Spring is upon us, and with it comes the perfect opportunity to refresh and renew many aspects of our lives, including our cooking routines.
If you are looking for meal-planning tips that will make your life easier this season, we have the perfect tips for you.
Planning can help you have healthy meals and snacks no matter how busy things get. Having a meal plan can save time, money and reduce food waste. Just remember to stick to your shopping list.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is deciding meals in advance using your schedule, preferences, foods on hand, seasonal produce, sale items, among other things.
Consequently, meal planning usually leads to grocery shopping once a week, for only the items needed and having others (for example, family) involved in creating the menu. If you know how to make a meal plan, you can create your own weekly meal plans.
These simple meal-planning tips will help you make the most of your preparation time.
1. Keep your pantry stocked with the essentials
Let us start with something simple – your pantry or food cupboard. There are so many ways to stock up on items that last longer, are budget-friendly, and have the potential to transform any meal.
Consider staples that you should always have on hand – simple ingredients you could use to create a healthy, delicious meal. With a well-stocked pantry, there is no excuse to reach for the takeaway menu.
2. Keep it simple
Hands up if you enjoy spending hours cooking dinner every night. No one? Right! So if you are like me and would rather have a quick fix, use the short cuts that are available to you.
I have already mentioned using pantry staples to quickly whip up a dish, but there is so much more you can do to save time. Ready-made chicken at your local grocery store can be served as is or cut up and added to any dish.
There may even be enough to also make a sandwich or wrap for lunch the following day. Pre-cut vegetables are a good way to make sure you get your five a day and still have time for all the things you really want to do.
3. Give yourself time to plan
Set aside time each week to make a meal plan. Think about how many meals you need to prepare for the week and when you need to make quick meals or prepare them in advance.
4. Shop smartly
Once you make your list of dishes, survey the ingredients you have on hand and then compile a list of what you need. Schedule a time to shop for the week, whether it is in-store, curbside or by delivery.
That way, you make sure you get what you need before you need it and will not have to make multiple runs to the store. When you are unpacking, place your groceries where you know you will find them.
5. Embrace seasonal produce
Switch up your go-to fruits and vegetables based on the season. Eating in-season produce means consuming foods that are naturally grown and harvested at the same time of year in your local area.
By doing so, you can enjoy produce when it is at its freshest, most flavourful and most nutritious. It also helps to support local farmers and reduce your carbon footprint by decreasing the distance your food has to travel to reach you.
6. Avoid recipes that need a special ingredient
Some recipes call for a special ingredient that you may not have. How much does that ingredient cost? Does it come in a small or big package? Can you use it in other recipes before it goes bad?
It may not be worth the money to buy an ingredient if you are only going to use it once. Leave the ingredient out or try the recipe with an ingredient that you already have at home. It is fun to experiment while cooking and you may surprise yourself with the finished dish.
7. Double up
When it comes to planning your meals, try to think of ways that you can double up on ingredients to make tomorrow’s meal easier. This way you can save time prepping ingredients and reduce your food waste.
Whether that means doubling your recipe and freezing half of it for another day or chopping extra onion tonight for tomorrow’s dinner, think about ways you can be more efficient with your cooking – and time.
When you start experimenting with healthier options, winging it often pays off. However, what happens if you wing it, your family loves it, and then you cannot remember how you made it? We recommend buying a notebook dedicated to recipes and making notes as you cook up a storm.
Take note of what works and what does not. Who knows, you could be the next Gordon Ramsay!