Menu planning for dinners is a life saver for me! It helps to ensure that we get a wide range of nutrients each week as well as helping me to be prepared - saving time and energy!
Here's how to plan dinners in a way that saves you too!
Dinners I plan a little differently to breakfast and lunch.
Step 1)List out 7 main ingredients or meal "styles".
For example: 1 fish, 2 chicken, 3 red meat, 1 vegetarian (I often do this part in my head these days).
Step 2)Assess what you have going on during the week.
If there is a night where my partner is going to be cooking I make sure that night's meal is sausages or rissoles and veg. He really sucks at making salad and isn't very confident at trying new recipes so I make sure he gets something easy!
If I have a day where I will be home for most of the afternoon I will plan a slow cooker meal - I hate leaving it on when I'm out all day!
I plan to use my slow cooker on the days when I'm home all afternoon with the kids. My own image.
I plan oven bake meals for days when the toddler isn't going to be home while I'm cooking or days when my partner will be home and can keep the kids outside while the oven is on.
Step 3)Plan so that you don't have to cook so much.
If I do a slow cooker meal I usually have it with a quinoa/rice mix. So I plan to cook a double batch of quinoa/rice and make my super fried rice the following night.
If I plan Taco Tuesday I make sure I cook enough mince to do Mexican spag bol the following night.
Taco mince is versatile enough to become another meal - just cook up a double batch. My own image.
Having these written in the meal plan means that I can ensure that I have enough ingredients (and time!) to do double batches of whatever I need.
Step 4)Link dinner and lunch plans.
This saves extra time and energy. Left overs make great lunches if you are going to be able to heat them up or you might cook extra chicken to have as part of a salad the following day. If you write out your plan you can ensure that you do a dinner that will provide something suitable for your lunch the following day.
Monday is always Salmon night as it's also shopping day. My own image.
Step 5)Tie it in with your shopping days.
Make sure that on shopping day and the day after you plan to use the ingredients that don't freeze well or that take forever to defrost. Planning dinners means that, when I get home from the shopping, I know exactly what needs to go in the fridge and what needs to go in the freezer. It also means that I know what needs to come out of the freezer well ahead of time thereby reducing my use of the microwave for defrosting.
A note on take-away.
If you like to have take-away then make sure you write it on the menu plan. However - by menu planning you can drastically reduce your "need" for take-away by being well prepared and by planning some "homemade take-away" meals that are cheaper, healthier and quicker than picking up fish and chips or ordering a pizza.
Homemade take-away is cheaper, easier and quicker than store bought! My own image.
A note on plan changes.
Some days, no matter how well prepared you are, only grilled cheese and a glass of wine will suffice for dinner. If this happens, go with it! Just make sure that you check and adjust your menu plan so that any defrosted or pre-prepared food does not get wasted.
Planning out your dinners is the absolute best way to save time, energy, money and food. So check out some dinner ideas and get planning!