge incentive. I don’t plan for the whole week, but do plan the next few days, and always cook with whatever fresh ingredients I have in the fridge that need to be used rather than wasted. I actually find that rather than being fed up that I’ve got risotto tonight, not the sausages that are planned for tomorrow, I feel like I’m getting more variety and therefore feel more satisfied with the results. Last night we had chicken risotto, so I cooked two extra chicken breasts to have for lunch today with a little potato salad. I’m really looking forward to it. We have sausage/pasta for tea tonight because we have sausage and mash tomorrow (and therefore the sausages will be defrosted in time).

  3. Meal planning is so important, I agree! Otherwise food goes to waste OR you have nothing to eat! I tend to plan 3-4 per week to leave myself some leeway to eat out or have leftovers the other nights. Great tips!

  4. Meal planning has helped us so much in not wasting food!!! We also typically only shop once a week but I generally only plan out about 4 meals for a week. That way we can skip nights and go out if we are not in the mood…this works for us. I really want to try freezing a couple of meals so we have a go to on nights we don’t want to cook but also are not in the mood for eating out either. In the winter most of our meals make enough to serve for lunch as well. In the summer we grill more so there tends to be less leftovers and I have to plan lunch. I use Pinterest for all of our meal planning…I have a secret board and re-pin the meals for that week to it and then just delete them at the end of the week.

  5. These tips are great! I make sure that I take our schedule into account when I plan meals, so if I know that I’m getting home late or something, I plan something quick or plan to have left overs. Also, I just put myself of auto-pilot, so even if I don’t actually feel like something, I just make it and usually by the time it’s ready, I’ll be happy to eat it :)

  6. Meal planning has seriously helped me save money and know what I’m doing for dinner. I try to have a plan and buy food for the week, so I’m less likely to run to the convenience store or eat out if I’m “out” of food. Japan likes to sell their fruits and vegetables right when they’re the ripest, so a lot of the times produce doesn’t last very long, but that’s an incentive for me to buy less produce and use it in different ways in all my dishes. I need to get back into meal planning again thought, because lately I’ve been super lazy about sticking to my plans…

    • Sometimes if I know I need a certain vegetable not until later in the week I will pop down to the store on the day to get it because Swedish produce can be very ripe as well!

  7. I think the being creative one is the biggest for us because we’ll find an exciting recipe with yummy/healthy ingredients and then we look forward to the night we stay at home to cook it…in a way, the cooking makes it more fun, so we think less about craving something else. I also really like to find recipes that my blogger/twitter friends post…that way I feel like I’m giving them a little shout out. I think I think too much about organizing food?!

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