It really is a good idea to plan ahead for meals. Before I went back to work, I used to do a largish shop twice a week as I could only think of meals about 3 days ahead. I knew that doing this was costing us more money as I added extras to my trolley each time I went shopping and was also using up a lot of time. I decided that I had to bite the bullet and plan for a week ahead and do one big shop but making that leap from a few days to a whole week seemed too vast to contemplate!
Last week, Jane posted an article about how she got started. This is how Sally plans her menus. I usually only plan dinners but you could use the same method for breakfast and lunch as well if needed.
1. Day planner
Start simple – write down all the days of the week, starting with the day you do your big shop. Ours is always Friday, for example. I have an Excel grocery list that I print out each week and I just write the days of the week on the back of this. Very high tech!
Then add notes to each day if there are any activities or events to take into account. You don’t want to plan a full roast dinner when the children have an after-school activity that means they are out until 6pm for example.
Then just add an appropriate meal to each day. You could add the meals on post-it notes (see Jane’s article) so that you can move them around before you finally decide on which meal for each day.
3. How to come up with ideas!!!
This was where I used to have the most problems. I would start with a roast on Sunday, leftovers on Monday and Spaghetti Bolognese or Shepherds’ Pie for another day and then just feel like giving up.
Then I decided to think of the main ingredient first – usually a type of meat in this house but would work for vegetarians as well – and then come up with an idea. So, for example, if I had roast chicken down for Sunday, leftovers on Monday, then I would put ‘beef’ or ‘lamb’ down for Tuesday and think of a meal that used that. I also decided that we would have fish on Fridays and something cheap and cheerful on a Wednesday. For several years, it was baked potato, tuna mayo and baked beans; now it is usually omelettes. So really I only had to think up meals for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday which felt more doable.
It does take time to get into menu planning but it is definitely worth it. It really does take a load off your mind and makes you feel much more in control.
4. More ideas!
Next week we are going to write much more about generating ideas for menus and menu planning and how to remember those great recipes.
In the meantime, if anyone has any great menu-planning tips, do let us know and we will include them (with accreditation of course!) in our next article.
Happy menu planning!
Sally and Jane
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