Tread lightly

Planning for flexibility

It is Friday – Food Waste Friday – so it’s time for me to account for my food waste over the past week. Today, I also want to talk about meal planning – specifically how to make meal planning work when you don’t like to stick to a meal plan!

Waste this week

Things are firmly back on track after being railroaded by illness for the last couple of weeks. The only waste this week was an orange, which my husband diligently disposed of before I could diligently photograph it.

Postscript: My husband didn’t throw it out, he just cut off a bit and ate the rest. What a keeper.

The best laid plans ….

Each week, I devote time to writing a meal plan, however, 90% of the time I don’t stick to it – well not to the letter.  Things come up, or when the day comes around I just don’t feel like cooking or eating what I had planned.

To accommodate this, I’ve developed a more flexible meal planning style. Here are some tips on how I make this work, while minimising food waste.

  1. Avoid over-planning

Keep your plan simple. If you like some latitude to follow your mood, planning at the level of “pasta” is probably more appropriate than “Mediterranean macaroni cheese with green salad”. Generally, I reserve being specific for when I must make a certain dish in order to avoid a food waste disaster, or company is coming over, or if I’m trying a new recipe.

  1. Start fresh

Order is important – I start the week with meals that use the ingredients that need to be eaten first.  Salads and stir-fries with lots of fresh veggies go at the start of the week. One-pot wonders that use frozen and canned veggies more towards the end of the week.

  1. Have your store cupboard on standby

The end of my week usually features a store-cupboard-standby meal – something that I can make mostly, if not exclusively, using pantry ingredients and maybe some frozen veggies. If I’ve changed things up during the week and skipped a meal on the plan, I just move everything along a day. The weeks tandby meal then gets carried over to the end of the next week, with no waste.

  1. Use your freezer

If you have freezer space, use it.  As I know how liable I am to change my mind, I freeze a lot on shopping day, even if I plan to use it within a couple of days. Yesterday, I bought and froze the pita bread we ate with tonight’s dinner. On this occasion, I stuck to the plan, but you never know, things can change in a day and I’d rather defrost something than have to throw it away.

Do you write a meal plan? Do you stick to your plan? What are your best meal planning tip?

No Comments

  • Lisa
    September 13, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    I have been meal planning for years, and agree with you completely on with being flexible. I plan for the week so that I can decide each day what to eat the next day, which means I also freeze almost everything when I come home from shopping. Leftovers are either eaten for lunch the next day, or if they accumulate, we eat them all at once for dinner one night. If it is just leftover meat, I freeze it for future use. Even small pieces can be used for salads, or combined for fajitas.

    • Amy
      September 16, 2015 at 7:21 am

      Lisa, sounds like we have a very similar approach. I only got a large freezer less than two years ago, but I’d be lost without it now.

  • Fran
    September 14, 2015 at 2:39 am

    Amy, this is such a timely post for me!

    I am ready to embrace the meal plan. My repertoire is very limited limited and I need to freshen it up! I love spring for this.

    I don’t find it easy to cook off the bat, but I am coming to realise that a meal plan may just change my life. I’m not sure why I have fought the idea for so long, I might be scared of the structure. Planning for flexibility might just be the key.

    Excellent tips here, might just nudge my meal plan ‘plan’ along.

    • Amy
      September 16, 2015 at 7:25 am

      Give it a go Fran. I find it saves a lot of time and mental energy doing all the planning for the week. Once you get into, you’ll do it really quickly with very little need for thought. You’d be surprised about your repertoire – it’s probably more than you think. If you jot down all the meals you cook over two weeks it’s probably quite a few. I find it is good to have this “master list” as ideas. Occasionally I try something new. Starting with all your cookbooks open, or worse Pinterest, is very overwhelming and makes it much harder than it needs to be!

  • […] Sara’s impressive results in yesterday’s Net Worth post, and you’ll also enjoy Amy’s tips about Meal Planning and EcoCatLady’s practical ideas about Saving […]


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