8 tips to Meal Planning

Meal planning is something I have done for as long as I can remember.  Personally I find it an easy process to undertake but for some I can understand the thought of having to come up with solutions for dinner every night as well as then finding the time to cook it can be a daunting task.

Benefits of meal planningthe words plan

Meal planning requires an investment of a little time but can ultimately help in the following ways:

  • Save time – it can stop many unnecessary trips to the shops and also ends those times where you get home from work and then wonder what you will do for dinner.
  • Save money – with meal planning you tend not to impulse buy or waste as much food.  I am sure we have all had times where we have been to the store and purchased something only to return home and find the same item already in our pantry!  You only buy what you need for the week ahead if you are following a weekly meal plan.  You might also like to plan your meals around weekly supermarket specials and that too will save you dollars.
  • Save ones sanity – knowing that you have already determined what you are going to cook can make it easier after a long day.
  • Improve nutrition – a good meal plan can help to create a structure that encourages healthy eating.  It means cooking when you have time so that even on those busy days, you have a healthy and homemade meal to serve.

8 tips to assist you to meal plan

Please don’t think this needs to be complicated, as it doesn’t!  I personally use a scrap piece of paper for mine every week but there are many templates online these days or you can even use Apps to help!

  1. Commit a time to meal plan every week – You don’t need to set aside hours to do this.  For instance I usually do mine on a Thursday evening and grab about 10-15 minutes when I can.  In my house I plan the meals from Friday to Thursday as I do my grocery shopping early every Friday morning.  You need to work out when it will suit you to not only plan but also when you will do your grocery shopping.Once you have an idea then you need to get into the habit of sticking to that, as it will make it easier in the long run.  If you find it still a bit hard to do this yourself then get your family involved and seek their input for the food they’d like to see on the weekly menu.image of days of the week and sausages
  2. Assess what is on for the week ahead– You need a bit of a plan of attack First consult your diary and ask yourself the following questions:
    • What nights call for a quick and easy dinner?
    • What nights require meals to be served at different times due to activities finishing?
    • What nights is everyone home together for a meal?
    • Which days can you do the kind of cooking that you’d most like to do?You need to work out what works best in line with your families schedule and then you can make a meal plan for the week ahead.
  3. What sort of meals?When starting out it is a good idea not to let yourself get overwhelmed by trying to plan too many meals at once—instead start with 5 or 6 meals giving yourself one or two nights for leftovers or even takeaway.  Work around everyone’s schedules and think of the type of meals that will work with the time you have available.
    Sometimes it helps to make a list of the meals your family likes and which ones are for different nights i.e. our quick and easy meals for nights when we have activities are usually pasta, tacos, chilli con-carne or leftovers from the freezer.  On the weekends when I have more spare time I usually cook meals that require more focus, time and energy.Every now and again when I lack inspiration I pull out the cook books and get a few different ideas for the following week just so that you don’t find all you do are the same meals week after week.Make a list of say 10 favourite meals for your family and rotate them in the first few weeks. When you’re ready, begin adding new recipes or tweak your menu to keep things fresh.
  4. Set nights for designated meals – Pick one night a week to have a particular meal, such as Friday night have homemade pizza (that’s what we do in our house).  You could also have a night of the week that you go out or buy takeaway.  Having this can simplify both your menu and grocery list.
  5. Meal planning/what to buy – Once you settle on the meals you want to serve for the week make a list of them.  I know some families like to put this meal plan on their fridge for all the family to see.  Sometimes this can help if you are running late then other family members might be able to make a start for you.

    Next it is time to go shopping at home.  By this I mean shop in your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what ingredients you already have on hand.  Add the remaining items you need for those meals to your grocery list.

    It is a good idea to keep your grocery list in an easy-to-find location – on the fridge or in your phone.  This way when you run out of something during the week too you can add it to the list so that you are not trying to have to work out everything you need just before you go to the supermarket.

    Some people like to have a list of all the staple items they usually buy every week and then add remaining items to that.  Others like to arrange their items in sections and according to the layout of the super market to make it easier when they shop.  I must admit I usually put all dairy items in one place on my list and then say toiletries in another rather than have items mixed up.

    As I mentioned earlier there are many free shopping list or grocery list templates available on the internet if you need them as well as Apps such as MealBoard, Pepperplate and Plan to Eat to name a few that can assist with your meal planning.  Do a quick search to see if any might help you.

  6. Cook in bulk and make extra meals – sometimes when you are are cooking particular meals i.e. pasta sauce it can be useful to make an extra batch that you can put in the freezer for a ready made meal on another night.  Keep this in mind when you are making these types of meals that are easily freezable as it too can help you out!Some families I know find it easy to even do a bit of extra cooking on the weekend to make it easier during the week by cooking up several meals in preparation for the week ahead.
  7. Don’t be afraid to alter the plan– Remember it is a plan so if you have set out to have certain meals on particular nights it won’t matter if you alter them around because you already have the ingredients for the week so there is no issue.  This also helps when any last minute plans that sometimes pop up.Just because you have a menu planned for the week does not mean that it is set in stone. I recommend that you are flexible enough to make changes as the week goes on.
  8. Keeping the momentum going– Like any changes we make we often we start off raring to go only to soon no longer continue with our efforts.

Make a commitment to meal planning now and it will be worth it!

I am always interested to hear how you go with my tips or any other suggestions you have on this topic – please get in touch – amanda@organisingyou.com.au

Tips on organising recipes in your kitchen

How is your recipe collection – is it in need of a clean out?   You are not alone and when I work with clients to organise their kitchens it is one of the very first places we often start.  The main reason being is that usually these collections have not been reviewed in a long time and therefore can be culled.  By doing this it then creates more space for other items within the kitchen.

IMG_8179So when was the last time you reviewed your recipe collection?  Do you even know where you would start with organising recipes?  If it has been awhile then you might want to put some time aside to go through them – maybe the next rainy day even?  I usually suggest to clients its a good thing to go through yearly and keep organised.

 

You might be interested in the list below of common issues we find with recipe collections – do any of these sound like you?:

  • lots of loose recipes or bits of paper floating with recipes scribbled on them laying around.
  • you are holding onto many cookbooks as you are planning to cook something from them but never actually get around to it – the question to ask yourself if you haven’t already will you?
  • many cookbooks that have not been opened in years and are just taking up space.
  • cook books you have been given and wouldn’t have purchased for yourself therefore you will probably never even use.
  • you often look for a recipe online these days and don’t refer to your collection very often at all.

So what next you ask – here are a few more questions to ask yourself in order to organise your recipes:

  1. go through all your books and decide if you regularly use them or not?
  2. also ask yourself if you actually like a particular book or not?
  3. if you don’t use them regularly do you still want to keep a book or can it be moved on (donated)?
  4. maybe there is only one or two particular recipes in a book that you like – ask yourself if you want to still hang onto the whole book or can you take a photo or copy of those recipes instead?
  5. collect all of your loose recipes and papers and put into one pile.  You should go through these as well and ask yourself have you cooked this and was it a success?  Or if you haven’t will you in the future?  If the answer is no to any of these questions then maybe it is time to put in the recycle bin!

The next step is to put all the books back that you are keeping and then for all the loose bits and pieces you can either collate into a book/binder or even take photos so you can store them electronically.  Here are a couple of Apps you may want to check out and consider using:

  • Evernote – you can enter text, save photos or clip items from the web extremely easy thanks to its web clipper. You can organize your own notebooks however you choose.  I personally use Evernote, not just for recipes but many other things too.  I must say I love the search function to find things including recipes when I need them.
  • Pinterest – is a social media platform where you can visually bookmark pages on the web that you’d like to read or reference again.  This is the modern day version or way to clip recipes from a magazine.
  • Pepperplate – this App includes built-in kitchen timers, large, easy-to-read displays while you’re cooking, and offline access so you don’t need connectivity while you cook.
  • Paprika – this is more than just a recipe App.  Paprika makes it easy to plan, save, shop for, cook, and organize all your favorite recipes.
  • Big Oven – is like a personal assistant for the kitchen, one that has 350,000 recipes included.  Look through recipes, download a meal plan and even get a grocery list.

At the end of the day there are many so many more Apps on the market these days and I encourage you to review before deciding what might work for you – it really is a personal preference as to how you store and access your recipes online and there is no right or wrong way.

So are you going to find some time to go through your recipe books or will they continue to collect dust and take up space?

Junk drawer organisation in 5 easy steps

In most houses there is always that drawer in the kitchen which is known as the junk drawer – it is the drawer where mainly utensils that don’t seem to have a home end up.  Do you have one of these?  If I asked you to open it up right now what state would it be in?  Do you find yourself always searching for something?  Or maybe you just have too many things and even struggle to close the drawer?  In my experience, unless you keep your junk drawer organised and neat/tidy all the time, then it probably needs organising and cleaning out at least yearly.  When was the last time you organised yoimageurs?

I actually found time a few weeks ago and cleaned out mine.  Here are 5 quick and easy steps to follow so you too can organise your own junk drawer:

Step 1

Take a photo of your drawer in its current state as it is always great to compare the before and after – it can give you a big sense of satisfaction when done!

Step 2

Pull everything out of the drawer and sort into like items – by this I mean group items together that have a similar purpose such as all the tongs or all the bowl scrappers.  As you are doing this have a think about the last time you used each item?  If you haven’t used something for a long time and think you are not going to either then put it in a pile to move on/donate.

Once you have removed all items give the drawer a quick clean before everything is put back in.

Step 3

As mentioned in Step 2 above, create a pile of items that you will no longer use and are happy to pass on to someone else.   In the photo you can see that I actually found about 20 items including 11 medicine cups which had accumulated over time.  I clearly had too many and ended up only keeping three.

Another question to ask yourself is – how often do you get given something from a friend or see something in the shop that you think might be useful and put it in the drawer only to never use?  I have to say my item like this was the sandwich cutter that you sit on top of your sandwich and put the knife through to cut.  I have only probably used it once or twice if I am lucky hence why this ended up in the donate pile.

If you think you could still use these items and are not entirely ready to part with them then why not put them into a small box in a cupboard for that ‘I might need it one day’.  If though after a set period of time ie 3 or 6 months you have not used anything in that box then it definitely is time to move the items on.  Remember to make a diary note to ensure you do this too.

Step 4

When putting the items back into the drawer it might be useful to have some form of a drawer organiser so that you can at least keep like items together rather than just throwing all items back in together like a mosh pit.  These days there are so many different options at storage stores or even places like Big W or K-Mart.

When you put items back in ensure you keep the items of similar purpose together.

Step 5 – last one I promise!

Take the after photo and compare with the one you took at the start then celebrate!  It is always so satisfying when something is organised and in better shape than when you started.  Remember though the maintenance phase is just as important if not more than the organising phase and you need to take the extra time to put the items back where they belong after you have used them and NOT just throw them back in.  Good Luck!

So what will you do when it comes to your junk drawer organisation?  Are you going to go ahead and have a go?  Feel free to share your experiences with me and I’d love to hear how you go and what you find – amanda@organisingyou.com.au