Menu Planning: Plan to Eat Healthily with this Simple Guide
Whilst participating in Project:Food Budget I was introduced to the idea of a weekly menu plan. This is not something that I would have ever thought of doing myself and seemed a little too organised and restrictive rather than helpful (and kind of nerdy too). But, Angela (who has some great tips in her post) and Emily seemed to think it was a great idea that worked for them. So, what to do but to give it a go? Don’t diss it till you try it, right? We’re on week 3 of menu planning and it rocks! Here are the main reasonswhy we decided to give it a go:
- It saves time: It is said that we only use 10% of our conscious mind. Now I don’t want to be wasting that precious percentage discussing what’s on the menu. Honestly, I’ve got more important things to talk to Dom about than what to eat. Every day. What’s for breakfast. What should we make for lunch (we take our own to work). What’s for dinner. What do we need to buy. Who’s going to the supermarket etc. Talk about wasting precious conversation! Having a very precise shopping list means supersonic supermarket rounds (our weekly shop on week 3 took less than 20 minutes). No more blankly staring into the fridge and kitchen cupboards to figure out what you can muster up, opening and re-opening the same cupboard to find you still can’t figure out how to put the ingredients together.
- It saves money: When you don’t plan ahead, chances are you’re going to have to go shopping several times a week, ‘just’ for this or that. This wastes time and money. You end up throwing food out that you didn’t use in time and was left to go brown, shriveled and maybe growing a little garden of its own.
- We have more time in the morning as we prepare breakfast and lunch at the same time (rather than one, then think about the other).
- We save pennies by not having to go out to buy lunch because we were prepared and brought our own in.
- We have more spare time and intellectual conversations in the evening (or quiet time in the morning) to enjoy each other’s company.
- You ensure you have healthy meals every day by avoiding the last minute take-away panic meal or frozen packet meal (we actually never did this, but ended up eating a mish-mash of ‘healthy’ food combinations which still resulted in unsatisfactory meals).
- We eat more variety and discover new recipes as we look in recipe books for inspiration (no more ‘we always eat the same thing’ boring chat).
- Whoever is home first can just get on with preparing the meal as you know what you’re having without having to wait for the other one to get home, discuss it and then start cooking at 8pm.
How tomenu plan
- Choose a day of the week when it would most suit you to sit and plan the meals for the week ahead. I like to do it on Saturday mornings because we do our big weekly food shop on a Saturday.
- Print off a copy of this menu plan template.
- Plot in your own favourite recipes, browse through websites (hopefully the recipes on my blog can give you some inspiration), look in recipe books and either stick a post-it on the correct page or write the book title and page number in the appropriate box on your menu plan.
- Make sure to fill out the ‘prep for tomorrow’ column covering anything that needs to be done for the following morning/lunch/dinner. Don’t leave this bit out or you’ll get yourself in a pickle and might have to come up with a last minute alternative (= wasted time).
- Write in the appropriate boxes when you have to cook double the amount for the next day’s lunch etc. For example, if you are preparing a dinner dish with rice and need rice for the next day’s lunch, write x2 (or whatever tickles your fancy) in the dinner box so you remember (put it in the ‘prep for tomorrow’ box too to make sure).
- Write your shopping list (remember to include the amount you need). You can either do this by day by keeping in line with the relevant day, by type of food so that it follows the set up in your local supermarket or randomly (as we do, for now). If we know that we need to buy certain items in a different supermarket, I draw a little star or similar next to it.
- Keep your menu plans and recycle them. If you do this online, you can also mix up the weekly recipes. Clever, huh?
- Cook once, eat twice. When prepping dinner one day, make enough of the ‘base food’ (e.g. rice, quinoa) to use the next day for lunch and even the day after that for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Set aside time for an ‘intensive food prep sesh’. We do this on a Sunday evening whilst we prepare our dinner: we cut up carrots, cucumbers, peppers etc and store these in glass boxes or jars in the fridge with a bit of water or lemon. Vary the shapes you cut them into from week to week (for that touch of je ne sais quoi). Boil some eggs, roast a whole load of veggies that you can then add cold to your lunches. Prepare some fermented veggies that you can just add to whatever dish. Prepare a seed mix and trail mix. Chop up and freeze fruit to use for smoothies and homemade ice-cream. Bake bread. You get the idea.
Go on, give it a go, become a nerdy menu planner and have more time for real fun!