Breaking out of the mould here guys - brace yourselves. This is not, and I repeat, this is not a recipe post! It is also not a round up or any other of those things I have done before. Instead this is something that my instagram family has talked to me about at great length. It is something I believe makes your life much much simpler and today I am sharing how I do it. In case the title wasn't a dead giveaway we are talking about Meal Planning. Meal Planning is the way to go if you want to be more efficient, spend less time in the kitchen, keep your groceries within budget and just be less stressed all around.
I am sharing my approach to Meal Planning and the simple sheet I use. It is pretty non fancy, but it does the trick 🙂
1.) Make a list
...preferably on your computer or somewhere you'll never lose it. I am attaching a link to a sheet here that can get you started. The idea - one I got from my husband - is to write down every single thing you cook regularly by category and put it in one place. That way when you're trying to figure out what to cook your options are already there and you just need to move them around. The categories in mine are what made sense to me and I have a few filled out to give you a sense of what goes there for me. If you are someone who does not for example cook a lot of Pakistani food then you can probably make the categories more concise!
Building the list the very first time is a little time consuming for sure. That said you should think of it as an investment in your future sanity!
2.) Make Your Sheet (or edit mine)
I plan every meal in advance. That includes the kids school lunches, my lunches when I am trying to be more health conscious, snacks when I know I have something specific to use up and recipe testing for the blog. I usually go with a Monday-Sunday schedule, but will move it around sometimes to suit my needs. Once upon a time I would do two week schedules, but I found those fairly taxing and went back to the one week format.
3.) Go through your fridge
With the heavy stuff out of the way open the fridge and go through your vegetable drawers. Figure out what you need to use up so you can make dishes that use up those ingredients before they turn. This is a great way to be more budget friendly and eco friendly because unnecessary food waste is good for no one. A quick glance at your freezer/pantry doesn't hurt either. Jot down the stuff you want to use up the following week.
4.) Fill It Out
Now comes the easier part, go through your what to cook sheet, prioritize dishes with the ingredients that you need to use up and fill it out. Filling in the sheet can take a little bit of time especially the first time around, but trust me it is totally worth it because it makes things so much easier for the whole week.
As any one who cooks Pakistani food knows it can take quite a bit of time so generally I don't recommend cooking fresh food every single day. Instead it makes more sense to cook enough food on one day to last for two. That way you're freeing up time you'd otherwise spend in the kitchen. I also value my sanity and usually pick a day in the week where I won't cook. On that day we can eat leftovers or bake some fish or anything else quick and simple.
Like many parents who have kids I also have to be mindful of my kids classes and schedules. For example if my daughter has soccer on a weekday evening then that isn't the day to be making biryani. Not only does dinner need to be quick, but also something we won't smell like the entire time we are sitting there!
One of the happy perks of meal planning is better grocery shopping.
Once my sheet is filled out I make a grocery list according to what I need for the week. Since I am semi nuts I organize my grocery list by aisle - I've been going to the same grocery store for years and I know what order it is laid out in. This makes my grocery shopping more quick and efficient and saves me from walking through the aisles all dazed and confused. During the week I also have a magnetic notepad on the fridge where I write the random things that I need to get like toothpaste, etc. and those will also make it onto the grocery list.
Meal Planning Does NOT Equal Rigidity
If one fine day I am craving Shawarma then guess what folks I will get Shawarma. If every single thing doesn't go according to plan because that's just life then that's fine. Just move those ideas around for next week and it's like you gave yourself a headstart!
So what do you think? Do you meal plan? Will you start? Share your thoughts below!