I cannot say that I’ve always been a planner when it comes to meal planning. B.C (Before COVID-19) I just used to buy whatever thing tickled my fancy but these days I’ve found myself planning to the pickle, if you know what I mean.
In the last couple of months, I have been buying for me and my partner, who moved in a couple of months ago, so with that in mind, planning has become more essential now than ever. At the beginning of the pandemic, we used to organise our meals for a two week period, including all dinners, several lunch options, breakfast and snacks to keeps us going.
Right now, we’re just planning for one week’s worth of groceries, and we manly focus on meals we can share. This way we avoid buying extra food which will eventually go to waste. These are some of the things that I’ve learnt along the way which has contributed to our ‘tried and tested’ method.
Write all your meals down in a planner – I know that it’s easier said than done with busy schedules and barely any time to organise yourself, but once you enter into the routine of meal planning your week, you know what to buy without spending money on things you don’t need. I use my girlfriend’s work planner (but there are several different options online) to write down all the meals that we’re going to have, as well as if we plan to order take out or to eat out with friends (a rare occurrence these days).
Check your kitchen before writing your list – Before heading out to the shops start by ‘shopping’ in your own kitchen - check your fridge and cupboard to see what ingredients you have before putting your grocery list together. If you’re cooking from a recipe, check the exact amounts required so you avoid any extra waste. We write all the ingredients in our phone notes and then divide it between the two of us to make the process of buying all our groceries as quick as possible (no one wants to spend more time than needed in a supermarket these days).
Give yourself room to improvise – Although we write down all our meals in the weekly planner it doesn’t mean that everything will be eaten in that order, we also listen to our own appetite and see what we fancy every day. Normally, we will think about what we cook the night before in case we need to defrost any meals or do any extra prep.
Check the ‘use by’ dates – When organising your meals check ‘best before’ dates and ‘use by’ dates to avoid any food waste. You can avoid things going to waste by freezing them or making sure you eat them before they go off. While you need to be strict about ‘use by’ dates I tend to check if the products with a ‘best before’ date have actually gone off when deciding whether to use them or not. Most of the time, you can use your senses to see if something is still okay to eat (with a few exceptions, like eggs and raw meat).
Most importantly, enjoy – Cooking and eating comes quite high up in the priority chain for all of us, so however you organise yourself, don’t forget to enjoy the process. If you’re lacking for inspiration, BBC Good Food is always a winner and if you want to make something with what you already have in your kitchen SuperCook is the app for you.