Meal Planning: My Current Method
I'll be honest: I'm a fully-fledged, firm fan of all things meal planning.
I love the headspace that a little bit of preparation and a few minutes typing up my meals for the week gives me; I no longer have the what are we doing for dinner panic at 5.30 in the evening, and like that I have found a routine that works for me. This post definitely slides into the suggestion category rather than being straight-up advice; I'm always looking for ways to tweak my methods, so all your tips would be very welcome!
The "system" I use was the answer to the problem of me spending an age going through my recipe books on a Sunday morning; our shop was delayed as I rifled through them to find my favourite recipes. It took so long that I decided I needed a way to speed things up; hence this method was born!
COLLATING MY RECIPES
The first step I took was going through my cookbooks, marking with a Post-It note the recipes that I wanted to use regularly. I then made a document on my computer and slowly added all the ingredients from the recipes I wanted to use, being sure to note which cookbook each list from and how many people they served. I made the first list in the summer and included mainly lighter dishes, and made a second one as the weather cooled that featured my favourite winter and autumn options. This may sound like a faff, but it really didn't take as much time as you may think and it's ended up saving me so much time in the long run!
CHOOSING MY MEALS
I've found that I prefer to ad lib my breakfasts, so I just make sure that I have the ingredients for the brekkies I like and decide on the day what I fancy. Most weeks I'll have a smoothie on the mornings I'm working in Northampton and have something fancier on the weekend (pancakes, French toast, waffles... In case you didn't know, I adore breakfast food!)
For my lunches, I tend to eat the leftovers of what I had for dinner the night before, which again just saves me time. That leaves evening meals to plan, and I've found that I only need to cook three recipes a week. When I first started meal planning I put down a dish for each night, but we eat out and have "freezer dinners" so often that food was going to waste. Most weeks I'll add in an easy pasta night for when I've had a long day and need to cook something super quick.
This means I only have three "proper" dinners to plan each week, and I make sure to note these down in my Week Plan Google doc, including their recipe book to avoid heaps of confusion come cooking time.
GETTING THE SHOP DONE
All this preparation means that come Sunday morning, the only tasks I have are to log what we're having in my Google Doc and then copy and paste the ingredients we need into the shopping list in the Reminders app on my phone and laptop. I do this sat in our kitchen so I can check I'm not doubling up on things we already have.
This is where the process gets a bit nerdy, even by my standards: I've added my mum and dad to the shopping list in my Reminders app, so they can add to it through the week. Dad can also tick off what he's picked up when we divide and conquer at the supermarket... It's so Gen Y I know!
And there you have it! Are you into meal planning, or are you a total sceptic? I would love to hear your thoughts and advice in the comments!