Plan ahead for healthier meals
Planning can really help you have healthy meals and snacks no matter how busy things get.
Here are six ways to make planning part of your weekly schedule:
1. Give yourself time to plan
Set aside time each week to make a meal plan. Keep to it each week. Once you get into the habit of planning, you will need less time. This will save you time in the supermarket and probably reduce food waste too. Think about:
- How many meals you need to prepare for the week
- When you need to make quick meals or prepare them in advance
2. Check what you have
Before you start, check what ingredients you already have in your cupboard, fridge or freezer. This may even give you some recipe inspiration. For example, if you have eggs you could make an omelette. Use up vegetables with a stir-fry.
3. Make it fun with favourites
- Make a go-to list of meals that you and your family enjoy
- Introduce new recipes when you have extra time, and if it’s a hit add it to your favourites.
- Get the kids involved and ask them what they would like to eat. Kids are more likely to eat meals that they have helped to plan.
- Try a themed night, for example Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, Fishy Fridays or Something New Saturday.
4. Use up your leftovers
- Plan meals that can be refrigerated and heated up or eaten cold the next day such as pasta bake, soup, shepherd’s pie, curry, lasagne or beef stew.
- Use leftover vegetables in an omelette, soup or salad, or add leftover meat to a curry or stir-fry.
- Remember leftovers stored in the fridge must be used within three days.
5. Cook in bulk
- Cook extra and refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Pies, curries, stews and casseroles all freeze well.
- If you are using the oven, think about what else you can cook at the same time. If you are doing a casserole, you could cook some chicken breasts to go in sandwiches.
6. Make your ingredients work
- Chose recipes that use the same key ingredients to save time and money by reducing the amount of food you need to buy.
- Introduce variety by picking 2-3 main vegetables and adding them to a meat, pasta or fish dish. For example, peppers, broccoli and sweetcorn can be added to a beef stir-fry but can also be used to make a vegetable pasta bake or served with meat or fish.
Get started with quick and easy dinner recipes
The following recipe ideas should take no more than 20 minutes to cook and prepare, perfect for when you get home from work or with the kids:
- Grilled fish with boiled potatoes and vegetables (try frozen vegetables as they’re quickly cooked in the microwave and create little or no waste)
- Stir-fry some vegetables with some rice or noodles
- Pasta with olive oil, garlic and chilli. Add some grilled chicken or salmon for variety
Here's a simple 5-day planner to get you started, and below a three-week meal plan for when you really need to plan ahead.