Meal planning

(61 Posts)

I just can't manage to do it. I find it so stressful & time consuming. I want to be able to, that's all. I normally just buy stuff in and muddle through the week.

That was fine until I had DC3. I don't have the time now to choose every day what we have & we have a tighter budget. Plus I'm following Slimming world at the moment. I'm weaning DD too, so that needs to be planned for.

How do you all do it?

AndHarry Tue 29-Oct-13 13:10:56

I write my days out and only plan for evening meals and weekend lunches. We have firm favourites that I write down first (chicken korma on a Saturday night, fish on a Monday, soup for Saturday lunch etc.), which only gives me a couple of gaps to fill. I find that much easier than having to decide everything in advance.

UriGHOULer Tue 29-Oct-13 13:31:39

I'd love to know how people do it. I've tried it but it never seems to work out.

DP rolls his eyes at "its Thursday so its fish pie" sort of thing.
And then the toddler eats the ham that was for the carbonara and hates pasta or we're out in the morning so we're hungry and have a big cooked lunch so that means no one wants a "proper tea".

It doesn't seem to work out much cheaper (in our house) anyway.

FeisMom Tue 29-Oct-13 13:38:51

I write down the days of the week, and work out which days the DCs have friends coming over / activities / I'm working etc.

We always have a curry on a Saturday so that's that day sorted, Sunday is roast, so that is sorted, I buy a big one so that we can have cold cuts and chips baked potatoes and salad on Monday

So Tues & Thurs, I work and the DCs have after school activities that take up half the bleeding evening, so they are always slow cooker days - so a sausage casserole or spag bol or such like.

That just leaves Wednesday and Friday to sort out.

I get the DCs to write down their fave meals and then incorporate them so there is no "Ugh I don't like that", I also read someone suggesting to do a 8 or 9 day plan so you don't end up with one day being a spag bol day.

So set days for set meals?

UriGHOULer I think you are me. This is my problem. What do you do then?

I plan the meals I want for the week, plus two. I do set days, but the are flexible and I always have the two fallback plans if I don't fancy what is planned or am too lazy (the extra meals are always easy types). I also try to have a few options for a meal where I use the same ingredients but have different meals so I can have either a chicken stir fry or chicken fajitas with the same ingredients (bar wraps which I always have in anyway) .I try to plan so that I can make the most of my shop- so to avoid using one carrot out of a bag etc.

I get DC and dh to check the suggestions and veto or suggest their favourites.

A plan would look like this

Monday- a gammon in coke with new potato and green beans (eat half the gammon, leave half)
Tuesday- smoked salmon and peas in a creamy sauce on pasta
Wednesday- split pea soup with chunks of the gammon and a poached egg. With chunky buttery bread / potato cakes with ham chunks and cheese in topped with an egg on a salad.
Thursday- sausage and mixed bean casserole, with any veg available / toad in the hole with roasted carrots, parsnips and potatoes.
Friday- gardeners pie, topped with cheesy mash or veg soup if we didn't have the soup earlier
Saturday- baked fish with soy, chilli and ginger on egg noodle stir fry (with carrots, a pepper, and any green stuff- broccoli or peas)
Sunday- lamb shanks in red wine with mixed vegetable and cheese mash.

Extra meals- pasta pesto, egg fried rice, veggie Bolognese.

My shopping list on Sunday would be-

Sausages (date after Wednesday)
Lamb shanks (this is always whatever meat is going off and in sale)
Smoked salmon
Gammon (usually have very long dates)

Fresh veg-

A bag of potatoes
green beans
Any discount veg which can find a place in my meals- greens, peppers, red onions, Swede etc.




Split peas
Tin of mixed beans
Tin of tomatoes

Eggs (not dairy but you know)
if I didn't have it in I would also need soy, flour, etc. but I'm presuming it's there.

The meals we don't have get pushed back to next week and the ingredients unused are included in next plan.

I usually do it on a Saturday morning, which leaves Sat or Sunday to get the ingredients. It will be based around who's in or out, whether it needs to be somehting quick, whether I'm on a fasting day, etc.

So it'll typically be:

Sunday - DH will cook. He's on a Tom Kerridge kick at the minute, and he'll follow the recipe to the letter. But it's a relaxed day, we've nowhere to rush off to, so we have the time to do something more complicated.

Monday - usually a down day for me, so he'll have a steak with some pasta/ sauce

Tuesday - step son stays. Scrambled eggs on toast, sausages, egg and chips.

Wednesday - I'm in this evening so I'll cook something, maybe a Jamie 15 minute meal

Thursday - everyone else is out, I'm the only one who likes fish so I'll probbaly have salmon and broccoli.

Friday - no rushing about, might do a chicken stir-fry, or a steak.

Key points are:

Only plan for 6 days of the week, as there'll always be a change of plans.
Watch your fresh veg, use them quickly.
Have eggs and pasta on standby
Batch cook soups and stews and keep them in the freezer.

JiltedJohnsJulie Tue 29-Oct-13 21:00:39

We are pretty much like andHarry.

I only plan the evening meals, the DC usually have school dinners and DH eats at work.

Each DC usually gets one choice a week. Dd wanted pizza and chips this week and we had one of their friends over for tea so that worked well tonight.

Although I do plan and buy for 7 meals, I'm not very precious about which night I cook and eat them. If things change, so does the plan and sometimes I end up freezing things, which can work out well. I recently had a week when I hardly had to buy anything as I'd frozen so much stuff when plans had changed.

I recently got this book from the works and I quite like it although I'm not sure I would have liked it so much if I'd paid the amazon price hmm

It gives suggested meal plans, easy store cupboard meals and recipes for when the DC gave friends over.

Everything I've cooked from it so far has gone down well smile

JiltedJohnsJulie Tue 29-Oct-13 21:07:31

Forgot to say what my meal plan is for this week, so here goes...

Healthy fish and chips (Aggies)
Roast dinner with Ham
Carbonara (with leftover ham)
Fajitas (DS choice)
Sweet and sour chicken
Pizza and chips (DDs choice)
veg curry (Aggies)
Jambalaya (from DS cookbook so he will probably help)

Its 8 meals as that's how long I've got between shopping trips.

DeathMetalMum Tue 29-Oct-13 21:19:07

I find it less time consuming if we plan for a month ish in advance. We don't do saturday is fish night or anything, we just go through and make sure there is variety so not having one meat too many times or pasta/rice too much. Then I just write my shopping list out from the meals. We use a diary so we can write in events alongside so know not to plan for that night or know we need something quick and easy to cook. We don't stick to it by law but it certainly makes life easier than thinking what to have at around 3oclock each day .

We also have a list of meals written down so can check if we are finding it difficult and put something in. We can always do something like pasta if plans change or shift things to different nights.

JiltedJohnsJulie Tue 29-Oct-13 21:28:54

Does this help grin

Toowittoowoo Thu 31-Oct-13 08:50:03

I have several lists of meals that we like and can cook e.g. quick family meals, weekend family meals, super quick kids tea, grown up food etc. and I then sit down with the calendar on a Thursday evening and work out which type of meal we need to eat.

On a Tuesday and Wednesday for example DH works late and DD eats at nursery so we only need quick adult meals. I like all the food on my list so I really don't care which meal I choose - it is a bit of a lucky dip really. Thursday and Friday for example DH is back by 5.30pm so we can all eat together but it needs to be quick so I just randomly pick a meal for that list.

I'd love a phone app that would do the lucky dip for me! I'd just programme in the meals, click on grown up food, for example, and then shake the phone until it came up with a meal. As most recipes can be found on the Internet nowadays I'm sure it could find the recipe and write my shopping list too.....that would be good!

mrspremise Thu 31-Oct-13 10:18:53

on android (don't know about the i-phone), there is a really great free app called food planner that TBH I would not be without, it keeps a record of everything youve programmed in before and that means it gets easier to use all the time, it'll tell you how long ago you last had things and how often you have them. You can even use it to keep your recipes in and make shopping lists, but I just use the meal planning features smile

jennimoo Sat 02-Nov-13 04:49:07

I've just downloaded food planner on iPhone but have a feeling it's a different app as I can't see how you'd plan... Anyone have a recommendation for an iPhone one?

Thank you for all replies. This has helped a lot. Am going to download that app.

I need a solid plan really.

Clutterbugsmum Fri 08-Nov-13 09:43:24

I have a simple spreadsheet, mainly so we don't eat the same thing week in week out. I can look back and either see what we have had or what we haven't had for a while.

I don't plan for every day. I don't cook 'proper meals' on a Friday the kids, choose pizza's, burger/fish fingers and chips.

I always leave at least one day where we eat what's needs eating in the fridge.

So I really only plan for 5 days.

Clutterbugsmum Spread sheet sounds good. Any particular way you do this?

Clutterbugsmum Fri 08-Nov-13 14:44:42

I have one per month.

Then I list down each week (starting the Saturday after payday) as I go shopping on a Saturday, so it goes

Date - Day of the Week - Dinner.

I then print it out and put in on the fridge so every one knows what we eating.

sashh Fri 08-Nov-13 16:11:49

I have a template on word with the days of the week and put the evening meals in. I go through stages of just putting favorites down and stages of looking at cookbooks.

If I'm using a recipe from a cookbook I put the name and page number next to the meal.

Underneath my day to day plan is a table to add things to buy so this week I had fish risotto and needed to buy smoked fish so it went on the list, I used half and froze half, so if I put it on next week's plan it will say 'use fish from freezer',

If there is a change of plan (went for a carvery today) I will either make the meal and freeze it or freeze the ingredients that can be frozen.

I try to have one or two meals from the freezer - it might just say 'something from the freezer'. If you have a meal or two that are either already in the freezer made or something like pasta made with store cupboard ingredients these are not wasted if you don't eat them.

magimedi Fri 08-Nov-13 17:02:07

When Dc were younger & I was far more pushed for time (old & retired now) I had an 11 day meal plan that I did not tell the family about. I just kept it revolving for a few months and no one ever knew as it was never a case of Tuesday = cottage pie.

magimedi grin

So I am going to sit and plan later. Using a mix of ideas on here

Clutterbugsmum Fri 08-Nov-13 18:28:19

Me too.

I'm doing a bit of what in the freezer (need to clear for christmas) and new ideas.

I will be using a mixture of regurlar recipes and new ones. So I have my box of recipes I've pulled out of various cooking magazines and cook books.

That's a clever idea Clutterbugsmum I'm always cooking out of my recipe books. I do wonder whether I'm the only one though. My book collect consists mostly of the chef who is very unpopular on here. I adore his food.

FFS. I always post before I mean to. Meant to say that it is part of the problem. Not planning and having to get ingredients most days for said recipes.

dawntigga Fri 08-Nov-13 18:43:35

I'm currently planning a years worth of meals as part of something I'm doing for my blog. I think they are more of a guideline than something to be strictly to adhered to.


Clutterbugsmum Fri 08-Nov-13 18:48:38


Your a better person then me, I can just about manage a month at a time but most of the time it's a week.

dawntigga Wow! shock grin Have some wine

I'm interested in reading that. Would you mind if I had the blog site address please?

dawntigga Sat 09-Nov-13 07:57:37

Ooops, it's only just started and I really didn't mean to plug it!



Clutterbugsmum Sat 09-Nov-13 08:02:07

Perhaps if we list our menu plan dawntigga will help you with some more idea's.

Can I have a pm with it as well when you have finished please.

Weegiemum Sat 09-Nov-13 08:12:53

We don't have set days except pizza on Friday night (mainly due to piano lessons 5-7 pm!). And a "proper dinner" on Sunday, usually slow cooker as Sunday is pretty busy with church etc.

But I meal plan every week and only buy what we need. Every week we'll have a pasta dish, a fish dish and "one of the ones dd1 won't eat" (Mexican, Chinese, curry ...... The list goes on. She makes herself a baked potato or something). Most weeks we'll eat chicken pie one night.

Also allows me to plan lunchboxes for the week.

Before I started this I'd be throwing out too much food. I also have a few dishes in the freezer in case.

ScienceRocks Sat 09-Nov-13 08:27:35

I plan a week or so in advance. This involves sitting down with a couple of recipe books, writing down the days and then working out what is going on that day. Dinners usually slot in according to what I have in the fridge, and I make my shopping list at the same time. So:

Monday - dd1 has swimming so I don't have much time to cook, she and dd2 usually have something quick from the freezer, eg. Bolognaise, ao all I have to do us boil pasta, heat the sauce and grate some cheese. The DDs have packed lunch so I don't like their dinner to be bread based.

DH and I are doing 5:2 and Monday is often a fast day. This dictates dinner choice as it can only be 250cals per person, eg. Harissa chicken breast with bulgur wheat salad.

Tuesday - DH gets home in time for us to have family dinner. I have a bit more time to cook, so it will usually be a casserole or pie that we will all eat, plus a pudding eg. Lamb hot pot with broccoli, followed by apple crumble. Again, the DDs have packed lunch so I avoid bread.

Wednesday - the DDs eat separately to me and DH because dd1 has brownies and needs to eat beforehand. She has school dinners, which is always a roast on Wednesday, so I avoid potatoes. Dd2 will have been at MIL's, who always mKes macaroni cheese so I avoid pasta too. An example dinner is teriyaki salmon with carrots and green beans and steamed jasmine rice,

DH and I eat after he gets home. If we have had meat the previous two nights, I often go for fish, so we might have a fish curry with rice (then may well be some leftover from the DDs).

Thursday - dd2 has swimming so lunch has to be quick, often soup and a sandwich, and dd1 has school dinners which is usually pasta on a Thursday. So potatoes are an option, and they may have jacket potatoes with baked beans and cheese, or home made wedges with fish goujons and peas.

It's usually fast day for me and DH, so we might have ratatouille with rye bread, or a veggie stir fry with beansprouts instead of noodles.

Friday is often play date day, so I may give the DDs daal and rice with papadams. Potatoes are a no no because dd1 will have had them for lunch and dd2 may well have had them too. Another common Friday night dinner is home made chicken ramen.

The DDs always have yogurt and fruit after their dinners, plus a cake or biscuit if I have baked. Immediately after school, they get fruit and either toast, biscuits or pain au chocolat.

DH and I have something that takes a while to cook on Friday nights, eg. Roast duck legs with potatoes and salad, that goes with a bottle of wine!

Saturdays - if we aren't away, I may make pancakes for breakfast, do a roast for lunch, then we have a light dinner of wraps.

Sundays are often eggs for breakfast, something made with roast leftovers for lunch (risotto?) then a light dinner again.

Gosh, I have a lot of rules when I menu plan blush

For people who have and use cookery books have you tried It's 16 pound for the year, but it indexes your cookbooks, so you can search ingredients and it will tell you which of your books has recipes with those ingredients. I find it great for meal planning, I can put in what I have (which doesn't stick to plan because I buy whoopsie veg and meat) and I can plan accordingly to what I've got and use my books. It came up with loads of pumpkin recipes for the 30p pumpkins I bought in Nov 1stgrin

pregnantpause I've signed up to the sight, on the free option. It won't find my books. Is coming back as 0 results in the search section. confused

Its ok. I've managed it. My mistake blush

Frontdoorstep Sat 09-Nov-13 18:14:02

I tend to plan for about a month, that saves repeating meals. I do it as a note on my phone. If a good idea pops into my head I add it on to the next blank day.

dawntigga Sun 10-Nov-13 15:10:03

I have 112 days left to go, this is very difficult :D


dawntigga Could we help you? Or you ok?

dawntigga Sun 10-Nov-13 16:55:50

I could do with some help, I've got the usual spag bol/chilli etc and am looking for low cost high taste options. My lot won't eat fishy fish and The Cub thinks pie is poison so that's only on 3 times in a year. The lack of variety in what we eat is depressing.


Corned beef hash, spicy pasta's, stir frys?

Clutterbugsmum Sun 10-Nov-13 17:45:37

What about

Lamb Cobbler
Sweetcorn pancakes and Bacon with tomatoes
Chicken,mushroom and veg mix. - max into pies, over pasta, rice or jacket potato.
Cheesy pasta, Broccoli Bake.
Sausage plait and veg.

Just some from my future and past plans that have.gone.down memorably-
Bean burgers- good food butter bean burgers are good. lentil and chickpea soup? Carrot and potato cakes? Leftover fried rice? Frittata/tortilla? Stuffed peppers? Pearl barley and blue cheese risotto? sage and Swede risotto? Pumpkin or chicken laksa? Mexican lasagne? mince and Rosemary scones? Pork and apricot burgers? Swede and potato pasties? Aubergine parmigiana? Potato pancakes with bacon and egg? Pork belly and chirizo stew? Butter bean and ham hash?

Some great ideas on here dawntigga. How many meals do you have left?

How about pesto pasta with bacon and peas?
Homemade pizza
Stuffed jackets (mash insides with cheese/gammon/spring onions/whatever.
Sausages sliced and threaded onto kebab sticks along with mushrooms. Served with rice salad

I havn't meal planned yet (well I did plan meals around a huge pork joint we have, except when I went to cook it yesterday it was off)
So back to the start.

Steffanoid Mon 11-Nov-13 09:20:57

im on sw now too smile me and my dp meal plan on our way to the supermarket.

tonight light choices sausage, mash and cabbage
tomorrow spaghetti bolognaise and garlic bread if I loose at weigh in
wednesday quorn stir fry
thursday homemade kfc and home made chips
friday gammon egg and chips
saturday chilli and rice

TheGatheringDark Tue 12-Nov-13 15:16:40

I use a main ingredient as a prompt, and only plan for weekdays when doing a meal plan:

Friday-freezer food grin

So Mondays could be gnocchi, baked potatoes, shepherds pie, sausage and mash or anything else featuring potatoes

Tuesdays-curry or daal and rice, risotto, egg fried rice etc

Weds-lasagne, spag bol, macaroni cheese, ravioli, stir fry with noodles etc

Thursday-pizza, beans/egg/anything else on toast, soup with garlic bread

Friday-pick of the freezer!

It's flexible enough that I don't end up with masses of food being wasted if there is a last minute change of plan, and means we get a pretty good variety of food-I keep a record of what we eat in my calendar so if I can't remember what we had last Weds can just flick back and check so I don't duplicate meals more than every three or four weeks.

Clutterbugsmum Tue 12-Nov-13 17:19:16


I do something similar. Except I tend to do


Then I look for recipes to fit.

That's a good idea. So many different things you could do. It wouldn't seem like the same thing week after week that way.

Clutterbugsmum Tue 12-Nov-13 18:16:00

That's it because for example leftover also cover drying vegetables that need using.

Pasta and rice could contain meat or vegetarian.##

peanutbutterandbanana Tue 12-Nov-13 19:03:04

Oh goodness, the bane of my life - FEEDING THE FAMILY!

I used to think that people who meal plan were boring dullards, but now I have three children and a job I find that without meal planning life is just too hard!

I write down a basic 5-6 meals (as we always have a roast on Sunday or a bbq in the summer) on the 'notes' app in my iphone. No set day for each meal, I just look at the list the night before and decide which meal I fancy cooking. Like another poster I will mark where the recipe can be found.

Then the following week I start a new meal plan at the top of the list (thus pushing the previous week's plan down). Over time I build up a list and then that gives me inspiration too. I am constantly searching out new and easy recipes that take moments to prepare and am going to start a slow-cooker thread on MN.

If a meal isn't used (something else crops up), then it gets pushed to the following week (I pick one where ingredients won't go off).

My freezer is stocked with meals I've prepared ahead (bolognaise, chilli, shepherd's pie base for example). And I have about five meals 'in my head' with ingredients at the ready for times when I really don't feel like planning.

I find the whole 'meal provider' role such a bore but I do get pleasure from seeing how much the DCs love their grub and the first question DD2 (aged 10) always asks when getting in the car for school run home is "What's for supper".

Off to search for that app now.....

peanutbutterandbanana Exactly how I feel about meal plans.

dawntigga Wed 13-Nov-13 16:41:30

Hi there here is the link it's NOT a blog plug but couldn't work out how to upload to here.


<goes off to nose at website>

Hello, I've had a quick look. You have some lovely meals on there.
Dessert for dinner?! Sounds good to me wine

Is this the completed format? I know you have more days rto plan . What I mean is how are you laying it out? The dates, recipes, shopping lists etc?

I've looked, it's great, and I don't think giving to repeated requests is plugging your blog, not so much as just giving in to public demand (not to mention that you did plug munsnet in returnwink )
It looks great to me, and one of the few blogs I will go back too. Thanks tigga

dawntigga Thu 14-Nov-13 17:00:45

Yes, I've still got 91 days left to fill up. I'm trying to not have to much of the same thing close together and trying to not have anything month on month, but I'm going to have to because I've run out of ideas sad

Once I've filled it I'm going to do 12 blogs with the plan on monthly basis with a shopping list of everything I'll need on a week by week basis for that month iyswim. Each blog will also include the spreadsheet. I'll include links to sites that I think are fab for bulk buying spices etc. Sadly, where I live, there is no local asian cash and carry. Which is one of the things I miss about living here. When I lived near Oldham there was one right across the road from me - bliss!

The plan is trying to use in season produce as well, we have a fab veg stall locally. As The Cub eats his body weight in fruit every day, it's a good job grin

Any ideas for plugging the gaps I'll take gladly wink


Its alright- we will find something to fill it up so it's not repeating. Let me look back through it later and I'll see what I can think of thats not there.

I like the idea of all the blogs through the year.

I've been useless this week in regards to planning. Still don't know what to do tonight!

dawntigga Thu 14-Nov-13 17:21:52

We're having packet mix for the adults and The Cub had meze which he bloody loves :D In fact he's eating it as I type.


What packet mix are you having?

dawntigga Thu 14-Nov-13 18:14:28

The first one I put my hand on, I hope it's rice grin


How are you getting on dawntigga?

daisydee43 Fri 22-Nov-13 19:54:15

Doing meal planning now hate it shock

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