Free Printable: Up Your Meal Planning Game

It’s no secret that I’m a planner. I LOVE planning. I LOVE my planner. I obsess over it and fantasise over whether to plan digitally, on paper, with washi tape, MildLiners, or just spend hours on Pinterest coveting the creations of others. Please bear in that in mind when I say sometimes I don’t have time to plan. Add to this my love of meal planning and finding new recipes (cue more Pinterest and meal prep photo obsession) and hear me again when I say that sometimes I don’t have time to plan meals.

This would be fine, but as the main cook in our house (my husband does try, bless him, but I’m just not emotionally ready for that amount of chaos on a daily basis), I feel like if I’m not making healthy choices, no-one is. Since becoming a mom, I’ve realised how important it is to show how great it is to eat healthily and how home meals are cooked. Alongside the odd McDonalds – don’t judge me.

So I was wondering how I can streamline my meal planning further. I’ve made printable meal plans and digital cookbooks, which have all been great… when I’ve made time to use them. I usually do my meal planning weekly, and if we all head out as a family, or I’m just distracted, it didn’t always happen. With us, this inevitably leads to more food waste, spending more than we need to on food, running out of the right ingredients, or a takeaway when we’re feeling brain dead after a day at work. I wanted my meal planning to be mindless, healthy, easy and DONE.

I’ve since been following a 4 week meal plan and holy sh*t it’s SO much easier. I found a spare hour and sat down with an oversized coffee and created a template to fill in, then trawled though my recipes. I identified the times each week I’d be thankful to only have leftovers to warm up, the times I’d usually fancy spending some time cooking, the times when a to-go breakfast is essential, and filled it all in. Taking a four week look at our diet made me consider about balance, which for us, means not living on pasta every night. For each week, I then made a complete shopping list; I mean, I obsessed over it. Imagining the cupboards and fridge were empty, I listed all of the items we’d need for the week. This would be my basic checklist for the start of the week – I can just shop for the remainder.

The benefit of this is that making healthy choices is easy. It also means that I’ve got the food I need for the week, and little else. Anything extra can just get frozen for the next time around. I can come home from work, not knowing what’s for dinner, look it up and just go cook. As I’m a tech geek I’ve also made a digital version of this so I can check my shopping and meals on the go on my phone. If I find any new recipes I like the look of, I’ll swap them into a slot that fits, and if they pass the taste test, I’ll add them to the pile and make an additional week when there’s enough variety.

Fancy trying it out? Download your Sort Stuff Out meal planner below – you can get the individual weeks as a PNG, or the whole 4 week planner as a PDF. Make the time, fill it in and spend your time meal planning time playing with washi tape instead.

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