One of the first things I did when I decided to simplify my life was to menu plan and as fellow blogger, Catz, shared her experience of menu planning with us in a recent post, I thought I'd share my experience with you, too.
Unfortunately, not long after I started it I got ill and it all went kind of west but once I was able I picked it back up again and have been sticking with it since and believe me, it makes a huge difference.
Instead of wondering what to make for dinner every day, rummaging through cupboards and the darkest corners of the freezer, looking to see what I have that can be turned into a half decent meal, I now know exactly what I’ll be cooking, what I need and that it’s already waiting to be prepared. That, dear friends, make life a good deal less stressful.
Not only has it helped me feel less anxious about mealtimes, it’s also made shopping a whole lot easier. No more picking up stuff willy-nilly because I might use this and I might use that. Oh no… once my menu plan’s sorted, I check what I already have, make a list of everything I’ll need and that’s exactly what I buy.
It also helps me use up the stuff that’s in my cupboard. Whereas before I’d have half a dozen packets of rice but only half a pack of pasta, now I keep a running list so that know what I have, what I can use and what I need to top up with.
With a menu plan, life’s easier and it saves a whole lot of money too.
Although I don’t strictly need to eat healthily as my nutrition comes through my TPN and very little of what I eat is absorbed, I still want to have a reasonably balanced diet because that way I’m making a better impression on my daughter. I also want to feed her well as long as she’s living here and my guests, I’m sure, appreciate a decent meal too. There's something psychological about eating well, too.
When I plan my fortnightly menu (some do it weekly but I prefer to shop once a fortnight) I don't decide beforehand which day we'll be having what, I simply write up a list whilst trying to:
- Incorporate as many different coloured fruits and vegetables as possible so that we’re getting a variety of nutrients. Eat a rainbow, as they say.
- Use seasonal, locally sourced, preferably organic fruit and vegetables whenever I can.
- Vary the protein sources between white and red meat, fish, eggs, cheese and legumes (beans, peas, lentils etc) because each type has different nutritional values.
- Use some wholegrain pastas and brown rice although both LM and I prefer white so we compromise.
- Add a couple of meals more than I actually need in case I ‘change my mind’. Those that aren’t used roll over to the next fortnight.
- Vary the meals so that I have some that are very simple to prepare for my low energy days. It's on these days that convenience foods (cans, frozen veg etc) come in handy.
- Consider what I can cook in batches during the preparation of one meal to use in another meal or freeze for later use - anything to make things easier!
- Think about how much of a certain item I’ll need to buy and whether or not one meal will be enough to use it all. If not, I’ll incorporate it into a second meal or make a larger potion to freeze, if that’s possible.
- Consider who I’ll be cooking for during the coming fortnight. When will LM be home for dinner (read: when can I cook the stuff she doesn't like)? Will I be having guests and what don't they eat? Are they vegetarian/vegan? Big eaters or pickers?
- Try at least one new recipe every week, even if it’s just a new sauce or way to prepare a vegetable.
Other posts that may be of interest:
What’s In The Freezer?
Grocery Shopping - 20 Money Saving Tips
Fruit & Veg Doesn’t Have To Be Fresh
Organic vs. Local vs. Imported vs. Fairtrade