Meal Planning

13 September 2018
Meal planning can be a divisive topic. There are those who love them (hands up over here) and those that aren't too sold.

I think the key, for me, is flexibility. If I viewed my meal plan like a 'must do' then it would not work. The way I find it works for me is thinking of it like an optional guideline - there if I need it but no worries if I want to 'go rogue'.

Cookbooks for inspiration if you need them.

Working with people around their food professionally, plus having lots of personal conversations, has shown me that people go about meal planning in different ways. I think you need to try out a few styles and see what works for you, your lifestyle, the way you like to procure your food and the amount of structure you like.

A meal plan could simply be a list of meals your family eats on the fridge and then choosing them day by day. It could be planning to have ingredients on hand for 4 or 5 meals for the week and slotting things in as you go. Or it could be completely structured where you use the plan to then plan your shopping. It's all about finding what works for you. If you've tried one way before and it hasn't 'stuck' then don't be afraid to give different styles of meal planning a go until you find your best fit.

Personally I think they are invaluable.

For me there are several benefits. The main one though is freeing up my head-space. Often times I don't stick religiously to a plan, but I find that it's kind of like thought-insurance. If I have something planned I don't have to spend all day thinking 'what am I going to make for dinner'.  If I don't have a plan I spend ALL DAY thinking about what I'm going to make, coming up with at least 5 or so different options but unable to make a decision. If inspiration strikes organically I'm happy to sub something out for my new idea, but I need the plan behind me.

I can also optimise my meal-prep time. Being at home with two little people means that attempting to prepare dinner right before dinner is the definition of insanity! Instead I might chop the veg while the girls have lunch. Or bung things in the slow cooker in a moment of independent play.

They are also a useful tool for reducing food waste by planning meals around things that need to get used up either in the fridge, freezer or garden. Everyone has their own way of doing it but I tend to plan my meals around what I have on hand and after I've stocked up on veg for the week. That way I can buy what is in season and what looks best at the market. Or alternatively I can use up what I'm harvesting, although less so now I don't have my big Adelaide garden.

My fancy meal-planner (apologies if you attempt to read my writing!).

My meals are generally planned around the food I have rather than made and then me having to go shopping. Sometimes I will have to pick up one or two things from the supermarket but I'm not shopping for my whole plan.

I like to do a meal plan on a Sunday or Monday before heading into the week. I generally arm myself with my laminated meal planner, the weather forecast (does anyone else plan by the weather?), a list of any ingredients that need to be used up, a few recipes I'm keen to try out and a cup of tea. Then I get started.

This week's meal plan:
Monday: leftover lamb Tagine pie with broccolini (already I made a switch between Mon & Tues as the oven was on so I decided pie plus pre-roasting potato for tomorrow night).
Tuesday: roasted sweet potato stuffed with Mexican Beans, salsa, fermented chillies and grated cheese.
Wednesday: roast vegetable, chickpea and quinoa salad with preserved lemon dressing
Thursday: tomato and bacon soup with basil pesto and Toast/Bagels
Friday: Salmon crepes with sauteed broccolini and chard
Saturday: slow cooked beef ribs
Sunday: BBQ - lamb loin chops and suitable accompaniment from whatever is left over in the fridge!

So, for me meal planning is about having options so that planning dinner doesn't consume my thoughts plus peace of mind that I've got a plan to use up food that's in the house, thereby reducing food waste.

Do you meal plan? How does it work for you?
I'd love to hear how it happens at your place.

A pot of tea - an essential meal planning tool.


  1. When I didn't plan I used to get the 5pm panic and ended up serving a lot of pasta. My plan runs from Saturday to Friday. Friday is (nearly) always pizza a la Barbara Kingsolver, just the toppings vary with the seasons/garden/contents of the fridge, and Friday is my day off, so I plan then. My children are at the edge when they're all at home (most of the time) but their comings and goings are erratic and we may have a boyfriend staying for dinner at the last minute, so although I write it on a chalkboard it's still flexible.

    1. Flexibility is definitely the key. yes, I can relate to grabbing the pasta repeatedly!!

  2. I go through phases but generally have a list of main meals for a week and I always include one or two meat-free meals. There's always leftovers, pizza bases and frozen portions in freezer should plans change or I din't feel like cooking. Meg☺

    1. Freezer meals on standby are such an indispensable part of meals around here too Meg - especially for 'those days'.


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