MEAL PLANNING MADE EASY: TIPS & FREE GOOGLE SHEET TEMPLATE

Meal Planning

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“Meal planning is for the anally retentive who are way too obsessed with managing every aspect of what they eat”. 

Well, that’s what I secretly used to think until I finally found the incentive for meal planning that inspired me to do it and stick to it. 

Until that breakthrough, meal planning had been one of those things I felt I should be doing to ‘be more organised’. But every time I started, I did it for a bit and then lost the will. 

The big thing I was missing is that meal planning enables you to be more intentional with your eating. 

Once I understood the power of eating more intentionally, meal planning became easy and even enjoyable.  

MEAL PLANNING AND INTENTIONAL EATING

If intentional living is about making your life better through good choices, then intentional eating is about being considered about what you eat, how you eat and when you eat. 

In the same way that intentional living stops you walking through life letting money, time and energy slip away, intentional eating enables you to eat in a more healthy and well-balanced way, ensures you don’t waste money on food and also that you don’t waste food. 

I see meal planning as the foundation for eating more intentionally. The key to successful meal planning and turning it into a habit that sticks is to create an easy meal planning system that isn’t too cumbersome and doesn’t overload you. If it’s too convoluted and time-consuming you won’t do it. 

So how do you go about creating an easy meal planning system? Here are my tips:

CREATING A SIMPLE MEAL PLANNING SYSTEM 

1. USE A GOOGLE SHEET

Use a google sheet (or similar) to create a simple meal planning document and create two worksheets on it. 

I like google sheets because they are super easy to use and I can access them easily both on my laptop and using the google sheets app on my cell (iPhone/Android).

If you prefer you can print them out and fill them in to have to hand in your kitchen.

A. MEAL PLANNING WORKSHEET

Have one worksheet for your weekly meal planning template, with space for breakfast, lunch, dinner and sundries (ok, snacks!). Set up your template to start in line with the day of the week that you do your grocery shopping/your grocery shopping arrives.  

B. RECIPE LIBRARY WORKSHEET

Make a second worksheet on your google sheet into a recipe library, so you can keep track of your favourite recipes. 

DOWNLOAD MY FREE GOOGLE SHEET MEAL PLANNING TEMPLATE

To make life super easy for you I’ve created a version of the meal planning google sheet that I use.

Sign up to my newsletter below to grab your free download. Just pop your email address in the box, press I WANT IT and you’ll be redirected to the download page.

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2. SET A REGULAR WEEKLY TIME TO GROCERY SHOP

It’s much better to have a regular grocery shopping schedule than popping to the shops sporadically through the week. If you don’t have the time to commit to a weekly local food shop sign up for online grocery shopping. I have been using Ocado for ten years and rarely visit a supermarket as a result. 

3. SET A REGULAR MEAL PLANNING SLOT AHEAD OF YOUR SHOP

Don’t leave this to the last minute, particularly if you have an online shopping deadline or, believe me, you will end up with a random selection of meals!

4. WEEKLY MEAL PLANNING TIPS

Here are some simple things to do to keep your meal planning straight-forward:

  • Always start by looking in the fridge, freezer and food cupboards to assess what you already have that you can make use of / needs using up
  • Check your calendar for the week ahead to see what everyone’s schedule is and note times when a meal isn’t needed / meal is needed at a different time to usual on your planner
  • Be mindful to plan in recipes that make use of all the fresh ingredients you have, or will buy, that can’t be frozen.
  • Aim to double up on quantities for meals you plan to make where the extra portion can be easily frozen for use at another time. 
  • Consider if there are a couple of ways you can use meat such as chicken. For example, have roast chicken one day and then use the leftovers to create a chicken casserole or stir-fry. 
  • If you’re sticking to a single weekly grocery shop aim to use up fresh vegetables and fruit earlier in the week, to ensure they are at their best. 
  • Stock up on frozen vegetables for use at any time, as they are frozen so quickly after picking they have plenty of nutrients and often fewer preservatives on/in them than non-organic vegetables. 
  • Keep your pantry or larder well stocked with all the cooking basics, for example: 
    • Olive oil/vegetable oil
    • Herbs and spices
    • Tins of beans, coconut milk, tomatoes 
    • Plain flour, cornflower, baking soda
    • Rice, dry pasta

5. be prepared with the right storage

Make sure you’ve got enough kitchen basics for storing food in the fridge and freezer. I’ve ditched Saran wrap in favour of using silicone stretch lids that slip over bowls and dishes.

I’ve also got a bunch of glass storage containers with bamboo lids that can go in the pantry, fridge or freezer. They look lovely and they stack super well. I prefer using glass containers with a bamboo lid rather than plastic because:

  • Glass doesn’t stain like plastic can
  • You can see what’s in glass containers more easily than plastic
  • Glass doesn’t alter the taste of food like plastic can if it’s in the fridge
  • Glass containers won’t release any chemicals when you’re heating food up
  • Bamboo is a sustainable renewable material source
  • I am trying to slowly get rid of all plastic from our kitchen

If you want glass containers but want to have plastic lids instead of bamboo lids, make sure the plastic is BPA-free.

MEAL PLANNING JOY

Meal planning has enabled my family and me to be far more intentional with what we eat. However, this isn’t the only benefit. For me, one of the loveliest things about meal planning is that it has put the joy back into planning and cooking for family meals. 

It has given me the impetus to pick up the array of recipe books that we have amassed over the years. Beautiful books with delicious recipes that had often sat looking pretty but unused on our kitchen bookshelf. 

BENEFITS OF MEAL PLANNING

There are plenty of other benefits that we are really feeling from meal planning as well, we… 

  • Are no longer stressed and wondering what on earth to cook just at that point in the evening where our brain bandwidth is shot
  • Have stopped spending money on takeaways:
    • Are using a lot less single-use plastic/cartons
  • Are more healthy because we’re getting a more balanced diet
  • Waste less because everything is planned in, so few vegetables rot in the bottom of the fridge
  • Are spending less on groceries because we are using up what we already have and plan in recipes that use up all the fresh ingredients we buy 
  • Have a ready supply of frozen meals for days when we really don’t have the time or energy to cook
  • Save so much time, just by planning in time to meal plan 

DOWNLOAD THE LESS & LIVE MORE MEAL PLANNING GOOGLE SHEET

Don’t forget to download my free meal planning google sheet template to get started meal planning.

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Good luck if you’re just starting out with meal planning or if you’re giving it another go now you can see how meal planning will help you to be more intentional with your meals.

Please do pop across to the Intentional Living section for more on living intentionally.

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