“Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”. It sounds so Mary Poppins-like, but it is the key to so much in life. It feels like a bit of a drag, but really if you want to eat better, healthier, more sustainable food then the first habit you have to develop is planning.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated. It really just involves writing out what you plan to eat for the next week (or fortnight or month, depending on how organised you are), grouping those meals to maximise ingredients and leftovers and then shopping to collect the items needed to prepare those meals.
Meal planning helps you save money because you only buy the things you have a plan how to use. It prevents waste in every sense (money, food and time) by saving you from buying things you don’t need or things that will just sit in the fridge and go off. Putting in a little bit of planning on one day means you don’t actually have to think about what you are going to cook on the other six days of the week.
I usually do this planning on a Sunday night. I look at my week ahead including what events I have to plan around and what extra meals/events/morning teas etc I have to worry about. On good weeks I bake something for the kids lunch boxes. I browse through cookbooks for ideas and book mark good ideas (but honestly I don’t always follow recipes to the letter – I regularly freestyle in the kitchen). I check the pantry to see what I have, then I write I list of all items I need to find. I like to plan a mix of simple and complicated meals, including ones that can be whipped up from basic ingredients I have on hand. Then I do the shopping the next day. I try and have enough flexibility in my plan that I can still jump on a good bargain or make a few substitutes if some ingredient turns out to be expensive or poor quality when I am at the shops.
There are plenty of menu planning apps out there, but for me paper is the simplest. It’s the same with shopping lists. I do have a shopping list on my phone that can be accessed by both my husband and I. This way if he wants me to buy something, or finds we need something then he just adds it to this joint list. Sometimes I’ll add all my stuff to this list. Since I usually have my phone with me at the store it can be helpful to have the list on there, but in terms of planning I find organising my thoughts on paper in front of me helps me decide the best places to go. If there are lots of items in the grains and staples section, then it’s probably worth going to the bulk whole foods store first then a near by grocer – or vice versa. However, if I only have one deli item then I can edit my meal plan and postpone whatever meal it was that needed that item so that I don’t have to go out of my way. Or maybe I can visit a grocer that has deli inside so I can pick up that item as I go.
I put together this PDF to help me and you are most welcome to share it. What are you dealing planning and shopping tips.