Be the boss of meal time - I explain my meal planning process!

Ok so let’s talk meal planning. There are so many options out there for done for you meal kits giving you everything you need for a family meal. These can be great for convenience and food waste however not always convenient for the budget or dietary requirements. So what if I told you it was super easy, super convenient and super budget friendly to make you own?

I moved out of home when I was 19 years old, I was working part time on minimum wage, studying online part time paying full fees and renting a 2 bedroom unit on my own, so as you can imagine money was pretty tight. It wasn’t long after moving out that I realised planning my weekly meals allowed me to buy only what I needed/would use and maximise value for money to keep my weekly food budget on track. Since then, I have pretty much done a weekly meal plan, every single week! So I would hope by now I have it pretty much nailed! These days we find it amazing for keeping us on budget, help us reduce food wastage and helping us be prepared during the busy witching hour with the kids!

My process is pretty simple really, firstly I look what left over in the fridge and cupboard from the week/s before (cause although we meal plan sometimes plans change and things get put in the freezer or not used etc). I see what things we have in excess like rice, pasta or noodles, have a look if we have any meat in the freezer and what veggies we have left over that can be used up in the first few meals before they go bad. So I start with those items and plan a few meals around them. Like if we have lots of rice maybe I’ll start with a fried rice or stir fry. I will then think about what kind of theme I’m having for the week. I don’t mean every meal has to be one cuisine, more if I am making something using fresh salads and or certain veggies, I make sure that other meals that week use the same to make sure I use the entire lot I buy. (e.g. if I buy a coleslaw bag for say burgers we would usually only use half the bag so we might also have baked potatoes that week to use the other half)

I also look at our calendar, to see if there are nights we are home late or out etc nights that you're home late you need to be extra prepared, this could be a prepare ahead meal, a quick salad meal or even a slow cooked meal! Then finally you just fill in what left for meals and you have a weeks worth. I like to sit down and write out the meals in dot points (including where the recipes are from if I need them!) and at the same time write your shopping list for each of the meals and your usually weekly food items. If you’re like me and like a pretty backdrop for this I have made you up a really pretty printable just perfect for you to use. I have included two options, those that like to plan to the day (Mon-Sun list) and those (like me) who just plan the seven meals and then plan the days once you have shopped and see when the use by dates etc are.

But you're probably thinking how do you think of all these meals? Well there are many tried and loved meals I recycle that are family faves (we all have them!), I get inspo from friends from our Easy Pleasy Food Facebook community (join here!), I get inspo from other amazing cooks who rock like Anna from @foodfetti_ who is the master of the 1 base 4 meals meal plan; Kiwi food blogger Vanya from @vj_cooks who has a website choc full of amazing families and some delicious naughty treats! And then there is the ever so cleverly organised Ange from @eversohomely who is an even bigger meal planning boss than me and plans a whole month at a time!!! I have put put details of each of these awesome women below in the inspo section. I think with my easy process, inspo from these 4 incredible places and a pretty little print out for planning your meals and shopping list you will be all set to kick some meal planning butt!

So to break it down here is a quick version of my process:

  1. Look what’s left over from the previous week and plan a meal based on that.

  2. Decide on the weeks theme and plan a few meals based around this to maximise the use of similar ingredients (see inspo section below from the master Anna)

  3. Check your calendar to see if any ‘quick’ meals are needed or is there are any nights off like being out or getting takeaway and pencil these in.

  4. Troll inspo like Pinterest, meal planning eBooks and recipes websites (see inspo section for recipes from legends Vanya and Ange!)

  5. Fill out your meals on your new pretty printable (available here) and complete your shopping list.

A few extra tips, the meals that use fresh items like salads, fresh herbs, fresh fish etc plan these for earlier in the week, leave meals that use hardy vegetables (pumpkin, potato, broccoli etc), long lasting meats and pantry items until later in the week. Once you have done your shopping, check all use by dates (especially meats) and freeze any that will expire before you will use them. Then make sure you pull the meat out the night before to defrost in the fridge overnight!

Happy Planning - Jayde xx

Get your Inspo here!

Anna from @foodfetti_ – Foodie at heart, the dumpling queen and all around happy gal!

Anna is the amazing mastermind behind the 1 Base 4 Meals eBook (which you can score for free right here!). I have #cookwithanna from her recipes in the eBook and they are delicious and a great way to reduce waste, cost and time in your weekly meal planning! I have also used many of her other recipes and tips which she regularly showcases on her insta page @foodfetti_ and I looooove watching her stories for all the drool worthy food she makes! Like seriously, I watch them over and over – the dumplings, ohhhh the dumplings!!

Vanya from @vj_cooks – The kiwi food blogger taking the guess work out of family meal recipes!

Vanya has published over 180 recipes (20 of which start with the word CHOCOLATE!) and the first one I ever tried was her ‘one pot mince and pasta’ and oh my word, it has changed the way I cook pasta now. From giant sausage rolls to pulled pork bao buns, Vanya has recipes and inspiration to suit any taste, family and budget! Even super fun inclusions such as step-by-step pirate cake and chocolate fish slice! And while we are on slices, Vanya puts any CWA bake stall to shame with her amazing collection of slice recipes! Browse Vanya's family meal recipes here!

Ange from @eversohomely – The queen of the humble DIY HOW TO, organisation extraordinaire and meal planning guru!

Ange has certainly made a name for her self through her style and home organisation tips, she has even been featured in the Bunnings magazine! And now she added her amazing meal planning to her repertoire. Not only does she have an amazing knack for easy family meals she can teach you how to meal plan for an entire month!!!!!! Now that’s impressive! Ange has made her skills available to you in a handy eBook which you can purchase here and she has even more delectable recipes up on her insta @eversohomely. While you’re purchasing the eBook, make sure you check out her other eBooks and products too, she has all the organisation goals that’s for sure!!

FREE Meal Planning Printable - Click here!