Morning, hope it’s been a good week for you.

Following on from last week’s post regarding New Year food resolutions, I thought I’d follow it up with my thoughts on menu planning.

I know it sounds boring, dull and stupidly obvious, but sitting down for a few minutes each week to plan ahead can save you both time and money. We got into really bad habits last year, cooking different meals for everyone, buying random food or bargain food (this is me – I do this all the time, just love a yellow sticker) and then forgetting about it until it’s inedible. We were making so many trips to the supermarket and yet still struggled to think of what we were going to eat for dinner. It was time to get organised! It was time to be boring (even more so) and menu plan!

The Plan

I’m not going to pretend – our menu plan is literally a piece of paper with the days of the week scribbled on it – a dash and then the meal proposed. That’s it. I then stick it to the front of the fridge so that we feel guilty if trying to deviate (which we always try and do). It stares out at you shouting ‘No deviating from the plan!!’

Try Not to Repeat

So, it sounds really boring doesn’t it – meal planning for the week and I know some people fall into the trap of repeating the same recipes each week. Don’t do this, as tempting as it can be. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a favourite dish each week (guilty of this – love a good chilli, see my recipe for our Wednesday night chilli ) but don’t replicate everything because a) you’ll be sooo bored and b) you’ll miss out on so many fantastic recipes to try.

Keep it Simple

As with most things I do in life – I try and keep my meals as simple as possible unless of course you want to spend all afternoon, every day cooking, then that’s fine. Unless it’s bread or cake making, when you have to wait in between stage, an hour or less is a good amount of time from prep to finish – in my opinion. This works for me.

Jamie Oliver’s latest book – Seven Ways is a good way of approaching menu planing. He takes seven popular ingredients and offers seven different recipes for them. It’s really good and really simple. I’ve always liked Jamie’s approach to cooking and even though he used to wear dodgy slip on shoes and used a scateboard a lot, I think he’s a good role model all round for food and cooking. Keeping it simple and cooking from scratch.

Balance

Taking the plan to the next level is balancing your meal plan. For fear of totalling boring you, just a quick note on balance. If someone in our house had their way, we’d have pasta every day. If you can and want, try and vary what you’re having. We eat meat in our house, but we try not to have it every day. As a general rule, we’re trying to have a couple a days a week eating vegetarian food only. We also try and include some fish too (even if it’s just fishcakes). By planning your meals, it’s far easier to pack in more nutrients. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Saving Money

So apart from ensuring you’re eating a more balanced diet, the best thing about menu planning is that it will save you money. Honestly! And if you’re really clever (well, not really), you can make meals stretch two days. For instance, a roast on a Sunday can roll over into a really good bubble and squeak on Monday, or a risotto (roast chicken)…etc etc.

As I mentioned, I love a bargain. I often buy marked down meat and fish from the supermarkets to freeze. We always use chicken – every week and mince too, so if I see some that’s been discounted, I pick up a packet or two and freeze it. Ching ching!

So there you have it. My simple notes on menu planning and how it saves both time and money. Give it a go, print off this example and be sure to share your favourite recipes that that would make the plan each week.

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