The dreaded ‘what’s for dinner?’ being asked multiple times a day probably gets on my nerves more than the incessant ‘Mum’ing I get the rest of the time. The constant brain block of what to do for dinner, the shopping list, the endless boredom of the same few meals every week because when you do have a spare couple of seconds to actually think about the week ahead all you can think of is fish fingers and chips, beans on toast and spaghetti Bolognese. By this point all creativity has been killed off so the idea of coming up with a new meal to try is off the table. Tired of this vicious circle I decided to break it in favour of a no headache meal planning method.
I couldn’t find any inspiration anywhere that really ticked all the boxes of what I wanted to achieve, so I came up with my own strategy and it seems to working quite well for us at the moment. So how did I achieve this new method of no headache meal planning? I grabbed a few supplies, my label printer and set to work with following steps.
All for One
It takes a village, or so the saying goes. This means getting everyone involved in the decision making process. Gather the whole family around the table with a note book. We always have a Sunday roast, so for a months’ worth of dinners all I needed was 24 more meal ideas. This is where your tiny tribe come into it. Let them know they can have their favourite meals if they agree to eat everyone else’s too. It works better than you would think even with picky eaters! There are primarily 4 of us for the most part, so we each had 6 dinners to come up with, and to be fair it took us less than 5 minutes to fill that list with a fairly good variety of both ‘freezer’ and more complicated meals. Job done!
Pick n Mix
This is where my geek levels went into over drive as I did input all the dinner options onto a table so I could print and cut them out. The left me with 24 sticks which I put into a spare mason jar we had. Once a week we call the kids down, they pick 2 dinners each and we pick the last 3. It’s exciting for them to see what gets pulled out of the jar each week and because they feel involved in the process, sulks over dinner have vastly diminished. We keep a little envelope to the side and pop the ‘used dinner’ options in there so we don’t have repeats in the same month. We also have a few blank sticks for any new dinners we want to try or for takeaways we want to factor in.
Now grab your diary and see what you have going on when. Got a busy evening that week? Order your meals around those events, easy dinners on busy days and more time consuming dinners on the days you’ve got the time! Either way by synchronising your meal plan with your diary you are helping to maintain a no headache meal planning life!
Keep It Seen
Our meal plan is on the fridge door, visible all the time. Wherever is easiest for you to keep it, make sure it is easy to see. That way you will be able to get meats out the freezer that need defrosting, fend of ‘what’s for dinner?’ bombardments from the kids, and save yourself the hassle of trying to remember what you were supposed to be having for dinner each night along with everything else you need to retain in your Mum Brain!
Shop What You Need
By doing your meal plan you will save yourself a heap of time, energy and money by only buying what you actually need that week. I spent a little while setting out a printable spreadsheet based on what we usually buy, what we would need to buy for all our meal options and some treats like wine. I put it in aisle order, and no you do not have to do that too I was just getting my geek on! When we have done the meal plan, we systematically go through the shopping list adding the items we need that week ready to head out to the supermarket. We only buy what is on the list, because it is based on our dinners that week and there’s no point getting extra food in if you aren’t planning to eat it.
Keep Your Options Open
Now one thing we do in addition to the weekly plan is ensure we have backup dinners in the freezer because sometimes life takes over and a meal you had planned that day just isn’t going to work because xyz reasons. And that’s fine! We always freeze any leftovers from a dinner. Lasagne is always a good one, and I do purposefully cook extra of that for the freezer. It takes the stress out of unexpected changes to the day and allows you to keep your options open without having to go and buy more food in the process.
Pennies and Pounds
One of the best by products of this no headache meal planning method is the pennies and pounds you will save in the process. We set a weekly food budget, based on what we were spending, in the lead up to a no spend month just to see how much we could actually save by living frugally for just 4 weeks. We were genuinely surprised that by following a meal plan and only buying what we needed we could halve our food budget some weeks. Over a month this enabled us to save enough money to buy a new sofa with cash! That’s no small change! We saved every penny of it by living frugally and being wise in our food shopping. We also noted how little food was ending up in the bin each week too, as we were becoming more aware of what we had to use up. My dairy free banana muffin recipe has never had so many outings. So pennies in your pocket and saving the planet at the same time is pretty awesome.
So that’s it, my No Headache Meal Planning Method, which will save your sanity, pennies and the planet in one go! Have a go, see how you get on and let me know how you found it.