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A recipe for success: getting through the meal planning madness

Updated: Jan 18


Navigating meal planning can be quite a headache; there is so much to consider – health, cost, taste, and dietary requirements. No wonder we end up ordering in or going out to eat! However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Meal planning can be a breeze if you have a few tricks up your sleeve. In this article, I’ll delve into what I’ve learned through my own experience and the wisdom of others. Let’s get started!

 

1. Evaluate your needs. Do you and your family have particular likes, dislikes and dietary requirements? Factor these in before looking for recipes. Then you can cut out a lot of stuff that just isn’t going to work for you all. 


2. Virtual bookshelf or go-to recipe website. If you have lots of cooking books, something like https://www.eatyourbooks.com/ might be just the ticket! Sign up, add the books you have to your ‘bookshelf’ and get searching. Want to try a new pavlova recipe? Need gluten-free meals? Need to use up some rice? You can search for these terms, and all the recipes with that in the title or ingredients will come up. There are also other sites like https://www.copymethat.com/ and https://www.plantoeat.com/welcome/ where you can add your own recipes or recipes from other websites. Another thing is to have a go-to recipe website. Something like https://www.recipetineats.com/ has excellent variety and categorising. Here is a list of some more great recipe websites: https://www.chefspencil.com/the-best-20-cooking-websites/


3. Create a weekly menu. Plan a diverse menu for the week, incorporating a mix of proteins, grains, vegetables, and fruits. Mix it up by trying different cuisines and cooking methods to keep meals interesting. Although you need to keep it diverse, ensure there are some similar ingredients; otherwise, your supermarket list will be very long! 


4. Inventory check. Before buying a whole lot of ingredients, check your fridge, freezer and pantry to see what you already have; you might be pleasantly surprised that you don’t need to buy more capers, for example.


5. Factor in your budget. For example:

  • You don’t need to buy the truffle oil if the recipe only suggests truffle oil.

  • Store brands will do.

  • You can often find ingredient alternatives by using google.


6. Get shopping. Choose somewhere with almost everything you need rather than multiple places. Some ingredients are hard to find, but often, fresh food shops have niche items. Also remember the ease of shopping online. You can spend as much time as you need searching for ingredients, and it gets delivered to your door – how good is that!


7. Prep ahead. Ensure you start an hour early or more unless it only takes 15 minutes. There are often plenty of prep tasks you can do ahead of time, say early or late afternoon. You can even do some in the morning if you wish, and some recipes actually call for preparation a few hours ahead or the day before. Doing the prep ahead will save a lot of stress around dinnertime, which is usually very busy already!


Now, it’s time to wrap our exploration into the world of meal planning. Remember to enjoy it, trying new recipes, ingredients, cuisines, and cooking methods. Cooking the same things repeatedly will help with ease but mix it up occasionally so you don’t get bored and give up. Happy cooking!

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