10 Tips To Make Meal Planning a Little Easier

Less time staring aimlessly at your cupboards, more time spent eating

After a shaky summer where I became best friends with the Domino’s delivery guy, we are back in the swing of things when it comes to meal planning. Through a combination of online supermarket deliveries, making the most of the favourites function on there, meal box deliveries and just generally enjoying clocking off each evening to make dinner (I make dinner and Mark clears up and I feel like he definitely has the bum deal there!), we are eating home-cooked, veggie meals most nights of the week and I’m FEELING IT.

For some the idea of meal planning sounds like an absolute drag and I get it, if you don’t follow some kind of routine it can feel a little haphazard. So here are the steps to put in place to make the process run smoothly, without taking up too much time, brain-power or budget. In fact, we’re spending less on food than ever before (one of the major benefits of cutting down our meat intake!). Here are 10 ideas that you can incorporate into your food buying routine today…

Have a repertoire. I feel like planning out your meals can become really overwhelming when you consider the vast amount of recipes that are out there to try, so instead build yourself a menu that you enjoy cooking and fits in with your lifestyle and keep a list down on your phone or in your diary. That way when it comes to planning, you’ll have your own list with ideas ready to peruse.

Plan for Monday to Friday. For some reason, meal planning for the full Monday to Sunday timetable feels like a real pain in the balls to me. So instead I just plan for Monday to Friday as most of the time at the weekend we’re off out for dinner, or are having people over so we need to grab some fresh items from the supermarket anyway, or we have some leftovers to clear up before the new week begins. Make it manageable; even just planning for Monday to Wednesday, is better than no meal planning at all.

Account for leftovers. Speaking of leftovers, I like to make sure that most of the meals that I cook leave leftovers. If there’s a small amount leftover then Mark or I will gobble it up for lunch the next day, or if it’s more substantial we’ll have it for dinner the next night, just switching up the sides to mix it up a little. This way I’m only ever ‘properly‘ cooking 3-ish dinners a week.

Do an online food shop. If Lily is reading this, this is the part where she’ll scream ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ at the screen, but in all seriousness online food shopping has changed my life. I did my first one back in the summer to arrive on the morning after we got back from a holiday and I’ve been doing them intermittently ever since when we’ve both got busy weeks and can’t make it down to the supermarket. It’s so quick and so easy.

AUTOMATE! If you are going to go down the online shopping route then make the most of the hacks and functions that are available on there. I’ve created categorised shopping lists for myself like ‘Breakfast Supplies’ and ‘Lunch for Mark’, so that all the usual things that I buy are grouped up together. That way I can add all the items from one category into my basket with one click, or go into the list and just add what I need. Most retailers allow you to order exactly the same as last week with just one click too which is so handy.

Make a routine. As always with anything in life, once you’ve ingrained something into a routine then it’s much more likely to happen. I do an online supermarket order on a Thursday (by then we know our plans for the following week) to be delivered early doors the following Monday. On Monday our food box order arrives too and then we have all our food that will last us until the Friday night of that week – breakfast, lunch and dinner – with some room for leftovers at the weekend. Our food box comes it at around £35, the supermarket order at £45-ish, and so we total at just over £10 a day for the two of us for the majority of food we need for the week, minus anything we spend extra at the weekends.

Subscribe to a food box service. Another Lily recommendation that we signed up to over the summer, but I can tell you hand on heart that we have had considerably less takeaways since we started getting a weekly food box. It means I don’t have to plan as many meals and it’s been a fun way to try out new recipes that I hadn’t really given a go before. If I’m not feeling any of the recipes for the week, I just skip it and beef out my online shop (which then comes out at around £75 – so there’s not much difference in price). There are so many you can do; whether you fancy receiving all the ingredients for your meals, or just want to do a fruit and veg box to get more greens into your diet.

Keep it simple. Sometimes I like to make food that challenges me in the kitchen and takes a solid 90 minutes of my time to prepare, but other times I just want something quick – a curry or a one-pot-wonder that I can whip up in half an hour. Good, tasty food doesn’t need to be a faff and I find that having a well stocked herb, spice and seasonings cupboard is the secret. GARLIC GRANULES ARE LIFE!

Share a shopping list. Mark and I have a shared notes list on our phones that we can both access at any time, which we update whenever we’ve run out of something. It makes the ‘Oh s**t we’ve run of loo roll!‘ shenanigan far less likely and it means that if one of us is by a shop we can see what we’re missing and grab it when we’re out and about without making a special trip there.

New ideas. If you have a trusty repertoire that you end up using on repeat, then you might want a bit of variation from time to time. I like to buy the odd cookbook here and there and when I spot recipes on Instagram or online I save or add them to my reading list, so that they are easy to find at a later date. Just make sure you have plenty of time to pour over your new dish and have a tin of baked beans on hand incase it all goes wrong. Beans on toast tonight, eh? 

Photos by Emma Croman

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