Menu Planning = Stress free dinners!

Menu planning = stress free dinners

Menu Planning or how to take the stress out of making dinner.

I admit it, I’m a compulsive meal planner.  At home we love good food but weekday evenings tend to be much too busy to allow me to spend more than 20min in the kitchen. So, I got into planning… and it did the trick: stress-free cooking and fresh, tasty food on the table (almost…) every eve!

Another benefit of meal planning is that you get a good go at balancing your meals rather than putting together a “whatever is in the fridge” dinner at the last minute or using Deliveroo more often than you should. Last week’s blog was on how to balance your meals and portion control.

Planning head also helps you reduce food waste, as there are less impulsive buys and you get to plan what to make with what you already have – who hasn’t had a fridge full of odd bits of veg??

Interested but wondering where to start? Here are a few tips, tricks and tools.

  • Do your planning on a day when you’ve got a little time to avoid rushing through it. I do mine on a Sunday afternoon so I can do an on-line order to get fresh ingredients early in the week.
  • Get your favourite cookbooks or websites ready to get some inspiration. You can find plenty of recipes at PurpleCarrot and now you can even browse them by category!
  • Go techie. Use an app like Paprika, Taste or Recipes to upload your recipes and create shopping lists. Or you can use a simple dropbox folder! I quite like keeping my recipes online so I can access them easily when travelling.
  • Get the family involved…so everyones gets a say and a little help in the kitchen is always welcome, right?
  • Check what’s in your fridge and cupboards and look up recipes incluing ingredients that need to be used soon
  • Take into account everyone’s tastes as much as you can but avoid planning too many different dishes for the same night to please everyone!
  • Keep a record of previous weeks (I use an Excel spreadsheet or an App called Recipe Keeper). So I can repeat meals, especially those we really enjoyed.


  • Take into account what days you can/cannot cook and plan accordingly
  • Try to cook at least two meals a week that are freezer friendly so you can use the leftovers the week after on those days you have absolutely no time to make dinner.
  • If you are also planning lunches…ensure dinner gives you lunch-box worthy leftovers!
  • Batch cook soups, stews and sauces and freeze in small glass containers…I upcycle my passata, olives and cooked bean jars!
  • Make a shopping list and save it, (some apps allow you too)  so you can reuse it if you are repeating any of those dishes.
  • Use a list making app like Wunderlist to keep a record of what’s in your freezer and update it as you use the frozen meals. You can share most lists so everyone at home knows what’s available!


Use these simple rules to balance your weekly planning:

? If you eat meat include 1 (or two for young children or if pregnant) good quality red meat dishes for a good helping of iron

? 2-3 portions of organic chicken, lamb or pork per week for B its, minerals and protein containing all amino-acids

? If you eat fish ensure you have 2 portions of oily fish like salmon or mackerel a week or if you are vegan/vegetarian ensure you have 1tsp each chia and flax seeds everyday to get your omega3 fats.

? 2 white fish or seafood a week for zinc and iodine to keep your immune system in check and support your thyroid production.

? Organic free-range eggs 3-4x a week which can be for breakfast or light suppers/lunches.

?? 4-5 vegetarian protein meals even if you are a committed carnivore because vegan sources of protein are high in fibre, low in fat and carry plenty of phytoestrogens to help module our hormonal balance. They are also better for the planet and if sourced locally can have very low food miles.

? ? This one is fundamental…take one or two nights off a week (no cooking or cleaning up!) so either get someone else to cook for you, eat out or order in. Works wonders I promise!

? Don’t forget to plan your carbs so you don’t just resort to bread or pasta with every meal. I plan 1-2 portions of healthy carbs, ideally gluten-free, per meal like sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa or GF wholemeal pasta and of you don’t fancy carbs, pump up your veggie portions! And try to add variety, there is only so much pasta one can eat!

? ? Add as many different veg as you can manage including plenty of different colours. Stop-fries or soups as a starter are great ideas The idea is to basically try to eat the rainbow, daily and week, to add up to 3 veg per meal, 2 fruit a day and at least 3-4 different colours per day. More details on portion measuring and control in last week’s blog.

Hope this all makes sense but if it doesn’t or you have any questions, please get in touch!