Do you plan your weekly meals?
Yes this might sound boring and rigid but trust me, by planning ahead for the week you will be much better off in so many ways. Plus it can still allow for flexibility for that Friday night beer and pizza.
Before we go into the hows let’s look at why meal planning and prep is da bomb-diggity.
1. It saves you time
This reason is the most appealing to me - who doesn’t need a few more extra hours in the day? Yes meal planning does take time initially but overall it works out way more time effective. Plus it doesn’t have to mean that you prepare every single meal in advance, it’s more of a guide for the week which saves that agonising procrastination of ‘what are we / I having for breakfast/lunch/dinner?’
Other ways you can save time by meal planning:
Reducing your trips to the supermarket. By planning your meals for the week you may only need to make one trip a week to gather all your ingredients. Unless you forget something.
Reducing aimless wandering at the supermarket. If you already know what meals you are having then you can find the ingredients you need easier. This also helps if you visit the same shop and are already familiar with the layout of the shop.
Knowing what needs to be prepped, and prep it! When you know what meal you are having you can prepare the ingredients ahead of time. For example, we have onion in most of our meals, rather than chopping the amount you need for that meal, chop a load of it and store in containers for future meals. This also saves time on washing and drying your knife and chopping board for the 3-4 times you have to chop an onion. You may even go a step further and chop all your veg.
Leftovers. Making a larger meal the night previous means you have a pre-prepared meal for the following day, eliminating the need to waste time on sourcing and creating extra meals.
2. It reduces food waste and saves you money
By taking the time to plan what food you need you are purchasing exactly what you need for the week. That means there is less risk of food sitting untouched in your pantry or fridge going to waste. Not only is this better for the environment but it’s certainly better for your wallet.
3. It often means you make healthier food choices
Be honest: how many times have you gone to the supermarket in the evening to get something for dinner and a chocolate bar (or six) have ‘slipped’ into your trolley? Or you’ve had no time to get food organised and you’ve just had to grab something on the go which is neither nutritionally beneficial nor cost effective?
Knowing that you have ample food in the house, and food prepped is also a weight off the mind, making it easier for you to focus on other things.
In summary, planning ensures you make the right choices, while saving you time and money.
So now comes the how - below are the top things to remember when meal prepping:
1. Dissect your week - which day or meal times do you struggle with?
Everyone is different, and everyone's needs are different. Some people need to save more time in the morning, others have limited time in the evening. Have a look at your typical week and see where you feel you may need a time-saver, and plan your meals to save yourself the time you need. Dissect your marathon days and look to plan simple meals or prepare food for later that day.
Breakfast: Often this can be the first meal to go if you are running late or you feel it will take too long to prepare. Planning your breakfast the night before can be really helpful in this situation. By organising simple food that can go in the microwave, blender or oven can be a real time saver. That way you have a quick breakfast ready to go.
Lunch: If you find that half of your lunch break is used up looking for food then this is for you. Make larger portions of dinner the night prior so that you have leftovers or prepare salad jars ahead of time.
Dinner: That age old question. 'What's for dinner?'. If you planned ahead you would already know what's for dinner, and you have all the ingredients for it. A different way of thinking about it would be to change that old age question to 'how can we prepare dinner?' and 'will there be leftovers?'
2. Crack open the cookery books, share recipes with friends or be inspired online.
3. Use the AX meal planner (here) to map out your meals and create a shopping list (remember to account for leftovers if you plan to make larger dinners.)
4. Complete your weekly shop.
5. Decide if you are going to make any meals in full i.e. something in the slow cooker that can be left or if you are just going to prepare ingredients ready for meals later on in the week.
6. Divide out into containers ready for the week
7. Post the meal plan somewhere in sight (the fridge is a great spot) that way you can always refer to it.
How to make it NOT boring.
Leftovers are amazing but it can get boring eating the same thing again and again, it can leave you feeling dissatisfied and could potentially lead you to seek out other food or make less than healthy choices when snacking.
This is how we tackle it. Either we’ll make up large batches of at least two recipes, we’ll eat half of each and freeze the other half. It means we’ve got food for later. Alternatively you have two meals you put on rotation. Salad bowls/jars are amazing for this. For example you can roast a range of veggies. Divide them out and mix different ingredients together so one day you can be having the veggies with quinoa, hummus and falafel and Or mix with feta and make puff pastry veggie pies, or mix with eggs and almond meal to make a frittata or quiche.
Ready to start planning?
Download the AX Meal Planner HERE.