10 things I know about meal planning

10 things I know about meal planning - Anna Spurling - Champagne Cartel

I have not always been a meal planner. I used to be all, “I feel like chicken tonight,” so I would thumb leisurely through my Donna Hay collection and concoct an elaborate dinner. If I needed sour cream, I’d pop to the supermarket at 6.45pm without a care in the world.

Then kids plus anxiety came to camp in my house and that 5pm witching hour used to punch me in the face every single day. When I started having panic attacks about how to get dinner on the table then I knew things had to change.

Now I am all, yeah tonight is this slow cooked masterpiece that I made yesterday and I am already cooking tomorrow night’s dinner now. High fives for being so organised. But you know what? It works. So here are 10 things I know about meal planning.

It is not as hard as it seems: Meal planning is actually super simple. You get a fancy notepad and you start to write down the meals that your family will eat for the week ahead. Don’t overcomplicate things because the list is designed to make you less stressed, not confused. I usually make sure we have a variety of protein sources, a freezer meal and a cheat meal each week. Give yourself a break one night and make the easiest possible dinner you can that you know everyone will eat.

You will reduce your stress: Nothing sends this mumma into a spin more than end of day fatigue, whining kids and trying to decide what to have for dinner. Knowing that you have all the ingredients ready or even better, you just need to heat up the meal, will have a significant impact on your stress levels.

You will eat healthier meals: When you meal plan, you have the ability to incorporate a rainbow selection of vegetables, high quality protein and a balanced diet into your week when you are calm and organised. I know I am happy to drop a carrot from my plate if I am in a hurry! Stress, exhaustion and the glorification of busy will send your health plummeting. To cope with the daily demands of running a household means you need to be on your A Game {not to mention work, kids schedules, social lives and the list goes on}. Meal planning ensures you have a balanced diet to sustain you and the family as required.

You will save money: When you meal plan you first look at what you already have in your pantry and freezer. If you have a frozen meal that is ready to go, then you plan to have that on a night when you are particularly busy. {For me it is swimming night because of all that hair I have to wash and dry!} Then head to your pantry and look at what you have a lot of. Extra tins of tomatoes or legumes are common so find an easy recipe for them and add it to your meal plan and cooking repertoire. By planning your meals, you will buy only what you need rather than absentmindedly throwing food in your trolley with reckless abandon.

You will nourish your family: This is more than the literal sense. You will definitely eat better with an organised meal plan but you are also more likely to sit down together as a family for your meal. Sometimes the demands of life are so crazy that you have one, two or please say no…three sittings for dinner. So unless you are an on-trend restaurant then meal planning gives you permission to make dinner time a priority for the whole family.

You will commit to cooking: There is a big difference between being a slave in the kitchen and cooking for pleasure. When that 6pm dinner deadline is breathing down your neck it is hard to enjoy the experience. There is no jus or weird smears on your plate but there is a healthy balanced meal for everyone. nourish your meals as well.

You can involve the whole family: Get everyone in the family to write down three of their favourite meals. You want the meals that make you win at dinner every single time {it is totally a competition}. Hopefully then you’ll have a great selection of meals that you know are easy to cook, nutritious and will get you 10 out of 10 from a posse of picky judges. Meal planning can then extend beyond the actual meal preparation, especially if you get to eat together. One child can set the table whilst another makes sure that there are water glasses for everyone, ideally with water {its amazing how they can forget that one!}. All children take their plates to the dishwasher and dinner becomes a family experience. We usually spend that time talking about our days…something good that happened and something bad that happened. If we’re on a roll then we also talk about gratitude.

It will make you cook smarter: Meal planning is all about organisation and saving time. When you find your meal planning mojo you will find yourself double batch cooking with a meal for the table and a meal for the freezer. How to win at meal planning 101 is to have meals ready to go. You will also learn to get savvy with leftovers. If you have a roast dinner on the weekend, use the left over meat for sandwiches or wraps. If you know you’ll have a lot left over then mash some potatoes at the same time as your roast and throw all the left overs into a baking tray to make a simple version of a cottage pie.

You will never go to the supermarket again: Okay that is not technically 100% correct but once you get your meal planning down pat, then online shopping becomes your friend. Learning what you need to buy from the supermarket to be delivered to your house is one of the most liberating time savers in the history of time saving.* Plus you don’t have to wrangle a toddler with a fist full of Kinder Surprises. I get the supermarket to deliver my essentials and then use an online service like Aussie Farmers Direct to supply the fresh fruit and vegetables. Every now and then I’ll need a midweek top up but generally my meal plan allows me to be organised enough to avoid that.

You can give yourself a night off: The beauty of being organised with a meal plan is that when you either can’t be bothered or things just go a bit awry then you can have the night off. This is where breakfast for dinner is completely fine and in our house it is pretty much celebrated!

{*May be an exaggeration but it has got to be up there!}

10 things I know about meal planning by Anna Spurling - Champagne CartelAnna Spurling blogs at Colour me Anna where she shares her experience of managing anxiety and mental illness. When depression set up camp in Anna’s head, it drained the colour from her   world. Fighting her way out of the grey, Anna chose to reintroduce colour by connecting emotions with them. Since then, she has coloured herself calm, honest, raw + slightly amusing in a series of blog post thats explore an anxious and noisy mind, wellbeing, exercise + parenting. Anna also has a regular column with the Geelong Advertiser’s GT Magazine.
You can find more about Anna’s quirky + colourful world at www.colourmeanna.com 
Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.


  • I really, really, really need to do this. No idea what’s stopping me. I’m a competent cook, I have a million things I can make without thinking about them (Ok that’s a slight exaggeration), I’m completely sick of having no time after work because I want x, but don’t have y (or sometimes a, b and c as either) so have to go to the shops. Tonight. I’m doing this tonight. Thank you. x

  • I’ve always said I’m not a meal planner, but I kind of am in a way. I tend to follow the same loose meal plan from Sunday to Thursday nights. Friday night is either dinner out or takeaway, as is Saturday night. And you’re right – it totally helps you feel less stressed and more organised. x

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