6 Reasons why you Need to Start Planning your Meals
For anyone who wants to get a home-cooked meal on the table without frenzy or financial fall-out, I’m here to help. Menu planning doesn’t have be complicated! Planning meals ahead requires a small investment of time, but can reap great rewards:
A menu plan saves money.
Reducing trips to the supermarket, a menu plan reduces impulse spending. Using leftovers efficiently cuts food waste, while planned buying in bulk makes it easy to stockpile freezer meals at reduced prices.
A menu plan saves time.
No dash to the neighbours for a missing ingredient, no frantic searches through the freezer for something, anything to thaw for dinner.
A menu plan improves nutrition.
Without the daily dash to the supermarket, there’s time to prepare side dishes and salads to complement the main dish, increasing the family’s consumption of fruits and vegetables. Knowing what to serve each day, and having the ingredients already on hand, cuts back on the fast food habit.
Whether you’re a novice or a meal-planning master, I’ve got 6 easy meal-planning tips adapted from Food52 to help you get dinner on the table, on time, at least a few nights a week.
1. Fill Your Fridge with Favourites.
Stock your fridge with a few ingredients that pair well together, and use them for weeknight meals, filling in the gaps with pantry staples. Take minced meat, tomatoes, red peppers, green peas: toss everything with pasta one night, and then use the leftover meat to whip up a Shepherd’s Pie with creamy mashed potatoes the next. Feel free to get creative – just make sure that before you buy any ingredients, you have 3 ideas for using them together. Waste not!
2. Try a Theme Night.
Assign a theme to dinner one night each week: swahili, breakfast for dinner, stir-fries – something that you’re happy eating regularly and that takes less than an hour to make. Write out 5 variations on the theme (if you choose a breakfast-for-dinner theme, your list might look like: omelets, pancakes, French toast, breakfast sandwiches, frittata) and rotate through them, adding more variations as you wish. Like it? Add a second themed dinner night each week.
3. Be a Weekend Warrior.
Designate Saturday or Sunday as a cooking day and prepare your meals for the week in one fell swoop. Just make sure everything reheats well (read: no fish).
4. Master the Art of Marinating.
Marinate quick-cooking proteins like beef steak, chicken breasts or pork chops, ahead of time so all you need to do is drain and cook. Serve with your favourite veggies and a starch that can be made in the amount of time it takes the protein to cook (think: rice, pasta or quinoa).
5. The Freezer is Your Friend.
Make a double batch of recipes and freeze extras (in individual portions for easier defrosting) for weeks when you don’t have time to spend at the cooker. Here, being Type A pays off: when freezing food, labeling is a good idea. Make sure to include the name of the dish and the date frozen.
6. Share a Spreadsheet.
This might sound crazy, but you’ll be amazed how it streamlines your weekly shopping. Track your grocery list and your fridge and pantry inventory in a spreadsheet. Then get your family involved: saving it to a shared device and adding a column for “special requests” will inspire everyone to get in on the meal-planning fun.
Bonus: Build a Base Shopping List.
If you’re cooking regularly, you’ll likely end up buying a lot of the same items week after week. Simplify everything by making a master list of recurring items and then supplement with seasonal ingredients.
Wasn’t that easy? Happy cooking!
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