Plan your meals for a whole week

Pour lire en français, c’est par ici !

At home, I’m the one cooking and my Mister washes the dishes. The reason is because I like to cook and hate washing the dishes but also because Mister is the kind of person who could eat only cheese and never get fat whereas I couldn’t survive a raclette-pasta diet.

That said, even if I like cooking, when I come home after another long day at work, I’m not always motivated to spend another hour cooking. But even then, I don’t like eating industrialized food. I find it most of the time too sweet, too salty, too artificially flavoured, too fatty and rarely really tasty. And I’m not even talking about how unhealthy they are !

Despite all this, I couldn’t find the time and motivation to plan our meals for the week. I love cooking for its creativity and the idea of planning the whole week sounded very rigid to me : I’m faaaaar from beeing an organization queen !

The real motivation actually came from Weight watchers. For those of you who don’t know it, let me sum up real quick. You receive an amount of points per week and you can spend it on food however you like. Fatty and sweet food use a lot of points, whereas vegetables are free. What’s really cool is that you are allowed to treat yourself some day(s) of the week, as long as you are carefull the other days. But if one day of the week you spent almost all your points on cheese and bread one evening because your fridge was empty, there won’t be any points left to treat yourself with a chocolate muffin on Sunday.

My first move was to fill my fridge with vegetables to be sure to always have some zero point food to fill my stomach. The problem was, most of the veggies need to be prepared and cooked to be real tasty. So I was either spending hours in the kitchen, or throwing away the vegetables I failed to cook on time. I was adding food waste to failing to follow by diet. Organization queen, I told you !

That’s when planning our week starting to sound interesting. I also got motivated by Aurélie La Poule on Instagram and her #semainedemenus. But like usual, I got to ambitious. I wanted to plan everything perfectly, with whole new recipes, that had to be tasty, healthy and sophisticated. After a few weeks I gave up and didn’t plan for a veeeeery long time. I started planning again when I got pregnant. On one hand because some restrictions I was imposing myself disappeared (I stopped wanting to lose weight and I stopped reducing my meat consumption) and on the other hand because I thought it would be better to start good habits BEFORE baby comes 😉

Before explaining my method, here’s why we love planning our meals.

Benefits

  • We save time when shopping. We just have to follow our grocerie list, which is as short as possible. Just what we need for the week.
  • We shop less often. We go shopping 1 hour or less once a week and sometimes once real quick in between.

  • We save money. The whole week is planned so we’re less tempted to buy “bad” food when shopping. And home cooked meal are cheaper than industrialized food.

  • We waste less food. We buy only what’s needed, in the amount we need. We’re sure everything will be eaten, not wasted.
  • We save time when cooking. No need to ask yourself everyday what you’re going to cook tonight. Recipes had been chosen according to the amount of time you have this evening. You can even plan to cook in advance or to use the same ingredients several evenings of the week.
  • We eat healthier. There are far much less opportunities to end up ordering a pizza or eat frozen food. And we’re less tempted to buy junk food when shopping because we have our grocerie list. It doesn’t mean we never slip but at least it’s better controled 😉
  • We save brain time. I spend about an hour per week planning our meals for the week and that’s it.

Want to give it a try ? Grab a pen and a piece of paper and here we go !

The method

1. Your planning day

Chose when you are going to plan your week. I think the best day is just before your shopping day or on the day itself. I plan on Friday evening or Saturday morning and we go shopping on Saturday. One piece of advice : Don’t plan or shop with an empty stomach ! You’ll automatically go for healthier options !

2. List your restrictions

Begin with listing the restrictions you may have. We could just as well call them improvements or needs. It’s what you want your planning to help you improve. Here are a few examples :

  • At least X vegeterian days or meal during the week.

  • Only season’s vegetables.

  • Vegetables at every meal.

  • Red meat X times a week or on the contrary, just X times a week.

  • X gluten-free days a week

  • No more than X meals that are not home-made per week (if you’re on a diet or want to save money for example)

  • Not more than one takaway meal a week

  • Not more than X meals with pasta a week

  • Always bring a home’made meal for lunch at work.

Only you can decide what’s really important for you.Be careful not to be to hard on yourself or too ambitious when you start planning. Otherwise it’s going to be to hard to keep up after a few weeks. I would start with only 2 new restrictions. Those who already are habits don’t count 😉

3. Plan your week

Make a quick planning of your week. Are there days that don’t need planning ? Will you be going to the restaurant ? Eating at friends’ ? Are there days when you won’t have time cooking ? Tuesday becayse it’s you’re at your yoga classe until 8pm, and Thursday because your daughter has danse class until 7pm etc. These days, someone else needs to take care of the meals or you prepare the meals in advance or you plan to order a pizza etc. In any case and whatever option you chose, it needs to be planned. You can also decide these days are improvisation day !

Little by little you’ll learn to identify the days you’re willing to cook and the off-days when you need an evening off cooking. I personnaly tend to do a bit of batch cooking on Sundays whereas Monday is often a pasta-day or simple salad-day.

In any case, you now know how many meals you need to plan this coming week.

4. Look at what ingredient you already have

These guys are from our terrace garden. We have to eat them soon before they go to waste !

Have a quick look in your fridge, freezer and cupboards : Are there things that need to be eaten or cooked soon ? We have to include them in our meals !

5. Make a list of what you want to eat this week

Make a simple list of what you fancy eating this week. I usually make myself a nice cup of tea, take my favourite cooking books and my phone to have a look at my Pinterest Recipe board. I select 3 new recipes that I want to try this week and if one of them is a bit complicated or a bit long to make, I plan to try it on a weekend. I know by experience that I won’t be brave enough to try a new recipe every evening.

Then I select very simple meals or recipe that I know by heart without needing a cooking book. I also try to find meals that needs the same ingredients. If I’m cooking a gratin dauphinois, which is a potato meal, I’m going to look for another recipe with potatoes because potatoes tend to germinate pretty quickly in our appartment so I wouldn’t want the rest of the potatoes to go to waste. Or I plan on cooking more and freeze one dish.

Every time I add a meal to my list, I write down which ingredients I’ll need on a grocerie list. Then I check my fridge and cupboards and cross out of my list what I already have. If you’re better organized than me, you just need to directly write down what you need of course. Don’t forget to buy more if you want to freeze some of what you cook or bring lunch at work and so on.

A good tip is to make a list of what you always need to have in your kitchen. It’s either what you use very often (for us : tea, coffee, eggs, oilve oil, butter, milk, pasta…) or very useful ingredients that you can keep a long time (for us : rice, preserved chick peas and kidney beans, flour, frozen peas… ). As soon as we finished one of those, we write it down on the “to buy” list the white board in our kitchen.

6. Plan your meals for the week

Dispatch the meals in your planning. It’s quite easy.I try to put the meals with fragile ingredients at the beginning of the week. Most of the time those are meals wich include fresh vegetables. The closer we get to the end of the week, the more we’ll have meals with “cupboard ingredients”. You can also plan a quick stop the shops during the week. We often buy one salad and fresh bread in the middle of the week for example.

7. You’re done !

Et voilà ! You’re ready to go shopping for the week. Keep preciously your nice little planning. You can even put it on the fridge for everyone to know what you’ll be eating this week. I like to put it in my bullet journal as well to help me find ideas for the following weeks.

In the beginning you may find it tedious to do but after a few weeks you’ll realize how much time you save without sacrificing on the taste of the food you eat (yes, taste and food are sacred to me. I’m french 😉

Our weekly planning proudly displayed on the fridge

Tips

Of course I’m only giving you the method that works for us. You’ll need to adapt it to your needs and way of life.

Above all you’ll need to find tips to stay flexible. And now I can hear you thinking “Is she kidding ? A whole post on planning and now she tells us to stay flexible”. It’s actually totally compatible !

Here’s what works for us, but again, you’ll have to try and find your owns.

  • Unless they’re to be cooked in the next two days, we put any meat we buy in the freezer when we come back frome the shops. That way we never throw away any meat in case we unexpectedly have to cancel a meal.

  • I try to always plan one meal with no fresh ingredients, only with our essentials that we always have at home in the freezer, fridge or cupboard. That way if we unexpectedly don’t eat at home, I can cancel this meal from the planning and reorganize accordingly without having to much fresh perishable ingredients left unused.

  • I often cook a big amount of something on the weekends and freeze it or live it in the fridge to eat it later in the week.

  • I rarely plan our weekend meals because we often get up pretty late and end up having brunch. So we sometimes have 6 meals, sometimes 4. But I still plan to have enough in the fridge to brunch (eggs, bacon, fruits, cheese, bread, whatever you like). And if in the end we want to have a real lunch, I don’t keep myself from using the ingredients meant for other meals. And I reorganize accordingly.

  • I do know when to give in to temptation and get away with it. If on Tuesday we feel like eating Thursday’s meal, we just do ! But first I’ll check that Tuesday’s ingredients will still be eatable on Thursday and if need be I cook them right away or put them in the freezer etc.

The next step for us wouls be more batch cooking. Ideally cooking just once or twice a week in big amounts to be free the other evenings. But we’re not there yet !

What about you, how do you feel about planning your meals. Want to give it a try ?

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