This is the third step in my meal-planning tutorial. In this post, I will talk you through how to meal plan for a week, fortnight or month, and give you all the resources you need to do that.
How frequently should I meal plan?
Well, we’ve definitely established that you should meal plan because it saves time, money and stress – it’s a complete no-brainer. But how frequently you meal plan may depend on how often you want to shop. It also might depend on whether you have very predictable family schedules or not.
I suggest that you try meal planning weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
Most people probably meal plan weekly. I think this is probably because that’s all we can cope with at one time! We also still have the idea of the ‘weekly shop’ in our heads, and perhaps a weekly roast dinner.
In some families, the idea of a weekly roast dinner totally works: you have your roast beef, for example, on a Sunday, and on the Monday and Tuesday you have meals made with the leftover roast beef: spaghetti bolognese and cottage pie, or something similar. If you like this idea, you will probably find Save with Jamie and Economy Gastronomy useful cookbooks. Both have great ideas of making a big meal on a Sunday (or whenever you have the cooking time) and using leftovers over the next few days.
In other families, that simply wouldn’t work. Not everyone eats together every day. You might get bored of the same few dishes on repeat, or you might have only 10 minutes to cook on one day but much longer on another.
Free Downloadable Meal Planners
This is where a variety of meal planning formats helps. I’ve created meal planning templates which are completely free to download, which you can do by clicking on the image itself.
How to meal plan for a week, fortnight or month
- Look through your fridge, cupboards and freezer to see what you have and what needs using up. Remember to update your food inventory.
- Look through your calendar to see what is coming up. Make a note of nights when you will be really busy and have less time to cook.
- Assign a ‘theme’ to each night. This could be as simple as Monday – Veggie, Tuesday – Fish, Wednesday – Chicken, Thursday – Red meat, Friday – Fish etc.
- Look through your meal ideas and assign a meal to most nights. Remember to give yourself simple meals on days you are busy. Give yourself a few nights a month to use up leftovers or to get a takeaway.
- Think about which ingredients work together. So if you know you will only use half a pack of tortillas one night, pick a meal later that week which will use them up.
- Make a list of the ingredients you need to buy.
Should you re-use meal plans?
I am a huge fan of meal-planning monthly, and reusing the meal plans for 3 months or so. Any longer and it gets a bit repetitive! Definitely make a note of things that worked well in sequence and keep your meal ideas lists up to date.