Complete guide to meal planning

“What to cook for dinner?”

“What have you made for dinner today?”

“What’s for lunch?”

These are some of the dreaded questions that we ladies face daily. As some one once said:

“It’s easier to cook than to think of what to cook.”

Life is so busy that we often skip multitude of tasks and just focus on the necessities. Many of us are just barely keeping our heads above the water while others are managing it all perfectly.

school lunch

No matter in which category you fall, what to cook for dinner/ lunch each day often comes as the most haunted thought of the day. You get exhausted at times thinking about this one simple thing. Then there is more to this thought process. There are snacks to be served in between meals, lunches for school/ office as well as proper breakfast to be prepared each day to nourish your family.

The solution to this daily dilemma lies in meal planning.

What Is Meal Planning?

Meal planning or menu planning is the process of planning your meals. That is thinking about what you will be cooking and planning for it to actually happen; once at a set time instead of stressing about it daily. You could plan your meals either for a week, two weeks or for an entire month. It all depends on your schedule. Most people prefer planning for an entire month so they can save their trips to the grocery store.

What Does Meal Planning Involves?

Meal planning or menu planning involves some thinking into what you will serve your family for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks before hand without the stress and time constraint. You can plan in a relaxed manner keeping in mind the food choices of your family instead of thinking what you you can get on the table quickly at the eleventh hour. Since you have to take care of the dietary needs and wants of your entire family it’s always good to plan in advance.

breakfast

Why Should You Plan Your Meals?

There are a number of reasons that highlight the importance and beneficiaries of planning your meals. Here I have listed some of the reasons for your whys.

  1. Saves you time and your sanity.

Once you have taken the time to plan your meals the daily stress of thinking about what to cook for dinner and what to give as lunch vanishes. You can be well prepared and save your time as you have all the ingredients and you know what you have to cook each day.

  1. Pocket friendly.

If you don’t have a meal plan then two things happen. Either you order a meal or go to a restaurant. This can become a huge burden on your pocket. With inflation on rise we are always on a lookout for savings. Eating out costs huge money no matter whether you order a “dhamakedar” deal or something from the regular menu.

Also the veggies, or food items you bought as part of your monthly groceries tend to go bad as they are forgotten and/ or get expired and rot. This is another way your hard earned cash goes down the drain.

  1. Keeps you and your family healthy

When you prepare the meals with love and proper hygiene practices, the food you serve is the best for consumption. You are not only aware of the quality of ingredients you used but you are also assured that they were cleaned and handled properly. This leads to best quality food that will nourish your family instead of just satisfying their taste buds and curbing their hunger. There is no need to specify how important fresh and hygienic food is for the health of your family.

A plus point: it helps you lose weight too.

 

If you want to lose weight in a healthy way
Join our “Eat To Lose” group on Facebook.

 

meal on table

What You Can Do With All The Extra Time & Money?

Planning your meals in advance saves you time and money which can be put to more enjoyable and important aspects.

Here are some ideas to get you motivated enough to start:

  • Good education for kids.
  • New/ Own home.
  • Home decor.
  • Hobbies.
  • New appliances.
  • Shopping.
  • Cosmetics.
  • List is endless
Now let’s get started with meal planning.

Types Of Meal Planning

  1. Seasonal meal planning

Seasonal meal planning involves adjusting your menu according to the season. Like in most countries in winter a soup is sufficient as a whole meal and summers call for salads as main course. So you can adjust your menu as per the season.

Seasonal meal planning allows you on a large extent to utilize the seasonal foods which is good for your health and budget. Seasonal food items are usually fresh and available in bulk plus they are affordable so are light on the pocket.

  1. Day type meal planning

You can assign a day for a specific type of meal and then plan that day’s meal accordingly. Like you can assign Monday to be leftover day, Tuesday as pasta/ daal day, Wednesday as pizza day, Thursday as roti day, Friday as rice day, Saturday as chicken day and Sunday as beef/ mutton day.

Now you can think of 5 dishes of each day-type to fill up the entire month.

Example:

sample menu

Involve Your Kids

You can involve your kids from meal planning to meal preparation. This will teach them not only the importance of planning but also the skills required for cooking and presenting a meal.

meal plate of healthy lunch

They will learn the nutritional value of a meal which leads to adults having better sense of eating and health.

Assign a day/ week / weekend to each of your kids and let them plan the menu for the assigned day. Let them shop for the groceries remaining within a budget.  Make them responsible from planning to shopping to cokking to serving the dish. This involves all the steps.

Strategies For Meal Planning

A budget friendly (especially for those who have tight budgets) and time saving strategy for meal planning is backward planning.

It involves shopping for your ingredients first and then planning your meals around the ingredients you have on hand. For those who are looking to cut down on their food budget can shop for groceries using coupons or available discounts & deals and then utilize their purchase in preparing full meals. This saves you on impulse buys or buying exotic ingredients you wish to use some day while you grocery shop.

Step By Step Meal Planning

cooking a healthy meal

What you need?

  • About an hour of relax time
  • Pen/ pencil
  • Papers
  • Calendar
  • Post-it notes
  • Recipes (optional)

How to go about it?

  1. Jot down what ingredients you have on hand and what you can cook to utilize them. Remember each meal including breakfast, lunch, kids and office lunches, dinner etc. List out all the recipes you’re going to need. Now for each day write what you plan to cook and write it on a post it note. Post it on your calendar on that day. Or you can post a monthly calendar with meals posted on it on your fridge. Prepare your shopping list accordingly so you have all the items you need when you are in the kitchen actually preparing the meal.
  2. Write down what you want to cook for the entire duration (month/ week). Then pick out ingredients you need and add them to your shopping list. Now for each day write what you plan to cook and write it on a post it note. Post it on your calendar on that day. Or you can post a monthly calendar with meals posted on it on your fridge. Prepare your shopping list accordingly so you have all the items you need when you are in the kitchen actually preparing the meal.

Need Ideas For Meals?

In the beginning you may find it difficult to write a month’s meal in one go. You may run out of ideas for meals and find yourself repeating some meals. Repetitive meals can get boring. Here are some sources for you to cook look into while finding ideas for your meals.

  • Search google.

Google has an unlimited (or so it seems) answers to your questions. You can search on google recipes utilizing ingredients you have on hand or what day type you have planned for. I am sure you’ll find loads of recipes to fill up next month or two even!

spices in a thaal

  • Take out recipe books.

We all have the recipe books that we purchased and/or were gifted. It’s time to take them out and use them.

  • Ideas from Pinterest boards

Search on Pinterest and you will find some recipe boards from there you can pick out the meals you plan to try.

  • Create your own.

You can even create your own recipe book or Pinterest board for recipes and meal ideas. Add all your family’s favorites and secret recipes. You can also add the dishes commonly cooked in your home.

Pressed for time ?

Think you don’t have enough time to plan meals for yourself? There are many services that offer to plan your meals according to your taste and requirements for some amount of money. And there are many who deliver home cooked food even. Many people think that paying someone else to plan for meals is an added cost. But in my opinion if you can eat healthy and home cooked meals at some amount of charge that saves you thousands spent on outdoor meals and doctor’s bills then it’s a good deal.

Some meal planning and home made food delivery services for your assistance:

MK Cuisine is a home based service that delivers home cooked meals. They even offer weekly meal plans keeping in mind your budget and requirements. Here’s a link to their Facebook

page.

eat to lose icon

Eat to lose is a Facebook group that helps you to lose weight in a healthy manner. Contact them to get your meals and workouts planned for an entire month.

 

Here’s a tip to make cooking easier after you plan your meals.

If you have to utilize anything that’s frozen, thaw it or move it from freezer to fridge the night before or first thing in the morning so you are not stuck when you enter kitchen to cook the meal and realize that you forgot to defrost something.

Don’t get demotivated by people who always cook each meal from scratch. You have your own schedule and your family is unique in their needs and wants. Try to serve your family the best you can while taking care of yourself. Plan your menu accordingly and enjoy saved time and money.

Happy meal planning!

 

Image Sources:

Design No. 332: Riccardo Muti, Expedition House

 

Classic school lunch. Yum.

breakfast :)

Dinner

Lunch

Cooking adobo.

We Like it Spicy - Dec 23, 2012

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