Thursday 27 June 2013

Meal planning helps the budget and the waistline

Mr Fork and I used to do them same dance every night when we came home from work:
"What do you want for dinner?"
"I don't know, what do you feel like?"

Then we'd decide on something, realise we didn't have the right ingredients and either a) go to the supermarket to get them as well as a few other "necessities" while we were there or b) give up on the idea and get takeaway instead.

In the end, I made up a meal planning sheet for us to stick to the fridge. It was supposed to be used for all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) but instead we just use it to write our planned dinners on now. Breakfast is usually cereal or toast, while lunches tend to be leftovers or sandwiches, and we found we didn't need to plan those.

It's just a simple A4 document, which I laminated. We write on it with a whiteboard marker every Saturday morning, and complete our shopping list at the same time. There's a bit of a system to our routine:
  • If it's not on the shopping list, we don't buy it. So if we use something up during the week or need something specially for a meal, we need to make sure to put it on the list or wait until next week. The shopping list is also stuck to the fridge with a magnet so we can add things to it as we think of them. Friendly on the hip pocket as we know what we want and can get in and out of the store fast.
  • We try to only shop once a week. Weeknights are hectic enough with the bedtime routine that we don't need to add a shopping trip in as well. Therefore meals that require the freshest ingredients tend to be on the weekends or earlier in the week, and meals that we can use frozen or canned things for appear later in the plan.
  • Mr Fork and I both have a terrible habit of cooking up way more than we need. So we regularly have "Hunt and Gather" nights (H+G). That's when it's a free for all with the leftovers and frozen meals - whoever gets in first gets to eat it. We don't cook on those nights, and just eat up things that would otherwise have been forgotten about in the fridge/freezer. Less waste for the bin or compost heap. 
  • We plan in takeaway nights and around upcoming events. If we know Mr Fork has an early football game on Tuesday nights, that's usually a H+G night or something quick. If we've planned dinner with friends or family, that goes on the plan so we make sure not to cook or to cook something suitable if we're hosting.
I didn't think our meal planning was anything special, until my friend the1337mum came to visit and commented on it. It works for us - just knowing that we have a meal planned takes the stress out of dinner preparations. Because we know what's happening, whoever gets home first starts the food prep so we eat (mainly) nutritious, home cooked meals which are healthy for both the wallet and the waist.

Do you use a shopping list or a meal plan? If so, how does that work for you and do you have any favourite meals to share?

Speaking of being good for the wallet, everyone loves a giveaway. The1337mum was lucky enough to be invited to KMarts toy launch and she wants to share the love with a toy giveaway. Head on over and put your entry in!


  1. This was such a great idea I totally stole it when I got home from visiting the Fork household. Its definitely helping us waste less food. Now we don't have "forgotten" ingredients.

    1. I'm so glad! What kind of things do you cook in your house? I'm always open to ideas!



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