Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Meal Planning 101 + My Week's Meals


When I first moved out of home, I was the kind of person who did not plan meals. I could cook and I had a few staples in the pantry or easy meals like boxed Mac&Cheese but I hardly ever planned anything. It didn't help that I walked past the supermarket on my way home every day so I'd just pop in and grab what I wanted.

This was costing between $20-$40 every single day. And that's for two people.

And so I got larger and larger and had little energy, self-esteem or cash in my pocket. I guess I reached breaking point. I dropped down to part-time at uni but I was still at the cusp of overweight, lazy and poor. It took a while to get out of my funk and a part of that I owe to changing my lifestyle.

I started running even though I had asthma as a child and NEVER ran without my lungs giving up on me.

I switched from unhealthy alternatives to healthier versions.

I started eating MORE. You read that right. More.

I started eating breakfast even though all through high school I suffered stomach problems related to anxiety and had hardly ever eaten breakfast.

I snacked on fruit, I packed my lunch for uni rather than buying it. I stopped getting take-out and fast food. I haven't had McDonald's since October 2012 and I've never looked back. It just doesn't even appeal to me any more.

And I started meal planning.




1.0 Firstly, the proper tools

I initially started with something like this, from Kikki K.


It was magnetic and stuck to the fridge, which was great because Byron could see what we were eating for the week. But I've moved on since then (and I got an iPad Air for Christmas) so I'm now using a table I made in Pages. I have two planners going at the one time- one for the week it is and one for the week coming. 




1.1 Deciding On a Menu
For the week coming, I look at what's in my pantry and what is on special at Coles & Woolworths. I usually add to it during the week and then go over it on my shopping day. 

I flip through cook books, magazines and Pinterest. 





You might notice I mainly only plan my dinners. This is only because I'm not at uni at the moment but once I'm back I will for sure be planning my lunches and snacks. I usually only plan breakfast if it's something out of the ordinary.

Make sure if you plan anything extraordinary you put it on a day where you'll have lots of time to prepare. 

1.2 Budgeting
I like to write down what I'm going to buy and how much it is going to cost me. This prevents me from getting a shock at the end of the trip. Sometimes this can be hard because for things like fruit and vege, I have no idea how much it will cost me as prices fluctuate. I try to estimate what it will cost me based on what it did the past week and on any store promotions. Since I started meal planning, I'm saving between $50 & $100 a week. You can really narrow down that margin by buying what's in season, cooking with cheaper cuts and shopping specials and your local farmer's market. 


1.3 Leftovers
Sometimes you will go out for dinner and not use a meal or have leftovers. That's great! Freeze the leftovers and add it to your menu for next week. I cooked roast pork last week and there were lots of leftovers so this week we'll have them twice- once in stir fry and once in "dumplings" (what's really rice paper roll pot-stickers). 


1.4 Spicing Things Up
I like to add at least one new meal a week that I've never tried before. Sometimes they work out great and get added to my rotation. This way you'll never get stuck in the "meat and 3 vege" five nights a week situation. 

1.5 Don't Be Afraid to Rearrange
You were going to cook boring but healthy chicken and rice for dinner on Tuesday but suddenly remembered it's your boyfriend's birthday and want something a little fancier. No stress, just rearrange your meal plan. Swap boring Tuesday's chicken for exciting Friday's taco & margarita extravaganza. The thing I love about my Pages table is that it lets me drag the boxes around so I can easily swap things without any messy crossing off or deleting and re-typing. 

So get started on meal planning. You'll save money and stay healthy and it takes minimum effort when compared to the mad dash to the grocery store at 8 o'clock at night when you're starving!

-Grace




18 comments:

  1. I love reading how others meals plan! The kikki k. Magnetic board is very cute I could use this! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you! I still love my Kikki K board, even if I don't use it as much any more! It's just told cute.

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  2. Thank you thank you thank you! I need to start doing this and I had no idea where to begin. I love to cook, but I am the person who doesn't plan and stops by the grocery store a couple of times a week to pick up dinner.

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    1. Thanks, Nic. I hope it really helps you- all you need to do is start!

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  3. I'm just starting to meal plan so this is great! Thank you!

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    1. You're very welcome! I hope it helps.

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  4. I had to start planning meals after spending so much at the store. It's probably one of my least favorite things to do because I don't get any help. "What sounds good"... "Food." Thanks, you are a huge help. It does save money and time because you don't spend time trying to figure out what you are going to have just to realize you don't have the right ingredients!

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    1. I'm in the same boat- I plan all the meals and couldn't care less who likes them or not! I often put out a feeler of "what do you want for dinner this week?" But if I get no solid reply I just do it all myself.
      That used to be the worst thing when I didn't meal plan- coming home without all the ingredients!

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  5. Wow thanks so much, great blog. I also got an ipad air for Christmas and wanted to do exactly what you have done but had no luck finding something. Thanks I am in the middle of downloading it!

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    1. No problem, Natasha! I use Pages a lot for uni work as well. Once you get used to it, it's great!

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  6. Great tips. I always felt like meal planning was too time consuming but this puts things in better perspective. Going to give it a try. Dropping by from SITS girls

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    1. It is a bit like that- you have to give time to save time! It's well worth it, definitely give it a go!

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  7. Great tips. I try to plan at least four meals a week. Usually at least one of those will yield leftovers, we go out one night, and then I wing it one night. I don't plan which day we'll have which meal though unless I have to defrost meat.

    Stopping by from SITS

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    1. I plan most nights unless I think it will yield leftovers, though I usually have them for lunch. And I'm trying to go out less, which is why I plan my weekends. I never used to but then we'd spend too much money going out.,
      I think you just have to find your method and go with it!

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  8. So glad to hear that meal planning is working for you with so many positive results. I've been doing it for so many years and we eat so much healthier, pay way less for groceries, and get through chaotic times (hospital emergencies & such). Keep up the great work!

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  9. ZipList app has saves me a lot of time no meal planning you might want to give it a try!

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