“every minute spent planning is an hour earned.” Benjamin Franklin
One of the best way to get a lot more out of your day is to be organised. Being organised means you end up with less ‘wasted’ time and more time to do the things that are important. Chapter two of the eBook PLAN COOK SAVE covers how to get organised and plan ahead to save time.
When it comes to putting meals on the table day in and day out and saving money on the groceries, the best organisation tool is a menu plan.
Menu planning is basically planning ahead of time the meals you intend to cook for the period between shopping trips (be it a week or a fortnight) and writing it down for easy reference each day.
A menu plan is great for saving money because you plan your meals based on what you already have on hand, what’s on special, what’s in season, then write your shopping list accordingly. You may plan every single meal, or you may just plan dinners.
I’ve written about menu planning before, you can read about the benefits of menu planning here.
Today’s article is from chapter two of the eBook and is about how to make the menu planning process itself quicker and easier. While menu planning only really takes a couple of minutes each week or each fortnight, you can make the process super quick and easy by using a family favourites meal master list.
The family favourites meal master list
A meal master list is a list of meals that you and your family enjoy eating. They are the meals that you’ve cooked before and that you’re confident cooking and you’re confident your family will eat when you serve them.
A simple list of meals that you can refer to is all you need to make menu planning easier. However, if you add a few extra details to your master list, you can make your list work harder for you. This is what I include in my meal master list:
- meal / recipe
- main ingredient (usually meat, unless it’s a vegetarian dish)
- other essential ingredients (these are ingredients that I don’t necessarily keep stocked in the pantry and so must go on the shopping list if I plan to cook that particular meal)
- recipe source (so I know in which book and on which page I can find that favourite recipe)
- approximate cost per meal (useful for when you’re menu planning on a very tight budget)
I actually keep my meal master list in an excel file and include one more heading: a recipe link. This is for recipes that are stored on my hard drive or on a web page. I can put a link into the spreadsheet and rather than searching for the recipe, I can simply click the link and up pops the recipe.
The other advantage of using an excel spreadsheet is that you can also filter and sort your meals. So if you’re looking for a recipe that uses chicken thighs, for example, you can filter your list to only show those recipes.
Writing up a master meal list is a one time process. Once you’ve got your master meal list set up, all you have to do is add any new family favourite meals to your list as you cook them.
When it comes to writing your menu plan, you can just pull out your list to generate ideas of what to put on your menu plan for the week or fortnight.
(TIP: If you’ve filled in all the headings, you can filter your list to show meals that use ingredients that are in season.)
You know that preparing those meals will be easy because you’ve cooked them before. And as your meal list grows, the meals you cook become quite varied, because you’re reminded about that great soup you cooked last winter or that yummy dessert that everyone loved.
The takeaway: give menu planning a go if you don’t already and write up a meal master list to make the menu planning process quick and easy.