There are loads of benefits to planning your meals, including:
- Helps you get a good variety
- Saves time
- Saves money
- Reduces waste
- Reduces stress
It also means you’ll be less tempted to buy takeout during the week when you’re busy or tired after a long day at work or taking care of the kids.
Step 1: Set aside some time each week to brainstorm meals
You might have a handful of tried and tested recipes you cycle through, or if you like to mix things up, pull out some recipe books or magazines or browse recipe sites. If you have anything in your fridge or freezer that needs to be eaten soon, plan your next few meals around these.
Fresh fruit and vegies have a relatively short shelf life compared to other foods that sit happily in the pantry or can be frozen. So it makes sense to plan your meals around what needs to be used up first.
Don’t forget about lunch! Spending a small amount of time planning can give you peace of mind knowing your lunchbox meals are tasty and healthy, and can make busy mornings that little bit easier. Having leftovers for lunch, and cooking in bulk and freezing meals into portions are options to save time during the week.
Don’t have time to plan? Check out our free meal planners.
3-2-1 Meal Plan
The LiveLighter 3-2-1 Plan is an online weekly plan of healthy dinners. You can go with our menu or mix it up by swapping in other recipes from our bank of healthy recipes to create a plan that works for you.
Family Meal Plans
The LiveLighter Family Meal Plans are downloadable meal plans with a weeks worth of fast and healthy dinners that'll satisfy the whole family.
Step 2: Make a shopping list
Check what ingredients you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Write items you need from your meal plan and other items like snacks and breakfast foods. Knowing what’s in your house already will help minimise waste and keep costs down.
Consider what ingredients you can substitute. For example, if a recipe calls for pumpkin but you only have sweet potato – use the sweet potato. Swapping out some of the meat for legumes (e.g. replace half the mince in a Bolognese with lentils) can also save money and boost your vegie intake. You would be surprised just how much you can slash your shopping list by thinking ahead and substituting ingredients.
Step 3: Stick to the list
When you go to the store only buy items on your list. Obvious? Yes. Hard? Oh my, yes!
You don’t want to throw away your hard work and planning by buying something that has caught your eye (or your stomach!). Ask yourself if you really need that ingredient. Can you make do with items you already have? More often than not, you’ll find you can.
Step 4: Prep for success
Depending on which day you do your shopping, and what order you cook your recipes in, you may need to freeze some of your meat. Remember to defrost it in the fridge the day before you need to cook it. Baby spinach, salad leaves and fresh herbs might not last 7 days so consider buying those just before you need them. Whole lettuces and dried herbs last a lot longer!
Individual frozen yoghurts are great to freeze and place in lunchboxes, not only will they thaw out in time for lunch, they will help to keep other lunchbox contents cool.
You can also bake goodies ahead of time for breakfast or snacks. Keep a few aside and freeze the rest for later.
If you have time, prepare or cook a couple of meals in advance. For example, make a lasagne, freeze it and it’s ready to pull out and bake in the oven for an easy midweek dinner.
Freezer friendly meal ideas
Creamy Vegetable Curry
A flavoursome curry bursting with vegies. A tasty way to help get your 2 and 5!
Indonesian Slow Cooked Beef 3-2-1
This fragrant beef and vegie combo will have you dreaming of your next Indonesian get-away.
Lentil Vegetable Soup
Hearty and packed full of veggies, this yummy soup will have you feeling fuller for longer!
One Pan Mexican Chicken 3-2-1
Vibrant colours, big flavours and hardly any dishes. A weeknight winner!
Pantry Pasta 3-2-1
This fast vegie spaghetti is made from pantry staples - perfect for a quick weeknight meal.