Meal planning – the foolproof, flexible way I meal plan

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 Why I do meal planning

My main reasons for doing meal planning are as follows: 

  • I save money by no longer buying things on impulse and it also makes me consider stretching things over several meals, e.g. if I buy a large chicken I can make a roast dinner one day, a chicken stir fry the next, then make stock for a soup the third day
  • It is good for the environment – there is little to no food getting thrown away as I have a plan in place for everything I buy

Why other methods of meal planning don’t work for me

The internet is full of blog posts about meal planning, usually involving a fancy planner on which you write your meals, or maybe a chalkboard or a whiteboard that you have hanging in your kitchen. The problem with these methods for me are two-fold: 1) my husband often has to work away from home at a moment’s notice… let’s say I am planning on making that chicken roast dinner tonight, can I really be bothered to cook it just for me? and 2) oh no, I had planned to have steak on Friday night, but I have just looked at the expiry date and I need to eat it by Wednesday!

In short, unless you want to spend a lot of time and energy crossing or rubbing things out, there is very little flexibility in this method.

The meal planning method that works for me

Recently I have developed a meal planning method that works amazingly for me. It involves a small outlay on a couple of items, but trust me, you will save enough money in the first week or two to easily cover this.
Here are the materials I bought and how I use them:

2. These transparent fridge magnets:

Transparent fridge magnets

The magnetic meal planner sits on my fridge, ready for the meals to  be added. There is a handy box on the right for my shopping list, which I can white on at a moment’s notice e.g. if I realise I need a random item such as milk (the meal planner comes with magnetic pens) and I can take a photo of on my phone of the whiteboard to take to the supermarket (or to have handy when I do my online grocery shop).

Probably like most people, I cook my meals based on a ‘bank’ of X number of recipes that I have in my head. What I have done, is that I have written the name of each of these meals on a coloured bit of card which I have inserted into my transparent fridge magnets (I add new meals from time to time). Underneath the meal names, in brackets, I write the less-obvious ingredients e.g. for ‘sausage ‘n’ mash and broccoli’ (cauliflower mash to be awkward!) in the picture below clearly I need to buy sausages and broccoli but less obviously I need to also buy frozen cauliflower, cream cheese and broccoli) – this helps me compile my shopping list for the week: 

Once I have picked out my meals for the week go through them and I jot down the ingredients and add them to my shopping list.

I can then arrange (and rearrange if circumstances change) the meals I have picked out for the week onto the meal planner on the fridge (note that I also have a couple of magnets which say ‘Repeat of yesterday’ – I quite often make a double batch of food to do us two days):

A post with some more good tips that I found helpful is this one by Claire at The Money Freak – I completely agree that comparing how much money that you spend on groceries vs other people is pointless (ultimately we could all survive on bread and water and save a fortune… but who would want to do that?). Just focusing on gradually spending less is a great plan. Another great idea, if you are a Tesco shopper, is to sign up for their grocery saver plans – you can save a fortune vs paying for each individual delivery. See Sue Foster’s blog post here for more information on this. 

I hope this helps you organise your meals – please let me know if so!

meal planning - the foolproof, flexible way I meal plan

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