Taking the frustration out of meal planning

Sunday, February 16, 2014


For an absolute age I'd been wanting to get organised about my meal planning (not to mention just more organised in general). So when Sophie wrote about her food rage recently and I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through, and then again when I read through the comments, I decided it was time to take action.

Sophie's post seemed to strike a cord with everyone. It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one that struggled and found meal planning a chore. I wanted to stop the I'm-all-out-of-ideas frustration when it came to food and what to put on the table.

So, here's what I did

First step - write an inventory.
I pinned this post about making and maintaining a freezer inventory a while ago thinking I'd 'pin now, read later'. Who knew this would be the first of many such pins I'd actually go back to and read? It's pretty self explanatory really - it's basically just writing a list. It now sits in my pantry, along with a pencil to make amendments.

Secondly, sort out my recipe file.
I had a file full of recipes taken from magazines that, more often than not, never made it to my plate. I sorted them into types - meats, fish, seafood, veggie, side dishes, baking and puddings, putting my favourite recipes at the front of each section. I'm contemplating putting a page at the beginning of each section listing my favourite recipes from books with the page numbers... just for quick reference.

And finally, make a meal plan.
When I was growing up my Mum always had a plan (she is the most organised person in the entire universe, and often exasperated at my 'winging it' way of life). Sunday was roast day, Monday was my favourite - oven chips, bacon, eggs and beans (or mushy peas). Mum called it a 'scrappy tea', I called it delicious! I was a fussy eater as a child (I wouldn't touch a vegetable) and this was the only meal I would eat without complaint, or having to sit at the table until it was all gone. I never ate it, it used to go cold and I'd sneak away from the table when I though Mum wasn't looking - little did I know that she saw everything. Anyway, Tuesday was mince - cottage pie or lasagne and such, Wednesday was... well, you get the idea.

I decided to do the same but make a two week plan to help me to cook a larger variety of meals, I often get stuck in a rut of cooking the same recipes over and over and over again. I planned meals using my inventory and wrote a shopping list for the perishable items and ingredients I'd need. I placed an online order for things needed within the next few days and kept the lists for top-up shops in my diary. I added a new recipe to try each week but mainly stuck to tired and tested (and easy) recipes during the week.

Imagine my immense smugness when asked 'what are we having for dinner', I was able to reply 'just tonight or for the next two weeks?'

I wonder how long I can keep it up?

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14 comments

  1. I always meal plan. I can't imagine coming home in the evening and then deciding what to eat!

    I only plan from week to week at the moment though. I am planning on extending this to do a month at a time.

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    1. I've been meaning to get into the habit is it for so long. I just hope I can keep it up!

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  2. Ha!!! My husband hates meal planning! Causes an argument everytime we're at the supermarket together!x

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    1. Oh dear! That doesn't sound like much fun! Andy keeps out of it, leaving it all to me. I think it works best that way :)

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  3. I did an inventory of the freezer once and unfortunately never updated it, would make life so much easier if I kept on top of what we have in stock! I was pondering about blogging about meal planning but you did far better job than I would have anyway ;) x

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    1. Aww thanks. I highly recommend an inventory, it's saves getting cold rooting through the drawers!

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  4. I have an empty freezer and usually empty cupboards and fridge, too. I hate meal planning and food shopping, so I tend to just avoid it.

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    1. Oh my goodness Char, what do you eat?

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  5. good luck! for a while, i was making all the week's meals on sunday. it was super easy and great during the week to not have to worry, but for some (lazy) reason, i stopped doing it.

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    1. I love that idea, but I try not to do anything on Sundays (although I often fail at that - this Sunday I was mending fences and stomping around fields)

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  6. My flatmate and I do try to do a rough meal plan each week and it usually happens when we order our Tesco shopping online. I keep a rough (and now probably out of date) inventory of stock cupboard items like baking and herbs & spices with the app Out Of Milk. I too get stuck in a bit of rut with the same old recipes but it can be difficult not to. It's good to feel smug! :D

    Jen | gingerellaj.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. I didn't even think about getting an app for this - I should've known there would be one! Going to investigate...

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  7. We always meal plan. I remember my Dad showing me his and thinking "That's a bit too much, even for me" but actually it's brilliant. We also do one week on, one week off when it comes to cooking so I get a whole week where I don't even need to think about what I need to make for tea!

    I wouldn't do it any other way now. It also means I try more new recipes out and give things a go. Also massively cut down on the amount of food we were wasting and stopped us getting takeaways when there wasn't anything inspiring in the fridge and you didn't know what to make.

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    1. I'd LOVE to do a week on and a week off but it would never work with the hours that Andy works - I'd spend most of my week off starving!
      I'm getting on really well with it, it certainly makes it easier. It's been nice to come home and just know what I'm cooking.

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