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.

This Lazy Housewife Fights Back

When I was a teenager, I used to wish I could finally be an adult so I could do whatever I wanted. It’s got to be the Number One wish of all teenagers, right? And now that I am here, I will be endlessly grateful that I no longer need take an exam unless I want to, that I can stay up late any day of the week and that I’ll never again be told to eat up my greens.

But of course that’s not quite the whole picture, and not just because I’ve got me a baby and the late nights exist not so much by design but by the will of a howling gremlin. With adulthood come some responsibilities that I have been surprisingly slow to address in my life. I have made flippant comments in the past about the fact that I am lazy, and whilst I laugh about it, it actually has some negative impact on my life and I am now at the point where I need to do something about it. Two things in particular I have had to look to make some changes: cleaning and finances.

English: This is a picture of a stiff whisk br...

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Cleaning

When I lived in other people’s houses, I could never remember to do my chores and had to be nagged all the time. It was not exactly the end of the world then, but now that I am in control of my own house, it has some bad consequences. Whilst I could justify not doing much housework when I was doing a three-hour daily commute to London, now that I stay at home there is something awkward and slightly shameful in the fact that the first thing Badgerman does on a Saturday morning is to clean the bathroom. If I can find a couple of hours a day to read blogs and play games online, I should be able to find a half-hour to hoover the floor. And yet, for the last seven months I have got by with the bare minimum. No more my friends.

I was inspired by Jen, a blogger who writes at I Heart Organizing about how she orders her life and who I quite frankly wish I was more like in this area (even though such tidiness is a bit intimidating to me). And she makes lists! There is nothing that fills me with more satisfaction than making a good old list. Fighting laziness really is a battle for me, and I need visuals to help overcome the sheer effort it takes me to do anything. So this week I made a cleaning rota with daily, weekly and monthly goals to tick off and hopefully it will help me get on with it. I do have an uncomfortable feeling that making the list was the most fun I am going to have with this one.

Finances

In addition in a few weeks my maternity pay comes to an end and I have to find ways to implement our family income.

First thing, I am going to have a meal rota. I know, loads of people do it but I’ve never needed to until now and it requires the kind of discipline I struggle to implement in my personal life (not professionally though, I am a super organised PA I’ll have you know – go figure). Impulse buying is not good for our purse so I am going to give it a shot. We’re going to have theme nights and I might even made a funky menu board like this incredible blogger Clair whose ideas for a board and menu planning I am totally going to steal right, left and centre. If it’s not fun, I know it won’t last and I LOVE the idea of a board; I got loads of other ideas from Pinterest. I’ll keep you posted on how it develops.

And then finally, I am going to go self-employed and offer piano lessons for beginners and French tuition. This is a Very Scary Thought. I have given piano lessons before but never French, because school = shudder and I didn’t want to relive any of it even by proxy. But it was a long time ago and I really feel that it is what I should be doing.

All in all, I’ve had quite a lot of thoughts in the last week or so and I am pleased that it might actually come to fruition. It makes me feel almost adult and possibly a little less lazy.