How to plan your meals for a week

Meal planning before you shop is the key to organisation in the kitchen.

The old saying ‘if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’ could apply to the daily task of preparing meals. While many of us just wing it with last minute decisions and minimal preparation, those who plan their week’s meals in advance swear it gives them more time to do other things. Here are some tips for weekly meal planning.

Research recipes

Spend time looking for recipes. Drag out those cookbooks sitting on the bookshelf and scan websites for something new and inspiring, or maybe just a twist on an old favourite. Store the recipes in a folder, either as hard copy, on your computer desktop or in an app.

Make family favourites

Ask your family what they would like to eat, so they contribute to your planning. Preparing something people like or have specifically requested can make cooking more rewarding.

Keep a record of what meals the people in your household like, so you can repeat them. Set a theme on certain nights, such as DIY pizza night on Fridays or pasta on Mondays, with individuals nominating their pasta of choice in advance.

Do all your shopping at once

Pick a day to do your main shopping for the week and take a list with you based on your recipe plan. Look for sale items at your grocer, supermarket or butcher. You can often create a meal based on the sale items.

Use up leftovers

Plan for leftovers. This gives you something for lunches, or can be quickly reheated for a teenager short on time between arriving home from school and going to sport or music practice.

Prepare in advance

Take time to prepare your food, whether it’s chopping ingredients and storing them in airtight containers, or washing fruit and vegetables before putting them in in the fridge or bowls. You can make a batch of pasta sauce, keep some for this week and freeze the rest for another time. Whether you roast a chicken or buy a pre-cooked BBQ one, you can prepare it for the meal that night and store leftovers for sandwiches.

Freezing food is an excellent way to help get ahead and save time in the long run. Make double batches of soup, stew, casserole, pasta sauce, lasagne and put them in the freezer for use in a few weeks or months.

Keep basics on hand

Keep your pantry well-stocked with condiments, oils, spices and those ingredients you only need occasionally, but are essential to certain recipes. Try to keep a stock of fresh lemons and your favourite herbs as well, as they can be used to bring so many dishes to life.

If you’re looking for some recipe inspiration, here’s a list of five dinners to make you drool.