“What’s for dinner?” is likely a constant refrain in all of our houses. Along with work, school runs, activity shuttling, and managing all the family’s comings-and-goings, we want to get a healthy meal on the table. Some days, it seems like an impossible task. The secret to success? Meal planning! We’ve called on Hong Kong Mom (of four!) and food blogger Gillian Thompson to share her secrets on meal-planning like a pro.
What is Meal Planning?
A meal plan is the way in which you organize yourself to prepare meals for you and your family. It can be made one day to a week or even several months ahead. Without good planning, mealtimes can feel like you’re constantly shopping and cooking for what can seem like neverending midweek-meals. Meal plans can help you save time, money and weight!
Tip #1: Set aside a little time one day a week where you can focus on the week ahead. I normally do this on a Sunday evening with a glass of wine by my side to help the creative juices flow!
Tip #2: Check the fridge for leftovers and other groceries that will need using up during the course of the week.
Tip #3: Check your diary. What does your family schedule look like? Note down all the comings and goings and plan your meals accordingly. What activities do the kids have? Do you have appointments? If you have a particularly busy day one day make sure you plan a really easy meal that night.
Tip #4: Keep a meal planner & weekly schedule. I have a special section on my weekly meal plan where I note down all the daily activities. This way I get a view of the full picture. Fill in all your family members weekly activities as well as noting down what meals you’d like to eat. You can do this by printing off a Google calendar document or you can use a simple word or excel document like I do. Make your own or use my free downloadable template available on my website. I like to include my whole weekly schedule so I can see at a glance who is doing what and where and at what time. This helps me better decide what type of meal will best fit the daily agenda.
Tip #5: Make a shopping list of all the ingredients you will need for the week ahead and when you’ll need to buy them. My website is now linked to Meal Planner Pro. Which means, if you save a recipe from my site, meal planner can generate your shopping list and you can also add the recipe to a meal planning tool. I’m sure many of you will find this feature super helpful.
Tip #6: Save your meal plans, they are useful to refer back to when you are stuck for ideas. I use a simple document which I fill in and print off weekly. These all get saved in a meal plan folder on my computer. If you prefer you can print your off and put them in a binder. My meal plans date back at least 7 years and I often browse through old meal plans whenever in need of inspiration.
Tip #7: Use a calendar to jot down ideas for coming weeks whenever you think of a meal you would like. Google is a great resource for online printable calendars. Google docs are also great way of sharing information with other members of the household.
Tip #8: Have theme nights, Meat-Free Monday, Taco Tuesday, Fishy Friday, Pasta Nights, a Roast night, a Leftover Night and so on. Try something new at least one night per week to keep things interesting. Leftover meals are a great way of save time and money. Use up leftover meat from roast dinners to make tasty salads, soups or casseroles. One of my favorites is using the remains of a roast chicken. Boil up the carcass to make a stock, add in some leftover chicken, pad it out further with rice (pre-cooked), pasta or vermicelli if you’d like to make it more filling.
Tip #9: Research recipes, flick through cook books, browse blogs and websites. I like to use Pinterest to save my meal ideas to. However, there are many other ways too, you can print them off and save in a binder or use a recipe saving app like Meal Planner Pro, Big Oven, Yummly or Papika and so on. I just converted all the recipes on my website to Meal Planner Pro because they offer unlimited recipe saving, shopping list and meal planning options.
Tip #10: Ask your kids what they would like to eat. It’s worth a try, even if the answer is most likely to be pizza or burgers, they may surprise you and remind you of an old time favourite like “toad in the hole“!
- My meal plans: I’ve done the work for you! Check out my proven-successful meal plans.
- Handy template: Sign up on my site and download my Weekly Meal Planning Template and One Month of Meals. You can add in your own family’s schedule and all your own meal inspirations, save and print off.
Do you have any favorite meal planning hacks? We would love to hear all about them.
Having been brought up by a British father and Italian mother between England and Portugal, Gillian Thompson was exposed to a wide variety of foods from a very early age. She is now into her 10th year in Hong Kong. She started her food blog, Gillian’s Kitchen as a way of keeping a record of all my family’s favorite meals and sharing them at the same time. Her focus is on favorite family recipes for simple, no fuss, everyday cooking.