Meal planning sounds boring, and making use of leftovers a bit “the good life” in our modern fast paced world. However doing both is a godsend in terms of time and money efficiency. It is also very useful for keeping on track with my nutrition, and allows the husband and me to have (fairly) fresh food even on days when we are busy with work and life.
I do find it a lot easier to bulk cook in the winter with stews, joints of meat slow cooked, etc. but it is possible to achieve it all year round. All it needs is a bit of planning when doing the shopping list for the necessary ingredients for the required number of portions to support leftover meals during the week. You can even do it using the BBQ – just cook extra! If you are lucky enough to have the time to shop and cook daily, then I guess this post wont be doing much for you, but the realities for most people in this day and age are weekly shops (if not more infrequent on stock cupboard items).
If you want to eat well during the week for minimal effort look for meals that can easily be multiplied up and reheat well (unless you can eat it cold of course!). To make things even easier, if you can slow cook the meal in the first instance, either in an oven, or in a crockpot (slow cooker), it takes only the preparation time to get several meals sorted out.
Another advantage of meal planning and using leftovers is it saves money. No more buying ingredients that end up getting forgotten about during the week. Yep, hand up, guilty of that when things get busy and I get tired. You can then treat yourselves with the extra; save for a holiday, go see a movie, … More wins 🙂
As an example I’d look to plan Saturday through to Friday, as we often shop early on in the weekend. Meals which take longer or are more involved will always be done on Saturday or Sunday. I then look at any evenings where one or other of us will need to eat earlier or later (training, work, etc.) and ensure that meal will be a reheat of something. Or if need be, a ready meal like the Fuller Longer range from Marks & Spencer. Costly (unless you hit on a good multi-buy deal) but decent nutrition and not bad flavours for ready meals. I then plan which recipes we are having on other days, and if we need to cook anything extra on the Sunday. Then I look to see what leftovers (or extra items) I need for lunches. For example this week while we were cooking our main meal (homemade sweet and sour pork stir fry) I oven cooked some Tikka marinated chicken breasts that I’ve been bringing to work for lunch with salad.
It’s really useful to grab something from the fridge when leaving the house early to train before (and then sometimes also after) work. Lunches and dinners already portioned out are left in the fridge at work until I need them. I can then reheat or eat cold as appropriate. Microwaves for the win 🙂
Even on evenings when we are both in at a sensible time, it’s often nice to have a simple, but tasty, meal to eat. It saves the effort of working out what to cook, then having to cook it. We can then sneak in a bike ride, chill with the cats, or just generally relax.
If you are struggling with eating sensibly (in a cost-effective way) during the week give it a go. It seems an effort for the first couple of weeks but then becomes more of a habit. Shopping trips are quicker too. No meandering around trying to work out what to have and falling prey to the marketing tactics of the supermarkets! Any questions just let me know.