Updated: Feb 5
In the first in a series of occasional articles on different ways to simplify your life, Sue Boatman talks about the benefits of food planning.
"With the cost of food rising and with striving for as little waste as possible, a food plan can be a wonderful thing. One of the main benefits in keeping to a food plan is not only the lack of waste, but also the saving of time, particularly when cooking for a family. It means only having to make one trip to the supermarket each week and also stops the constant thoughts of ‘what shall we eat tonight’.
For me the first couple of weeks of doing a food plan did take a little more thought. I used to sit down on a Sunday afternoon with a few recipe books, my diary for the coming week and a note pad and quite enjoy looking through the books and deciding what we would eat on what evening.
I would then write the food plan on one page and the shopping list of ingredients on the page opposite, this would be followed by a quick look in the fridge and store cupboard to check we had enough things like yoghurts and breakfast foods needed for the week ahead, and that would be it.
Over the weeks planning became quicker, my routine was more familiar and I could look back at previous weeks menus for inspiration. Family life can be busy and so "quick fix" dinners on the evenings when you are taking a child to a particularly club or activity can be easily built into your weekly plan.
Food planning has made sense nutritionally as well. It’s very easy to get into habits with food, repeating a pasta recipe because it’s quick, or a particular family favourite. By having the meals written in a note book it gives a record of what's been eaten in the weeks before which stops too much repetition.
Now of course not every family likes things this structured, some might prefer to be more spontaneous. An alternative approach would be to just write a list and shop for seven different meals and then choose one of the seven each night depending on what you fancy or how much time you have. You could even leave one night a week free for a takeaway or a "try something new" night.
Someone once said to me they didn’t have time to do a food plan, my response to that was “I don’t have time not to”. As a busy working Mum it's all about saving time, stress and money. Food planning just takes one more source of stress out of the equation.
It reduces my mental clutter as I am not constantly wondering ‘what shall we eat and have I got what I need to cook it’, as far as I am concerned, I think about food and shopping once a week and after that I just follow the plan. It also reduces physical clutter in that we definitely have far less wasted food and are only ever buying what we need, rather than what we think we might need. Best of all it saves us money too and we are less likely to impulse buy.
Does the idea of food planning appeal to you? Give it a try, you really should see less waste and it should save you time and money. It's a great way to simplify your life.
Sue Boatman and her colleague Claire Furner run New Leaves, a Decluttering and Organising company in the Cotswolds. They have recently launched an online training programme "Decluttering for Life" which you can read about here.