Meal planning

Meal planning for menu-planning haters via
There are a  lot of things that I feel badly about doing when I was little now that I’m a Mum. A great deal of them are food-related.

I actually feel very badly for what I must have put my poor mother through with my fussy eating. For every night that I whinged when you told me what was for dinner, I’m sorry Mum. I know how nuts it must have made her because on one occasion, my sister’s punishment for some sort of misdemeanor – I can’t remember the offense – was being banned from asking what was for dinner for a whole month.

Mum used to and still does actually, say that the worst part of making dinner was thinking of what to make every night. Now that I’m in charge of the nightly meals, I have to say I can totally see where she was coming from.

One of my biggest late-afternoon stressors is trying to think of what to make for dinner. If it gets past a certain hour then that stress turns into cranky Claire and no one really enjoys having her around.

Enter menu planning. It has taken me until the last six months or so to really get into menu planning. I’ve said it before but the main thing I had against it was being told what to eat each night (yes I realise it was me telling myself but I’m a bit weird like that). I also used to get a bit ambitious with the menu and add exotic things or things that were a bit too healthy.

Since then I’ve come up with a couple of rules for menu planning.

My two rules of meal planning.

  1. All items must be something I will look forward to eating.
  2. Recipes can’t be too difficult or time-consuming to make. 


Meal planning doesn’t have to be as involved as full-on planning out every detail of every meal in a perfectly-laid-out template complete with recipes and instructions for an entire month.

It can be as simple as jotting down an idea for each night on a scrap of paper. The main thing is taking the thinking out of it so when it comes to the end of the day, when you’re most likely done with making decisions, all you need to do is glance at your list to know what’s for dinner, no decision making involved.

Menu planning 101 via

Why meal plan?

Saves you making another decision.

By the end of a long day you’re suffering from decision-fatigue and not having to think of what to make for dinner is a bit of a sanity saver. I truly believe there are only so many decisions we can make in a day and by automating as many of those decisions as we can, we’re taking off a load of stress.

Think about it, from the moment you wake up you’re making decisions. Do I shower first or unpack the dishwasher. What will I have for breakfast, what will I wear? What will we do today, what will the kids have for breakfast, should I put the laundry on now, will I ring that person at 9 or … You get the picture. It’s no wonder by the time it comes to choosing what to have for dinner we come up blank.

Saves money.

Whether you menu plan then do your shopping or do your shopping then menu plan, working out what you’re going to eat through the week can ensure you’re not letting anything go to waste. It also improves your shopping skills as you learn what you truly need to buy and what is better left on the shelves.

Saves time.

Even if it’s just the time it saves you thinking of what to make, menu planning saves time. If you’re at the extreme end of the meal-planning spectrum, you may even set aside a couple of hours once a week to do as much prep as you can for the meals on your menu which saves a ton of time and stress come cooking time.


If you’re actively setting aside a time to think about what to eat for the following week/fortnight or month, you’re more likely to put in a new thing or two or remember something you love that you haven’t had in a while.

If you’re thinking of what to make for dinner at 5pm while the kids are having witching-hour meltdowns then it’s more likely you’ll resort to the quickest, easiest thing you can think of.

Family time.

Menu planning doesn’t have to be just mum’s job. You can get the whole family involved if your kids are a little bit older. Have everyone pick a meal for one night a week and make a little event out of planning the family meals for the week.


This is similar to the variety thing but if you plan your meals, you’re more likely to make them a bit healthier than if you were deciding at the last minute and whipping up whatever first comes to mind.

Menu planning 101 via

Menu planning rules

I have 7 extra rules or maybe we’ll call them guidelines…

  1. Make it fun.
  2. Make the meals recipes you’ll look forward to cooking and eating.
  3. Plan at least a week at a time.
  4. To find out the rest, check out my meal planning workshop.


If you’re keen to get into menu planning, I’ve created a little template for you to get started. You can either print it out and write on it or type straight into it (that way you can link to recipes if they’re online).

I also have an example of a weekly menu in our house.

To grab them either click on the image below or pop your details into the form.

What about you? Do you menu plan? Does it work for you?



  • Maddie

    Reply Reply April 3, 2017

    Claire, sorry

  • Maddie

    Reply Reply April 3, 2017

    Hi so i’m very new to meal planning, but thanks to you I’m trying it. Just week by week, not by month or anything crazy like that! But I definitely feel more in control by knowing what we are having each (week) night, and it must save money as every time I go to the shop for one or two things, I always end up buying more! And it must also save TIME precious TIME!! Thanks for the idea and motivation Clare, now I need to buy a cryovac next! Mum to 3 boys, ages 8 6 and 2.

    • Claire

      Reply Reply April 4, 2017

      I’m week by week too. I think it’s more manageable and realistic that way personally. Definitely saves time and money! You’re very welcome. Wow 3 boys!

  • When I was a single working mother of two, meal planning saved my life. I never had to wonder what to make and everything was in the fridge or pantry. I would also make as much on the weekends as I could. The kids still insisted on homemade bread and I kick myself for doing it for years. 🙂

    Great ideas.

    • Claire

      Reply Reply April 4, 2017

      It’s a livesaver isn’t it? Oh you’re a good mum Maureen xx

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