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Need to be more organised with family meals, but don’t know how? Here are some hacks for getting started with easy meal planning to ensure that you and your family eat healthily without it taking up loads of your time.
EASY MEAL PLANNING HACKS TO GET YOU STARTED WITH MEAL PLANNING
Meal planning is a fantastic concept.
I first got into meal planning a couple of years ago, when I reached peak ‘what the fudge am I going to cook this evening’ meltdown.
You know, that time when you’re at your most frazzled, there’s half a packet of dubious-looking cheese in the fridge, some vegetables that have seen better days and you’ve got to produce a ‘delicious’ meal for the family.
There’s still the odd time that happens when I have no qualms in reaching for my favourite takeaway App.
But on the whole, I’ve nailed my own version of meal planning and most times I know what I’m going to cook – or what my husband is going to cook.
My mealtime meltdowns are a thing of the past!
Now, there’s plenty of brilliant meal planning advice out there, but I find a lot of it way too complicated for my tired mother-brain.
So I rely on these easy meal planning hacks to get me through the week and get healthy meals on the table fast.
EASY MEAL PLANNING HACKS
1. MASTER A FEW MULTI-USE RECIPES
My meal planning depends upon a few core recipes that can be used in multiple dishes.
It looks as if I am providing variety when I am actually depending upon just a few recipes that I know by heart and can produce without stress.
And even better I can bulk cook and freeze them.
A frozen tomato sauce lets you whip up spag bol, chilli & lasagne with almost no effort. And a simple cheese sauce with hidden vegetables can go in super speedy macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese and fish pie.
Core recipes that work with all sorts of different fruit and veg are also brilliant.
2. PLAN A FIRST WEEK AND THEN REPEAT ON AUTO-PILOT
I am in awe of those mums who have a different meal plan every week. But the best way to master meal planning is one week at a time.
Come up one week of recipes that makes use of core ingredients, your freezer, healthy cheat meals and master it, until you can do it on auto-pilot.
Once it’s on auto-pilot, add in one extra simple recipe a week … ideally using a core ingredient.
As you make your way up 10 or 12 recipes you totally know by heart expand your plan so it has a two-week rotation.
And as you get up to 15 and 20 expand to 3 and 4 weeks.
As you build up your core recipes it is essential to keep them organised … I had notes and pins everywhere and it was a disaster zone, not least ‘cos I couldn’t read my handwriting!
So I created my own Meal Planner google sheets template, which has one sheet for planning meals for the week and another sheet that is a recipe library, so I can keep track of recipes that our family really likes.
3. BULK COOK AND FREEZE SLOW COOKING INGREDIENTS
I hate those ingredients that seem so simple but take an age.
I always think mashed potato, fruit for puddings & pies and pastry are going to be quick … and then suddenly everything else is ready and they’re not and we’re still eating at bed time!
These tricky customers are definitely the ones to have in your freezer.
Did you know mashed potato freezes brilliantly?
And pastry and pizza dough … both of which seem hard but which are easy and fun to do with the kids at a leisurely pace without the urgency of getting food on the table.
4. BULK PREPARE AND FREEZE VEGETABLES
Most vegetables are quick to cook & even root veg only needs 20 minutes or so in the pan. But scrubbing and peeling and chopping is a faff.
It’s much quicker and easier to do it all in one go rather than at each meal time.
You can create some great family time by all going to the market, buying a load of veg and bringing it home to scrub, peel and chop together around the table.
Then shove it in meal-sized portions in the freezer.
It will save you a good 10-15 minutes at each meal time.
And it means failing all else you can always whip up soup in 15 minutes.
5. MAKE HEALTHY QUICK CHEAT MEALS
I used to feel guilty about the frequency with which sausages, fish fingers and baked potatoes appeared on our meal plan.
But as long as you buy great quality sausages and fish fingers there’s no need.
And baked potatoes with baked beans and cheese is a well-balanced meal.
6. LOVE YOUR GRILL
The quickest way to get meat & fish on the table is via the grill.
If you’ve got mashed potato and prepared veg in the freezer, you can get the whole meal on the table in under 15 minutes.
To liven everything up make up jars of your own grill seasoning.
7. EGGS AND LEFTOVERS
There are all sorts of wonderful ways to use up leftovers.
But when you start meal planning you need a couple of totally reliable ways to use up leftover meat, veg and cheese quickly.
Omelettes and pancakes are definitely the easiest and quickest way.
You can either throw the leftovers on to the pancake or omelette in the pan or just let everyone fill their own at the table.
8. KEEP A SHOPPING LIST
Write up a grocery shopping list of the essential ingredients you need for your first week’s plan.
As you’re going to repeat the plan frequently, bulk buy whatever you can.
Update the list every time you add a new recipe to your plan
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