My Hybrid Meal Planning Solution

The last year has been pretty weird. I’ve worked from home for the entire year continuing my work with schools via Microsoft Teams. Although I’ve missed my school visits, the personal benefit to me of more time at home has been brilliant. As a result, a lot of my old ‘coping mechanisms’ have fallen by the wayside as I haven’t had to be quite so organised at home. Before lockdown, every morning had a list of jobs that needed doing before I left the house – putting on a load of washing, getting something out of the freezer to defrost in time for dinner or making my lunch. This year It hasn’t mattered that I’ve forgotten to do these tasks as I’ve been able to run downstairs and perhaps put on a load of washing on while I fetch a cup of coffee between meetings.

There have been drawbacks, having the kids at home while I’ve continued to work full time has been quite a challenge and being restricted in leaving the house has had an impact on so many aspects of our lives.

One thing that I’ve had to be really organised about is our weekly food shop. We haven’t been able to pop out for forgotten items and I’ve realised that using the menu planning method I’ve now moved to, I’ve saved loads of money as I only buy exactly what we need and we don’t waste any food.

In the past, I’ve sat down each Friday evening after a long week and tried to come up with a list of meals for the forthcoming week before checking the kitchen cupboards to see what I need to order via my online supermarket delivery. This was always a fraught process and we’d end up eating similar meals week after week! All I want to do on a Friday evening is collapse in a heap in front of the TV with a glass of something cold in my hand!

One of the perks of the supermarket I use is their reward points programme. Over the past year I had amassed a huge number of points by doing all my shopping in one place, enough to buy myself a Chromebook! Although I’m a pencil and paper girl at heart, and I still love my bullet journal, once I discovered Google Keep I realised that a hybrid planning model could be the way forward in so many areas of my life. This hybrid menu planing method is saving me so much time and effort and it’s been a real gamechanger in making our menu more interesting!

This is how I use it:

Create a note in Google Keep and use the three dots in the menu at the bottom to select ‘show tick boxes’. Create a numbered line for each day of the month.

Now get out a few of your favourite recipe books/ magazines and your pins on Pinterest and choose recipes that are appropriate for the month ahead. Doing this in one go for the whole month during a quiet time (when the kids are allowed their screens) is so much less stressful than trying to do it each week when I’ve got the deadline of the supermarket order handing over me!

Put a meal in each line so that you have enough meals for the entire month. At this point I’m not worrying about what we’ll be eating on a particular day – the numbers don’t represent the dates, but they’re just there to make sure I list enough meals. Because my menu is for September, I’ve made it fairly easy, mostly relying on old favourites that I know most of the family will eat – that’s what my * code is for. One * means one child will eat it – the youngest is still pretty fussy and would live on pizza if he were allowed to! Two ** means both children will eat it and no stars means that we’ll be eating this on an evening where the kids enjoy something from the freezer because they’re going to a club when we’d normally be eating together. The food is also appropriate for the season and, here’s the big bonus, I’ll be able to use it again next year with a couple of tweaks – hopefully my the 7 year old will be a little more adventurous in his food choices by then!

I also made the decision to move my supermarket delivery to a Sunday morning which has helped because I have more time to check the cupboards and fridge before doing my online order during the day on a Saturday. So on a Saturday morning, over a relaxed coffee, I sit at the kitchen table and look at my Google Keep menu list and transfer seven meals across to the list I keep on the fridge door showing the meals for the week. I tick these meals on the Google Keep list so that they move to the bottom of the list. I then use the recipe books to make sure I only buy what I need, having checked the cupboard and fridge.

At the end of the month, I ‘untick all ticked items’ in the three dots menu and move the list to the archive so that I can use it as inspiration, either for the next month or for the same month next year.

How do you plan your meals? Have you found a way to make this task easier for yourself?