Saturday, 27 May 2017

Meal Planning

I fail on a stellar scale when it comes to meal planning.  I've been getting better, but it's still a case of 'random is as random does'.  I really need to break this, though.  It could make such a difference if I could just get the hang of it.

As usual, when I'm desperate I turn to eBay.  I bought an inexpensive book on meal planning called 'The Family Meal Planner' by GoodFood.  It promised, and I quote, 'Thrifty recipes and 7-day meal plans to help you save money and time'.  Hah!

I suppose what I was hoping for was a sort of explanation of how to get a dratted meal plan to work when the cook self sabotages.  Instead I got some ready made meal plans, which looked pleasant and varied enough.  Some of the recipes are no doubt thrifty.  The sweet potato and pineapple korma which is sweet potato, tinned pineapple chunks and tinned coconut milk in roughly equal measures with added korma paste is probably inexpensive.  I'm not going to test it.  Some are not thrifty at all.  The Highland beef with pickled walnuts and pastry puffs is not what I consider thrifty.  It may use stewing beef, but it calls for ready made pastry (I can't make pastry anyway), a can of stout (like Guinness) and half a jar of pickled walnuts.  A jar of pickled walnuts costs £2.50 at time of typing and the least expensive can of stout is 88p.  That's before you've put in the meat!  It isn't fillet steak, but it's not exactly bargain basement.

There are lots of tips about balancing the cost over a lot of meals, with lamb on one day but lentils the next, and lots of ideas for using leftovers and freezing.  I am ashamed to admit I was hoping that the book would do my thinking for me.  I suppose it serves me right.


  1. I was never very good at meal planning myself. I'd cook a couple of main dishes each week and add a starch and a vegetable and we had leftovers all week! Fortunately, my daughter didn't mind eating the same things over and over again. It was either that, or cereal!

  2. I find meal planning works best when I build flexible meal plans. Stuff that I can switch around if, for any reason, I don't fancy what I've planned.

    Maybe one idea is to start by noting down what you *actually had* for dinner for a week or two, and then use that as a basis for a meal plan. That way,you can see what sort of things you have on what days. See what you can remember for the last week, If, like me, that's hopeless, then just keep a record each day from now on. This will help you spot patterns, and will also give yo a clear view on what meals are easy, which meals go together on consecutive days, that sort of thing.

    Then, when it comes to planning, there are a few things you can try. Maybe stat with this:

    - if you struggle to plan for a week, then don't plan for a week! Just plan for the subsequent couple of days. Or plan for a couple of *particular* days a week (like the ones where you end up getting a takeaway, or you know you'll be busy or extra tired. Or the day when the shopping comes.

    - if necessary, just lan what you are going to have "tomorrow". If you change your mind, well, never mind. The food that you got out of the freezer for "tomorrow" will still be good for the next day.

    - start by planning with meals that you know you'll want to have. It doesn't matter what it is. If you favourtie meal is beans on toast then pick a day and put beans on toast on the planner for that day.

    - maybe just plan one element of the dinner. "On Thursday we'll have sausages and something". or "on Thursday we'll have minced beef (and then maybe thinko of some minced beef options that you can implement: chilli, bolognese, burgers, lasagne, minced beef pie, savoury beef, cottage pie...." and then nearer the time you can narrow your choices down).

    Just some thoughts :-)

  3. Do you follow Frugal Queen? She's really good on meal planning and on a tight budget too.The rest of her blog is interesting as well
    I have meal planned for several years now and mainly stick to my plan but obviously there are times when flexibility is necessary especially as you have a child in the house who no doubt upsets things for one reason and another.
    Helen in France

  4. (1) write a list of things you cook regularly and your family like to eat. New recipes can come later, just think of the regular favourites
    (2) write down the days of the week in a notebook, allocate a meal to each
    (3) review - the key to meal planning is flexibility. I know there are people who plan a month at a time - I couldn't do that. Five days is good.

    Is there a day when you need something quick because Bear has an activity? Do you want a night when you eat on the sofa while watching a film? Will any of this work as packed lunch the next day?

    Keep it simple; I am not the sort of person to make arancini with leftover risotto or gnocchi with spare mash and I suspect you're not either. Don't worry about using up the leftovers, they'll get eaten anyway.

    Each morning look at the plan, decide if you want to have it that night and if so, prep anything you can early on. That way you're more likely to stick to plan. Don't fancy it? Just move the plan back a day (provided the ingredients won't go off) and cook something else.

    Another way to do it is to say e.g. Monday is pasta night, Tuesday is something with chicken, Wednesday is curry etc - doesn't do it for me but it might work for you. Just remember you're in charge Lyssa - you make the rules!

  5. My sister is like you...hates to meal plan even though she knows it will make her life easier (and cost less money at the grocery). I am a freak of a person who plans my meals a month in advance. It's a little easier for me as I just have my husband and myself to please and we'll even eat the recipes that don't come out too well. Sometimes I get on a kick where I'll try 3 or 4 new recipes a week and other weeks, my husband is back in the kitchen baking chicken, boiling shrimp, making big salads, etc. (simple foods). He has free reign when the meal plan calls for "chicken legs, potato, broccoli". I wish you luck!!

  6. I get conned by cookbooks too. Some of their ideas of 'cheap' meals are not my idea of cheap and some of them are just plain awful. Sigh. I usually end up using meals I've got off the internet. I've been cooking the same old thing over and over and I really need different meals. It's getting warmer now and will soon be too hot to have oven on for long (that sounds nice but not nice slaving over hot stove!).