Meal Planning Tips + Free Templates blog post 231115

Meal Planning Tips + Free Templates!

Meal Planning Tips + Free Templates blog post 231115

I have been meaning to post on the topic of meal planning for a while. It’s a very practical tool that I am passionate about, and my aim today is to show how I plan meals to save money on food shopping. It’s not rocket science and it’s not original, but it works. I will also be sharing the two templates I use on a weekly basis to do this, to be used by anyone without having to create a whole system from scratch.

First, a bit of background: I started meal planning out of necessity. About two years ago, I was at home with the kids and not contributing financially to our household, and we were struggling to live within our means without touching our overdraft. I had never pre-planned what we ate before and Badgerman and I are both naturally willing to spend a bit more on higher quality meat and fair trade items, which are not particularly cheap options. An Etsy shop of fancy little sewing projects was never going to be on the cards so I had to find alternate ways to save.

I was struggling to see how I would do it, and yet, since implementing a simple meal planning system, I have been able to cut our food budget by about a quarter by being intentional about the way I shop and plan meals.

Online Shopping

The first thing I did was to start shopping online. Again, necessity. I had a newborn and no car, no way was I going to try to do a weekly shop by foot! Thankfully, most UK supermarkets have an online delivery service nowadays, and you can either collect in store or get your shopping delivered to your home for a small fee. The added bonus, actually make that the main attraction, is that the stress of shopping with small children is taken out of the equation altogether, and that has had an immediate effect on quality of life. I seriously could weep at how grateful I am for online shopping. Obviously I still occasionally shop in store but I try to do it on my own rather than take the children if I can help it, and it’s almost fun!

Meal Planning Tips

Planning meals doesn’t have to be stressful. Most weeks, it only takes me 30 minutes from start to finish to plan and shop for a week’s worth of meals. For this to work, you do need to have a system in place. It took me about a year to implement purely because I lacked motivation, rather than because it was massively time-consuming. Once I sat down and decided I was going to do this, it only really took a few evenings to be up and running.

The first thing I recommend is having a pre-written shopping checklist. My mum has been using one for years and I could see how helpful it was so I basically just updated her list to suit my shopping habits. It is much easier to run through such a list than to hope you will remember everything. Ideally, I would have the list on the fridge for easy access so it can be filled as we run out of items; alas, it seems that even in plain view, it is surrounded by a (selective) invisibility shield. For now, I’ve given up hope that it will be filled in by anyone but me.

Shopping List 2015 pic afal

And so, here’s the first template! I’ve made the list in Word document so it can easily be amended to fit personal preferences: Shopping List Template

The second thing I recommend is creating a list of go-to recipes. I went on Pinterest looking for menu planning ideas and found amazing homemade meal planning boards. I even toyed with the idea of making one for five minutes before deciding it was too much faff. But you can see the Pinterest board I compiled right here!

The main idea I got from looking at these boards is that it is much easier to plan ahead for a week or two with a visual aid so I decided to create individual recipe cards that would include the list of all the ingredients required to make the dish.

This is really easy to do:

  1. Create a label template in Microsoft Word.
  2. Compile a list of recipes used on a regular basis, plus any special occasion recipes, and write down the list of ingredients against the title (see picture below).
  3. Colour code: it looks more attractive and helps visualise the week better. There are endless combinations, but I went with blue for fish, green for meat-free dishes, red for red meat, orange for all other meats (pork, poultry, etc) and purple for special occasions.
  4. Print the pages and fold in the middle so that each recipe card has the recipe title on one side and the list of ingredients on the other. This way, you don’t need to forage into recipe books to figure out what you need to buy. You can just take your box of cards, pull out the recipes you fancy making that week and fill out your shopping list there and then.
  5. Laminate and cut to size.

recipe list pic afal

If I think I won’t remember which recipe book it comes from, I make a note of it on the card with the page number. Every so often, I add a recipe to the template and print the latest page.

Here is the Recipe Labels Template; it is ready to amend with your own recipes.

recipe labels close-up

So there you go! I hope this is a useful post, and don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments section.

Pray For Paris

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know what to say right now. My family is safe, and I am relieved. It is but a small thing in light of yesterday’s events.

I stand with the world in bewilderment and horror that such atrocities happen here, there, and anywhere. I stand alongside my Muslim friends and I urge everyone to care for them and to treat them as you would like to be treated. Let’s not blame anyone but those who have taken ownership of the barbarity that took place, these IS terrorists who would have us believe that they are a true representation of Muslim beliefs.

British recycling woes

British Recycling Woes 061115 400x

Photo credit: Zainub Razvi

Last month, England introduced new legislation that requires supermarkets to stop providing free single use plastic bags at the till and to charge at least 5 pence for the biodegradable ones. Until now, you were already able to buy these alongside the free ones, but now the latter have been removed from circulation altogether in most supermarkets.

The media was all over this of course, with the usual trash popular newspapers spreading their own brand of fear-mongering with predictions of supermarket queues, confused shoppers and possibly riots. One headline in particular made me laugh by stating in a tone of despair that in order to avoid the 5p charge, people would be ‘forced to bring their own bags.

‘But that’s the POINT!’ I wanted to shout.

England is actually a bit late in the game. Wales implemented the same policy in 2011, Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014. I can’t help but feel that the negative publicity, in light of the ecological blight that plastic bags are on the environment, and the cost to retailers to provide them, to be badly misjudged.

There are many times when I have felt in tune with English people in my reactions to various news and events but in this instance, I have observed and experienced the media storm generated by this nationwide change as an outsider, because it has been years (at least since 2005) that France has taken this policy. I will admit, it has been a shock to turn up at the till in French supermarket and be forced to put all my shopping back in the trolley without bags because not only do they not supply any, but they don’t tend to sell the biodegradable ones at the till either. I don’t know where they sell them in fact. I sure can never find them when I am desperately trying to carry 4 tins of tuna, a massive box of corn flakes, two baguettes and a bottle of wine (and don’t forget the string of garlic round my neck) with my bare hands. You are expected to come prepared and provide your own bags.

So what. It’s a great opportunity to change bad habits and to train myself, not only to keep bags in the truck of my car, but also to remember to take them out to go to the shops. Right now, even that is beyond my brain to remember but I am hopeful. Even better, I should stop using plastic altogether and bring the rafia and hemp bags out. I suspect I will continue to forget a few times before it has sunk in, but it will happen eventually, and our planet will be the better for it.

31 days to love all things French {day thirty-one}

{day thirty-one} 31 days to love all things French


This is it, the final day of my series on how to Frenchify Your Life.

31 days of actually finishing something

I cannot believe I managed to post every day for 31 days. When I first started, I thought I would get really stressed half-way through and give up. I was convinced I would not have enough content to write for such a sustained period. But I did it! I may have neglected my studies to do this (like, a lot) but it feels like such an accomplishment. This is particularly the case because Failing To Complete is one of the things I struggle with the most in my everyday life. I have a tendency to be full of fire and motivation when I begin something but the novelty soon wears off and I often don’t finish what I have started. It happens to me all the time. And yet, here I am on day 31, with 31 posts. I am giving myself license to go ‘yay me!’.

31 days of learning about blogging

I learnt a couple of things about blogging, namely that creating graphics takes FOREVER but should definitely not be neglected, and that if I trusted my gut and stopped nit-picking at my posts, it wouldn’t take me so long to write them.

31 days of… decent posts?

In my introductory post on 1st October, I stated that one of my fears when I started on this venture was that it would turn into an exercise in churning out posts of poor quality and/or low interest and value, just for the sake of writing. I tried to avoid this by planning topics and posts in advance rather than writing every evening for the next day, and considering the amount of research some of the posts required, I dare say it is a good thing I did! I feel I reached my goal of producing good content (I think! I hope?).

31 days of recommendations, just for fun

I forgot to say it in the actual posts, but I was not approached by anyone to review products, nor did I receive monetary rewards by companies or authors for any of the recommendations I made throughout this series. I did it purely because I personally like or use the products and sites mentioned. This said, most of the Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that if you were to go through the links to purchase the stated item, I would receive a small token of money which would go towards supporting the site.

31 days of French things

I hope you enjoyed the various topics I explored around the elusive subject of what it means to be French, and that the recommendations inspired you. We talked about food, education, history, beauty products and French novelists to name but a few, and I had a lot of fun writing some of the more random posts (hello, Napoleon!). Which one was your favourite? As you saw from my post on fashion, the fact that I know nothing about a particular subject will not stop me writing, if anything I will send you out onto the internet towards someone with more expertise. Do you have a burning question about France or French people you wish I had addressed? As ever, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or the comments section if you want me to write about anything in particular to do with France and the French (or food).

I am now going to take a break for a couple of weeks to catch up on my studies for an assignment deadline on 10th November. I have no big plans beyond that, no big blog announcement of any sort but I aim to continue to write once a week as life allows.

If you missed any of this month’s posts again, I have curated the entire series on one page, which you can find under my main blog headings at the top of every page, or by clicking the graphic below. Thanks for staying with me this month, and happy reading!

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French apple tart

Classic French Recipe: Tarte aux pommes {day thirty}


{day thirty} Classic French Recipe- Tarte aux Pommes

One should never under-estimate the power of a good picture. To conclude my 31 days series, I was all set to make my favourite dessert, a delicious puff pastry filled with frangipane (almond cream) and black cherries. Then I posted a picture of a French Apple Tart I made at the weekend on my personal Facebook page and got so many comments and likes I decided there and then that I would share the recipe here today. There is something very satisfying about this picture, don’t you agree?

French apple tart

The recipe comes from Michel Roux Sr‘s Pastry book, that I mentioned on Day 5.


  • 300 g shortcrust pastry or sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 6 dessert apples (about 850 g) like Cox’s
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 60g butter
  • 80g caster sugar

cut apple tart


1. The pastry: Roll out the pastry to a round, 3 mm thick, and use to line a lightly buttered 24 cm diameter (3 m deep) loose-bottomed tart tin or flan ring. Pinch up the edges with your index finger and thumb at 1 cm intervals to make a fluted edge a little higher than the rim. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

2. Make the apple compote: Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Peel, core and halve the apples. Place cut-side down on a board and cut into 2 mm thick slices. Put a third of the apples (the outer smaller slices) into a saucepan. Keep the other two-thirds packed together (to stop them discolouring). Add 50 mls water, the vanilla pod and butter to the apples in the pan and cook gently until tender. Take off the heat, discard the vanilla pod and work the apples, using a whisk, to a compote consistency (it should be creamy). Leave to cool.

3. Make the glaze: in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 40 ml water. Bring to the boil and bubble for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup. Leave to cool.

4. Put it together: Take the pastry base out of the fridge and prick the base lightly with a fork. Pour in the cold apple compote and spread gently with a spoon. Arrange a border of overlapping apple slices around the tart, then arrange another circle inside, with the slices facing the other way. Fill the centre with a little rosette of small slices, trimming to fit as necessary. Bake for about 35 minutes until the pastry and apples are evenly cooked to a light golden colour.

5. Leave the tart to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing the flan ring or tart tin. Brush the top with the glaze, place the tart on a wire rack and leave until just cooled. Transfer to a place and serve cut into slices (with vanilla ice cream).

French apple tart


  • I didn’t have a vanilla pod, so I used a teaspoon of pure vanilla paste, which worked very well.
  • I had problems with the glaze, maybe not enough water, but whatever the reason it hardened as it cooled rather than staying syrupy. I had no choice but to reheat it to brush over the tart and of course, it turned rather gloopy. The tart tasted great, but was not as glossy as it could have been.

slice of apple tart


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