Over the last few months I've been developing a Meal Planner. At first it was very rough: just my usual shopping list on a scrap of paper with meal ideas jotted at the bottom. That developed slightly when I wanted to keep track of what I had in the freezer and what needed using up in the fridge. For a while I had two scraps of paper going - one with the shopping list, one with the list of food we already had. Untidy, ungainly, unacceptable.
The major breakthrough was the decision to scrap the scraps of paper and use a whole sheet of A4. Wow! The extravagance! (You don't need to use a virgin piece of paper, you could use a previously printed on sheet. It just has to be blank on one side.)
So with the huge amount of note making real estate available on the sheet of A4 I played about with the best way align the various lists. I have come up with the following:
Weekly Meal Planner & Shopping List
How to use the WMP&SL:
1. Do an audit of your fridge, freezer and pantry. This might take some time initially but persevere, it's worth it.
2. List the food that you've already got under the heading "in fridge, freezer, etc" in the top left hand corner of the WMP&SL.
3. Think about the meals you could cook with the food that you've listed and jot down those ideas in the blank space in the middle top of the sheet.
4. Under the day headings block out where you won't need lunch or dinner eg you know you're going out to dinner on Saturday night. You could make a note also of the number of people eating lunch or dinner on a particular day eg you've invited friends over for lunch on Sunday, so you'll need more food.
5. Add to the meals list things that you'd like to cook but don't have the ingredients for yet.
6. Start allocating meals to particular days of the week. Don't worry if you don't have enough meals to fill the whole week. You might cook a meal and have plenty of delicious leftovers or someone might ask you out to dinner! Nice. Or you could do some recipe research and go shopping mid-week. Or if worst comes to the worst you could cook the same thing twice.
7. Make a list of the ingredients you'll need this week under the "shopping list" heading. Look at the meals you've put into your meal planner and at the ingredients that you've already got to help you do this.
8. Ask yourself some questions:
- Have I run out of salad vegetables?
- What am I eating for breakfast?
- Do I need toothpaste?
Add the answers to your shopping list.
9. Fold the WMP&SL into a handy jeans pocket size concertina-ed almanac.
- Fold in half long ways ie so that the top left hand corner meets the bottom left hand corner.
- Fold in half again, this time so that the top left hand corner meets the top right hand corner.
- Fold the top flap back on itself, and the bottom flap back on itself.
Hopefully the WMP&SL will now be folded into 8 with the "shopping list" page on the back and the "in fridge, freezer etc" page on the front.
10. Put your WMP&SL in your pocket. Get your shopping bags and money. Go shopping. Buy what's on your shopping list. Don't buy stuff you've already got.
11. Come home, unpack your shopping. Take your shopping list out of your pocket and stick it on the fridge. Cross the things you've bought off the shopping list.
12. During the week cross off the food use from your "in fridge, freezer etc" list. Add things you need to the "shopping list".