Thursday, May 23, 2024

Meal Planning Tips and Tricks you Need to Know to Avoid Making Boring Food PLUS Free Meal Planner!

Say it with me: I will not eat the same boring meal 5X a week.

This is exactly what tends to happen when your grocery shop is poorly planned, and it probably means that you are shopping without any plan at all.

As a busy homeschool mum who not only had a home to look after but children to teach, and each with their own extra-curricular activities to keep up with, I learned early on that to avoid wasting money on take-out or having to cook meals that were quick but boring, I had to implement a meal planning system into my homekeeping routine.

This became a little monthly ritual which I looked forward to (and still enjoy today) and which saved me countless moments of angst at wondering what to cook for supper. 

It also helped me to be a better steward of our financial resources. My husband worked hard to support us as we followed God's calling to homeschool our two young children and it felt good to be dilegent in my role of managing the home and our resources.

Meal planning will not only help your family save money but it will also keep your fridge, freezer and pantry well organsied and reduce waste.

I have created a pretty, meal planner for you to download and use. 

There will be an autumn meal planning page coming out later this year as I love to keep things seasonal.

Don't forget to subscribe to my blog - it's a great way to keep in touch and to get the autumn meal planner when it is published.

Now, if you are new to meal planning this isn't a post on bulk cooking - that is an entirly different post. I'm not going to give you some strict and over-organized plan. I mean, who needs that! 

This is a post on making a few small changes that will not take great swathes of time and effort - I don't want to overwhelm and burden you. 

I aim to give you tried and tested tips and tricks that have worked for me over the years and that you can impliment right now, before your next grocery shop. 

Hopefully it will set you on a path to being a bit more organised and having fewer moments of horror when you open the freezer door and realise that you have nothing for dinner which everyone is expecting in an hour!

Now, grab your grocery shopping list (I have a little notebook that lives in my handbag) and gather your cookbooks/pinterest boards etc. Oh, don't forget your cup of tea or coffee!

Grocery Cupboard Staples

I like to begin my monthly meal planning by doing a quick stock take - this is a glance over the shelves of my pantry to see what running low or I am out of. 

There are certain products in my grocery cupboard that I always keep in stock. These are things that typically can be thown in to the slow cooker that make up a good base to a myriad of dishes. They are also things that I like to have on hand should I want/need to throw together some muffins or need to bake bread etc.

Here's a list of what I stock:
  • Canned chopped tomatoes
  • Baked beans
  • Tinned soups for casseroles (chicken, mushroom, chicken & Mushroom)
  • Pouched or canned tuna - perfect to add to all sorts of things for a quick lunch
  • Popcorn (the type you pop yourself). This is a great quick snack option with not too many calories.
  • Rolled Oats - I use oats in baking (so many yummy things to make) and to make porridge for breakfast.
  • Peanut Butter - apart from it being a traditional toast topper, I use peanut butter in baking (cookies and puddings) and cooking family favourites such as Chicken Satay Noodles.
  • Have a dedicated baking shelf: Strong all-purpose Flour, Self-raising Flour, Baking Powder, Bicarb, Eggs, Sugar, Vanilla Essence, tins of peaches, condensed milk, evapourated milk, caramel and golden syrup. You will generally be able to whip up something sweet and delicious if you have these staples on hand.
If I see I'm running low or run out on any of these staples - it goes on the grocery shopping list.

Getting Down To Planning - My Top Tips

Alrighty, lets get stuck into this. Youv'e got your free printable meal planner in front of you and all your cookbooks whether online or hardcopy. I would recommend grabbing your daily planner too.

  • Look at any upcoming events in your daily planner. What events are coming up this  month where cooking won't work with your schedule? You will want to plan something super easy for these meals. I like to do 'take-out at home'. This is something like crumbed chicken, oven chips, and a salad. I can make the salad the night before and the chicken and chips can be cooked from frozen.
  • Choose the day of the week you will do your grocery shop - pop that in your daily planner.
  • Now fill in your family favourtie meals on your free printable meal planner. In my home we have homemade burgers every Friday - so that's all Friday's sorted. We also like to have either homemade pizza or a comfort meal like mac & cheese on a Saturday, so those are plugged in. Sunday's is always a roast lunch so I fill that in.
  • Next I plug in all those meals I know that go down really well and that we like to eat on a regular basis such as lasagna, sausages & mash etc. I try not to repeat meals within a two-week time period so as to avoid falling into the boring meal trap.
  • Update your shopping list with the ingrediants you need for your regular family favourtie meals.
  • Plan in a 'Left Overs Day'. I always find that there is a lot of meat and veg left over from our Sunday roast. So I like to plan to use that food and prevent wastage. I may plan a roast dinner quiche and salad for the Monday. Or a roast dinner pie perhaps. Plug in your left-over days into your planner.
  • Now go through your cookbooks. Are there any new fun recipes you  have been wanting to try? How about an old favourite recipe that you totally forgot about - this happened to me just this week! This is the perfect time to try out one of those seasonal recipes that you pinned on your Pinterest board! Yes - we all have them...hoards and hoards of delicious looking seasonal meals that we never every cook. 
  • Plan for Treats. I like to plan in a baking afternoon. I would rather bake all at once than weekly because I am not someone that really loves to bake for the joy of baking. I like to indulge in it periodically. So I will make a traybake cake, various muffins, a couple of dozen various cookies and then portion them out and freeze them. They freeze and thaw well. My grandmother told me that she used to bake and ice cakes and freeze them just like that. When she was expecting company she would take a cake out of the freezer the night before.
  • Schedule a baking day into your daily planner.
  • Update your grocery list with the ingrediants you will need to make some of your favourite cookies and cakes.
Tip: I keep one or two months of meal plans for each season in my master homekeeping binder. That way I then have a rotating stack of meal plans so if I go through a difficult life season, I can simply work from a tried and tested plan from my archives.

The Grocery Store

We now have our meal plan and our grocery list and it is time to go shopping. 

When my children were small they would often come shopping with me as I didn't have anyone to watch over them while I was out. I chose a time when they would be their freshest. I would task each of them with things to find within the same grocery isle which made shopping a lot quicker and because they were involved, we avoided any shopping meltdowns.

If you are able to slip away and do your big shop on your own, here are a few things I try to bear in mind with regards to my meal planning.

  1. Number 1 top tip - do not visit the grocery store on an empty stomach. I'm sure you are well aware that when you do this - all manner of unplanned yummy convieniance foods find their way into your shopping trolley.
  2. Avoid Pre -Prepped vegetables unless you are insainly busy. They will always cost more and have a shorter shelf life. 
  3. The exception to this rule is frozen veg. Frozen veg is fantastic to throw into a stew, casseroles and slow cooker recipes.
  4. Follow a 5,4,3,2,1 pattern:
    • 5 different fruits and veggies - These should take up the bulk of your plate so your shopping trolly should reflect this.
    • 4 protiens that you really like - for me it's chicken, salmon, minced beef (mince, meatballs etc), and sausages. 

      TIP: buy meat in bulk if you can and process/portion it all at home. This will save you a huge amont of time and money in the long run! Plus - there is nothing nicer than seeing your chest freezer lovely and full! You will always have something on hand should you need it for unexpected visitors or life events!

    • 3 carbs - We like potatoes, couscous/rice and pasta.
    • 2 Healthy fats- I use olive or coconut oil for cooking and we love avocados so we always have them in the fruit bowl.
    • 1 indulgence whatever that is for you. It may be chocolate or crisps etc. Everything in moderation and it is nice to sometimes have a treat that we didn't or cannot make at home.

Preperation & storage

Very briefly, part of succesful meal planning is having your planned meals as prepped as possible. This will save you time and energy at the end of a busy day. 

I have recently come across The Batch Lady on Instagram. If you have not heard of her do check her out! She has so many great time and money saving tips when it comes to meal planning.

I purchased her new book which is full of really delicious freezer meals to pre and freeze ahead of time. I've worked my way through 2 weeks of meals and every single one of them has been a hit with my family.

It literally took me an hour to prep the meals and we have had an interesting and varied menu - it feels like we have been eating in a restaurant withouth all the time consuming prep that you would expect to go into preparing such interesting meals.

She also has some fantastic FREE summer meal plans for you to download and use. So if you feel that your life season simply does not allow you to take this time to meal plan then just download one of The Batch Lady's prepared meal plans. She has about 12 weekly meal plans in her summer list. That's 3 months worth of plans!

Honestly, you will want to bookmark her website! She has other seasonal plans too!

The time spent prepping these meals was so worth it. Plus - my nerdy nature just loved standing back and gazing at all the neat, full freezer bags once they were all in the freezer. 

My Recommeded Meal Planning Purchases (Pictured Above)

  1. The Batch Lady Grab and Cook Book (Best cook book I've bought in years)
  2. Resusable Food Storage Bags (20 bags)
  3. Adjustable Food Prep Bag Holding Stand (not entirely necessary but very helpful).

Have a Wonderful Week and I'll See You Back Here Soon!

Well lovelies, I hope that this post is in someway useful. I'm sure that most of you are seasoned meal planners but I am always reminded to be a Titus 2 woman and to pass on what I have learned through my years of motherhood, in running a home and being a Christian wife.

If you have any meal planning tips please do leave them in the comments for others to pick up and use. 

If you found this post helpful and would like to read posts on Christian homemaking, homeschooling and lifestyle posts then please follow me on Bloglovin - Follow

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletter which has all sorts of crafty content then please do subscribe to my email list:

Subscribe to Under An English Sky

* indicates required

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate each and every one left for me.