If you are not already planning your meals each week, chances are you’re wasting a lot of time and money. Effective meal planning can make your life a great deal easier, freeing up time and cash, and making your household more environmentally friendly by ensuring as little as possible goes to waste.
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is all about listing what you are going to eat at each meal. Menu planning will usually cover an entire week of meals. Certain ladies’ magazines will offer a complete menu plan with recipes, so all you have to do is clip and save them, try the dishes, and see which your family likes. You will soon come up with a few weekly menu plans of all-new family favorites.
You can also do it yourself using your family’s favorite recipes. Make a list and then start buying the ingredients to prepare them in rotation.
Meals and Snacks
You will need to plan two or three meals a day, plus structured snacks. Try to make a balanced menu overall for the week, without too much red meat or saturated fat. Try to eat a rainbow of vegetables. Think of interesting snacks your family can take with them that do not require refrigeration. Go beyond the sandwich for lunch to make-and-go Thermos recipes or heat-and-eat meals.
Transform Your Proteins
One roast or rotisserie chicken can be stretched to many meals with a bit of menu planning. So can a pork tenderloin or a roast beef. Cook and eat the meal hot on a Sunday, for example, and portion the rest of the protein into a range of dishes. Family-pleasing options include:
* Stir fry
* Chicken salad with mayonnaise and celery
* Sliced chicken for sandwiches
* Sliced roast beef for sandwiches
* Salad topped with protein strips
* Chicken Caesar salad
* Homemade TV dinners using the rest of the leftovers
* Pot pie
* Stuffed peppers
* Stuffed potato skins
* Baked ziti with protein of your choice
* Homemade egg rolls or wonton cups
* And much more
The Leftover Dilemma
It’s important to make the most of your leftovers. Studies have shown that Americans actually throw away 50% of the food they buy. This means if you are spending $100 in a week on groceries, you’re throwing $50 straight in the trash. Menu planning is the solution.
Part of the issue is that many people don’t like leftovers. They want something new and interesting every night of the week. You might start out with the best of intentions, but as the latest dish you cook or the takeaway you have ordered shoves last night’s leftovers to the back of the fridge, they will soon be forgotten and go to waste.
Fridges preserve food well, but most dishes will start to break down and become inedible within a couple of days. The solution? Make-and-freeze meals.
If your partner refuses to touch leftovers, it is time to arm yourself with some plastic or glass food containers and start parceling up your leftovers into homemade TV dinners. This is a great way to menu plan because you can cater to any taste or special menu, such as vegetarian or gluten free, and even watch your weight through effective portion control.
Serve as-is again, such as sliced pork loin with sweet potatoes and corn. Or, portion your protein into various meals as outlined above. Label each container and freeze. Write down on a list how many containers you have of each dish. Cross them off as you use them, and make a note on a second list that it’s time to make more once you are running low.
Cook and parcel leftovers for a week in this way, and you will soon have a freezer full of ready meals.