About a year ago, I posted a photo on my Instagram. It was one of the first pictures to draw some sort of traffic to my platform and was the result of lockdown boredom. I created two, incredibly tasty, Joe Wicks meals, which I pinched from my library e-book service completely free of charge.
They went down a treat. I think I made about 8 portions out of it and – for a man fending for himself – meant that I didn’t have to do any cooking for a week. Bliss.
Now, I did end up doing more cooking that week, despite my desires, to give me something to do at night that wasn’t just marathoning every Marvel film. Now that I’m in a full-time working career, however, that’s had to slow down. I don’t always have time to cook each night, alongside driving home from work, fitting in exercise and some semblance of socialising with my housemates. Sometimes, I want to walk through that door, pull out a frozen meal, throw some rice on the stove to boil, and start eating.
Importantly, my meals have to taste good and – generally – be healthy. You can’t guarantee that with ready meals and frozen pizzas. How can I ensure that I have something yummy, healthy and quick to cook?
Enter meal planning.
A week ahead
It would be an understatement to say that my Bullet Journal hasn’t saved my life countless times. It organises my day-to-day, my weekly life, ensures that I stick to my habits and gets me planning ahead for the medium-to-long term. It also keeps me eating balanced, tasty, healthy meals.
Each weekend, I think about what to eat for the week ahead. I’ll look at what’s already prepared and ready in my freezer, such as bolognese, chilli or a casserole, and consider whether that sounds appetising. If not, I’ll write out a rough guide to what I’ll be eating, including frozen portions and new concoctions, so that I know, more-or-less, what is on the menu for the week ahead.
I say ‘roughly’ and ‘more-or-less’ because it doesn’t mean that I HAVE to stick to what I’ve planned. If I’ve scheduled pasta for Tuesday, but Tuesday comes around and I’d rather a casserole, you know that I am one-hundred-and-ten-percent eating that casserole. I’m not a mad man. There is unlimited flexibility in meal planning, because the idea is that you will have lots of meals portioned up in the freezer, meaning you could select from a range of foods each night. I simply write out what I think I’d like for the week ahead so that I’ve got these complete meals ready to eat if I want them.
The alternative? Spending an hour each night preparing and cooking single meals; resorting to takeaway; grabbing a ready meal on the way home from work. This is all well and good every now and then, but if I’ve got a goal to get ripped like Captain America, then it’s not a sustainable, suitable, long-term plan.
Shop till you drop
Once I’ve figured out the meals I’ll be eating, I can make up a list of ingredients to buy while on my weekly shop. Usually I’ll mix frozen meals with one or two fresher meals for the week, which ensures that I can continue to munch through my pre-portioned meals and am continuously adding new stock to my freezer. It also means that I’m not wasting away my weekends with meal prep; I can batch-cook these two new meals and be done with them.
ANOTHER benefit means being able to better budget. If I’m only cooking one or two new meals a week, I’m not spending a fortune on fresh ingredients all the time. Finally, if I have a particularly busy weekend marking Year 11 papers or planning and adapting Key Stage Three lessons, I can choose to rely on the freezer and not make anything new for another week.
Currently, I’ve got a week’s worth of different meals in the freezer, but I have at times had up to 14 meals stowed away. How full are your freezer shelves looking?