Okay, so yesterday it rained for the first time in what seems like forever. With temperatures staying above 30ºC all Summer, it was a relief to finally get some chillier weather. Autumn is officially on it's way (although I'm guessing these cooler temperatures aren't going to stay around for long).
And with the change of weather comes the end of my holidays. Tomorrow is my first day back at work. I've been using these holidays to come up with some future posts, though I won't be promising any set schedules considering my past posting failures. One of the things I wanted to share was Meal Planning. I used to be really good at this. I mean REALLY good at this. I would print out a calendar, plan a week of meals and go shopping every Saturday morning. Food waste was minimal and it helped keep my monthly shopping bills low. However, since I finished my studies and began working, and went from a one-person household to a two-person household, I have lost my way. Adri is the one who does most of the cooking now and I can't remember the last time I printed a calendar to plan our meals for the week.
With the beginning of the new work year, however, I've decided to try to get back into the routine of planning and shopping regularly. Even though we do usually go shopping only once a week, we tend to buy a lot of things we don't use, which has led us to spend a lot of unneeded money and increased our food waste. Not good.
Not only have I decided to plan the meals but I've also been looking into serious meal prepping strategies: freezing ingredients for slow cooker meals, pre-chopping veggies and preparing meals to freeze over the weekend. With Adri going back to class and me working, it's going to be difficult to find the time to get lunch or dinner on the table.
So, why this interest in meal planning, you ask? Well, there are numerous benefits that come from planning your meals. Let's see what some of them are:
- More likely to eat healthy. If you know what you're making and have the ingredients to make it, you're less likely to buy ready-made foods or order take-out, especially if you add meal prepping to the planning. If you peel and chop your fruit and veggies and keep them in airtight containers in the fridge, you'll be more likely to eat them.
- Similar to above: less added sugar, less calories, less additives, less unhealthy fats... the list is endless
- You'll know exactly what it is you're eating since you know what you're putting in it.
- Saves time
- Saves money: you'll be less likely to buy food that you won't use and will have to throw away, and therefore...
- Less food waste
- Buying only food that you will need for your week will free up room in your fridge for leftovers and will let air circulate between items, which is necessary to cool items properly
- If you eat at work and prepare your lunch in advance you'll also save money by not having to eat out every day or buy those soggy sandwiches from the vending machine.
When planning your meals, think about what is easier for you and the lifestyle you lead. For us, shopping once a week is ideal but some may prefer to shop once every two weeks or twice a week, depending on family size and the amount of food storage space in your home. Bare in mind that fresh foods tend to go bad if you shop less than twice a week (unless you buy the fresh ingredients when you plan on using them).
I prefer to use a calendar when planning my meals, designed especially for meal planning, but you can use a daily planner or a notebook, or even a blackboard in the kitchen. Mark what days of the week you're not in or are eating out. Bare in mind if you need to take food to work, you'll need to prepare it in advance. In Spain, lunch tends to be a heavier meal and dinner is usually something light, but if you eat at work, perhaps a lighter lunch is easier to take (think sandwiches, rolls, saladas, etc).
I like to plan a different type of meal every day of the week, to make sure we're eating a bit of everything:
Monday: soups and stews (salads in the Summer) - lentil hotpot, chickpea soup, pork stew
Tuesday: meat and veggies
Wednesday: pasta, with tomato sauce, carbonara, cheese...
Thursday: fish and veggies
Friday: rice dishes like paella, broccoli and cheese...
Saturday: whatever we feel like, international food, dining out...
Sunday: roast or leftovers
I tend to just plan lunches, as I said, it's usually the heaviest meal we have, but you can also plan breakfasts and dinners.
If this is your first time meal planning, a good idea is to look at what you have in your fridge and cupboards and think of meals you can make that need those ingredients (don't worry if you don't have all the ingredients yet, we'll make a shopping list in a minute). Pay special attention to food that will go bad if not used quickly.
Once you've picked your meals for the week, it's time to make a shopping list. Go back to your fridge and cupboards and write a list of ingredients that you're missing for these meals. Now pick a day to do your shopping!
I really hope you enjoyed this post. I have loads of post ideas related to meal planning, such as the best type of food containers, creating your own recipe binder, food preparation, money-saving tips for your shopping bill, recipes, etc. If there's a particular topic you'd like me to write about please share in the comments below!!