M is for Meal Planning: A-Z of Simple Living

Meal Planning Image via Kyla Roma
{via Kyla Roma on Flickr}

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?


Meal planning.

You understand the benefits. You know it’s a good idea. You can see it helps save both money and energy.

But, honestly…

  • Thinking of endless new recipes?
  • Keeping everyone’s preferences in mind?
  • Finding good, seasonal produce?
  • Remembering what you have on hand already?
  • Shopping for specific ingredients?

Who has the energy?

But the reality is that without meal-planning, you have to do this each and every day.

Simple living is all about reducing unnecessary stress, and focusing on the good stuff. And a good meal plan will set you up for a week or more, meaning you only have to think about the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” once.

The trick? Think of meal planning like a good, hard work out – when you’re in the midst of it you curse the decision to ever start, but once you’ve finished and are benefiting from the results, you can see that the short-term pain was worth the long-term gain.

If You Don’t Know Where to Start:

1. Decide how often you will write out your meal plan.

Weekly? Fortnightly? I have a friend who plans her family meals 10 weeks at a time. It’s just important to establish what works best for you.

2. How will you write the plan itself?

I use the age-old method of pen and paper, but there are multiple apps, beautiful printables and online programs you can use if you prefer a more high-tech solution. Just make sure it doesn’t distract more than help you.

3. Write out the plan.

Take a piece of paper, write out the menu for the coming fortnight on the bottom half. Make sure to include lunches too, as well as any baking you plan to do.

4. Write out the grocery list.

On the top half of the paper write your shopping list for the week/fortnight. It’s easiest to do this at the same time as the meal plan – to ensure no ingredients are missed – and reduce the need for last-minute trips to the shop.

Meal-Planning Hacks to Make Your Job Even Easier:

Hack #1: It’s Perfectly Fine to Cook the Same Meal – Frequently.

If you have a family favourite there is no problem in repeating it consistently. My kids love these salmon patties (bonus Mum Points for their incredible vegetable-hiding ninja-skills) and we have them once a week at least.

I haven’t had a complaint yet.

Hack #2: Have the same ‘type’ of food on particular days of the week.

For example:

  • Monday: Pasta
  • Tuesday: Slow cooker meal
  • Wednesday: Left overs
  • Thursday: Seafood
  • Friday: Homemade pizza
  • Saturday: BBQ
  • Sunday: Soup

This simply reduces the stress of what to choose for each day when writing your plan. Obviously you can find a huge variety when it comes to each type of food, meaning you’re not locked in to the same seven meals every week.

Hack #3: Know your schedule.

You know your family’s work, play and school schedule better than anyone. Do yourself a kindness and use this knowledge to plan quick and simple meals for your busy days.

Hack #4: Try new things.

Set yourself a goal of trying one new recipe per plan.You’re certain to discover some new favourites, some not-so-favourites and to keep growing your repertoire over time.

All You Have to Lose is Time Spent at the Shop.

Meal planning really doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. After all, the reason we do things like this is to make life simpler, not harder. We want to free up time for what is important: like drinking cocktails and chasing unicorns.

11 Responses to M is for Meal Planning: A-Z of Simple Living

  1. A) Meal planning always makes my life easier when I get my crap together and do it and B) made your salmon cakes and they rocked…all five of us ate and enjoyed instead of two who ate and three who groaned at the gross fish tasting ‘piles’ and one of those was traditionally the husband!

    Thanks – your posts are saving me right now :)

  2. There are four of us in our family and I ask each member to choose one meal each week. That way everyone gets a say and I only have to decide on the other 4 (usually more like 2 or 3). And my girls (ages 6 and 8) think it’s pretty cool to be included in such an important decision – and they are more likely to happily eat a meal they have chosen.

  3. I know you are so right. Life is so much simpler and slower when I take the time I do a little planning. Why oh why is it so hard sometimes. Thanks for the reminders and inspirational messages. I have really enjoyed them.

  4. I meal plan and have come to the realisation that my young children love having the same meals over and over again. At this stage in my life, I figure “Why make it hard?!” The things they love are nutritious and my husband doesn’t mind either. I throw in the odd new recipe if I come across one… and often they turn into a new favourite.

    I think it’s vital to give ourselves permission to make the same things each week! You know what to purchase from the shop, cooking them becomes second nature and the kids are happy! WIN!

    Thanks for your fantastic A-Z series. I’m really enjoying it!

  5. Can I just say, this is one of my favourite blogs! And thank you so much for introducing me to other wonderful blogs too. I already plan my meals but I followed the link to the salmon fish cakes. Looking forward to trying them. They sound delicious!

  6. I really need to read this….. I’ve just ordered pizza – not the sort of thing I’m supposed to eat on my diet.