How to win at meal planning?
Each home is different and while a meal planning process may work for one it would not work for another. The key is to have principles that work for you and hep you cook regularly and enjoy fresh meals.
The process of meal planning and prepping, though convenient can be challenging. My initial attempts at planning and prepping meals weren’t exactly a success. You can read about why here. But I found my way through it by combining the two and identifying some principles which work for me and allow me to cook regularly and enjoy fresh meals! Keeping in mind that every home and family’s food preferences and habits are different, the principles can be adapted to just about anyone.
Know your week - Smarter Meal Principle # 1
My first principle is to know your week, that is determine how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you will need for the next few days. Factor in eating out, late nights, travel and children’s activities. This may sound like a tedious process but as they say failing to plan is planning to fail! Knowing exactly when you will have time and when you will not, or when you will need instant meals will help you develop a realistic approach to your cooking.
For example in my home, Monday needs something that is heat and eat whereas Wednesday needs to be a prep and assemble as I need time to pack lunches for the rest of the week as well. Sunday mornings tend to be lazy so a brunch is in order.
Know your cooking - Smarter meal Principle # 3
My second principle is all about working to your strengths and becoming fantastic at a few things. You can do this by keeping a master list of dishes that you can make with full confidence and are a comfort food for your family. It is a really fun exercise and you can get your partner and kids involved as you go. Keep the list handy on your phone or fridge and use it to populate your weekly plan (basically take the thinking out of your planning)!
You do not need to restrict yourself to the list and yes you can always add the recipe you saw on Pintrest – just on a day when you think you will have the time!
Know your ingredients - Smarter meal Principle # 3
My third principle is simple, identify a small number of ingredients that you can use in multiples dishes. I work to a simple plan - 3 key items but 6 dishes!
Boiled black-eyed peas are great for a healthy lunch salad or making an easy tomato-based curry to be served with rice
Spinach can be used in a make ahead Frittata, Indian-style saag paneer or a quick spinach omelette
Boiled potatoes are another great items - make yummy tikkis for an evening snack or use them up in lunch, you can even add the potatoes as a side salad
See a sample Three Star Menu below or find Tiffin & Table on Instagram for more inspiration! I also have Smart Recipes for you to choose from.
Don’t give up! Meal planning makes it easier to cook but it does take some effort to get used to. It is like a habit that needs developing. Every time you go through the process of meal planning you learn what to do and what not to do. In my case, I found that after a few months I did not need to re-do entire plans and could just re-use older plans! Being consistent really helps in getting through the initial phase of meal planning and prepping. As they say, well begun is half done.