Your kids are home from nursery or school, everyone is starving and a cursory glance of the fridge and cupboards tells you there’s absolutely nothing to eat.

Sound familiar? This was me after I went back to work when my daughter was 12 months old. Night after night scratching my head, trying to figure out what we’d eat, convinced there was nothing to have despite a fridge and cupboards full of food. When I had my son and decided to jump feet first into self-employment I knew this couldn’t go on; between two hungry mouths and a demanding schedule of work something had to change!

The genius of meal plans

Stress no more. If you plan your meals in advance – for that week, fortnight or even the whole month – you know each day what you’ll be cooking that evening. Deciding what to cook in advance means you can prepare ingredients during the day when you have 5 minutes spare and when you’re ready to cook, simply throw everything in a pot or in the oven and you’re away. No more last minute panics resulting in another night of chicken dippers and chips (unless it’s dippers and chips on your meal plan)!

Key to better meal planning

  • Look at your schedule and plot in quicker meals for busy days
  • Cook meals with leftovers in mind e.g. by cooking up a big batch of mince and onions you’ve got the base for cottage pie on one night and spaghetti bolognese for the night after. Don’t want mince twice in one week? Well…
  • Use your freezer. Store leftovers for those quick meals and freeze meat from your cooked roast in weighed portions so that you can make the most of that whole chicken without eating it every night for a week.

Smarter shopping

In case more organised, relaxed evenings aren’t reward enough, the other advantage to meal planning is smarter shopping, which means more savings.

Take a list

Rather than visiting your local supermarket and wandering aimlessly, filling your trolley with whatever catches your eye (which if you’re anything like me, means buying 5 types of chocolate biscuits and a tub of ice cream but nothing of actual use) take a clear list of things you know you’ll need for the meals in your plan. Spending on things that are definitely going to get used means less waste too.

Avoid the major supermarkets

It may sound like a hassle but the reality is that the major supermarkets spend a fortune on catchy marketing banners, offers, labels and the like which are all there to make you spend more money. Shop local or in the “budget” supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl to avoid the more blatant advertising, speed up your shop and keep the spending down.

And if you’ve done all that and something has gone awry – you forgot to defrost something or buy an ingredient – skip a day and start again tomorrow. Even just one planned meal a week is better than none!

About Jem

Jem Turner is a freelance web developer juggling her code and kids while running a community for work at home mums. She survives the mania of it all with meal plans, todo lists and the occasional glass of wine.

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