Did you know that in the UK, around 2.7 million carrots go to waste every day? Or that 24 million slices of bread are discarded daily? And that each day 1.4 million edible bananas are being thrown in the food waste?
Probably more shocking is that 70% of all food waste is generated in our homes - that's 4.5m tonnes of food wasted each year in the UK, worth £14 billion and equating to £700 a year for an average family with children. What?!
Did you also know that the average person eats the same six dishes on repeat, so not much of a wonder clients come to me telling me they're bored of eating and have lost all passion for being in the kitchen.
How much time and energy do you put into thinking about, shopping for, preparing and serving meals? Wouldn't you like it to be quicker and easier?
Well, there is one simple solution to all of these issues and that is meal planning. And yet, 35% of households don't do any planning at all.
How good are your children at munching on veggies? If they’re anything like mine, they’ll have a few that they don’t mind eating, others they’ll swing between eating them happily and completely refusing to even touch them and there’ll be plenty that they simply won’t even entertain the existence of.
So, first of all, what is meal planning?
It's about putting in place a good habit, a routine, of being organised and planning ahead for the coming weeks so that you can approach mealtimes calm, relaxed, happy and with anticipation of a (hopefully!) lovely meal.
Invest a little time to get organised and you could quickly see the results.
I’m not doing that!
Most people groan when I mention planning! They're reluctant to try because they think it's going to take them ages, or they've tried it before and not been able to stick with it, or they think meal planning is too rigid for them and their schedule. Someone once said to me that it sounds like something my gran would do.
And yet, the benefits far out weight all of those excuses and there’s a very good reason why meal planning is something your gran would do!
What are the benefits?
No more last-minute panicking about what to eat - no standing looking hopefully into the fridge expecting it to give you the answer when your little one is screaming at you to be fed!
You’ll eat a wider range of meals – no more being stuck in a rut eating the same meals week-in, week-out and getting bored of eating.
Which in turn means you eat better/more healthily and your little one is exposed to a greater variety of foods, which is one of the best ways to both prevent and deal with fussy eating.
You can plan meals everyone will enjoy that work with any dietary needs or fussiness.
Fewer trips to the shops - you know what you're making, what you've already got in the house and what you still need to buy – you can go shopping armed with a list and don't need to keep going back for things you've forgotten.
This leads to a saving of your time, energy and money
It reduces your stress levels.
And a big one for me is that it reduces food waste - you wouldn’t throw a fiver in the bin without thinking so why food?
How to get started
This is where most people I work with struggle – knowing where or how to start.
1. Schedule some time in your calendar to do the planning so that it happens. Starting to meal plan is about creating a new good habit and like any habit you need to make time for it and work on it so that it becomes something you stick with. Also, with practice it becomes quicker and easier. Having the calendar entry not only makes it a priority activity but also prompts you to do it until it becomes a habit.
2. Do it when it makes sense – there is no point doing it on a Sunday evening if that’s not when your head is going to be in the game. Do it in your lunch break, on a weeknight when your head is in work mode, break it down and do it in 10 minute chunks or even do it during family mealtime.
3. Just make a start - stop putting it off and do it! The thought of it is worse than actually doing it! Grab a pen and paper, your wall calendar, a seven day meal plan template, your laptop or your phone and make a start - stop putting it off! It doesn't matter how you do it, just that you find a way that works for you and that you stick with it!
Some tips for meal planning success
Know what you've got that needs using up
Use it as a starting point for your meal ideas. This will make getting started easier but will also ensure you're cutting the waste.
Check your calendar
Know what you've got going on, when you’re working late and how many mouths you have to feed for each meal. You can then plan suitable meals and add enough to your shopping list.
Plan two weeks at a time
It feels like you're spending less time doing it, it’s more efficient and you can be thinking about ways to use up ingredients over the two weeks without getting bored of eating them.
Plan dinner first
Dinner leads to leftovers or gives you the chance to think about what you're making and what you could cook extra of which can contribute to lunch the next day meaning lunch is no longer an afterthought and you’re eating well throughout the day.
Put yourself first!
Think about the foods you need to include each day and plan meals that work for your dietary requirements. Then think about how you can add to this to keep the rest of the family happy and sustained.
Something like my bibimbap is the perfect meal to pull together for a family with different dietary needs and likes as well as being a great way to use up bits and pieces.
Regularly plan a batch cook meal
Batch cooks in the freezer mean you can have something in the freezer for a night off cooking or so you can grab something quick and easy for a busy evening.
Keep a list of meal ideas
Add to the list when you see a recipe you like the look of, think of something you fancy, the kids request a meal, or you spot a lunch a colleague has brought into work you would like to try.
If you have an ongoing list, you can refer to it when planning rather than scratching your head for ideas all the time.
Still stuck getting started? Get in touch, or take a look at the resources on my website for more help. I'm a firm believer that there is more than one way to approach meal planning and that I can make it work for anyone at anytime. I’d love to help you crack it.