Monday, 13 September 2010

Mummy Zen on Meal Planning

National Zero Waste Week drew to a close yesterday so I wanted to let you know how I got on with my meal planning, in an attempt to further reduce our food waste at home. The kinds of foods I tend to leave languishing at the back of the fridge are salad leaves or greens but this week, those all got used up without any trouble so I consider that a good result.

I still had some potatoes and carrots left over but they are still fine for being used up this week.  Potatoes can get used as a basis for a soup, to top a casserole/shepherds pie or sometimes I make potato pizza. Carrots are great made into a soup too. I’ve recently started making these yummy carrot flapjacks that are great as a savoury snack, picnic item or to have with some salad for lunch (my 1 1/2 year old loves them too). Leftover carrots can also be a good excuse to make some carrot cake :-)

Meal planning definitely has some advantages and I enjoyed some of those last week:

  • No time wasted trying to think of what to cook in the evening (especially nice after a tiring day).

  • More thought goes into your meals when you plan in advance so you’re likely to choose healthier options than you would if you were deciding on the spot.

  • Saves you money, as you cook with what you have rather than going out to buy more ingredients.

  • Cuts down on your trips to the supermarket.

  • Generally makes you feel more organised and gives you one less thing to think about.

As someone not used to meal planning for a whole week ahead, it was not without its small challenges. My meals didn’t always use as much of a particular vegetable as I had anticipated. Whilst the vegetables still didn’t get wasted, I could have done a better job at judging quantities for meals. One evening, I just didn’t feel like making the dish I had chosen for that night, too much preparation or something. It was ok, as I just swapped with another night’s meal but I guess you can avoid this by focusing more on quick, easy recipes for weekday evenings. I’m sure meal planning gets easier with practice.

Whilst I’m not sure that I would meal plan every week, I am keen to try it out for another week or so.  I can see how it could be helpful if you know you have a particularly busy week coming up. My reason for doing it was to minimise food waste and it achieved that aim and made me more aware of creating meals based around the fresh ingredients we have at home, rather than picking a meal and then cooking with only some of those ingredients.

Do you meal plan? If so, how do you think it helps you? What are you best tricks for using up leftover foods?

Photo credit


  1. I do weekly meal planning (most weeks) and love it! Like you pointed out above, it saves me time and money! I also love that I do not have to think up something for dinner after a long day. Like you sometimes I swap meals between days, but I make all the meals throughout the week, so it works out.

    One problem I do continue to have is left over's. We are not great about eating them all the time. Some weeks it works out perfectly and we use everything, and other weeks I feel like we waste some food. I am working on trying to get the family to eat left overs for lunch, although my kids seem to prefer sandwiches sent for lunch at school.

    Overall, meal planning works well for us! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and meal ideas!

  2. Thanks Tiffany. It's good to know how meal planning works for someone who's used to doing it regularly. Maybe you could freeze some of your leftovers if it's hard to use them for lunches. Glad to hear meal planning works well for you!

  3. I enjoy planning my meals as it's one time you can sit down with all those recipes you've been meaning to make and prepare a good, precise shopping list. Though it can get quite ambitious when trying out new recipes and they don't quite go to plan... We never have leftovers (perhaps because we eat too much) but there always seem to be left over veg at the end of the week which I use to make a delicious soup.

    Problem with trying out new recipes all the time is ending up with ingredients you wouldn't ordinarily use - like Capers.


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