I am proud to say that planning my weekly meals is something I’ve now been doing really consistently for at least 4 years.
I can’t imagine how I ever managed to eat before I planned my meals, and the costs must have been astronomical. We would walk around the supermarket and just buy things that were reduced or looked interesting, and hope that there were the ingredients of a meal when we wanted dinner, or go out and buy extra things to turn it into a meal.
My switch to meal planning was initially largely budget related when Mr LLL was made redundant and impromptu takeaways weren’t so affordable, but I’ve since realised how much time and mental effort spending an hour a week on meal planning saves me.
Back in 2017 I wrote a Beginners guide to meal planning, and this is basically still the way I do it now.
So today I’m going to talk about 3 of the pitfalls of meal planning and how to overcome them.
It is very, very easy to slip into eating the same meals every week. It’s easy, the shopping list is already done and it cuts down your planning time to just re-buy the same easy things.
For a while I got very sick of frozen chilli and stew that I would bulk cook, or easy pasta meals, but I lacked inspiration for anything else.
Most recipe sites and books are either very elaborate or far too simple, I find. They also often have recipes that serve up to 6 people, and frankly I find doing the maths when there is only 2 to feed far too time consuming.
One of the best places I have found to look for new meal inspiration is the HelloFresh Recipe Pages. Most people may know HelloFresh as a recipe box delivery company, which is super convenient, and I have used recipe box deliveries in the past. But they may not know that all their recipes are also available online, for free. The advantage for me is that their portion sizes can be adjusted to serve 2 or 4, so it’s easy to know how much I need to buy.
Check out the Most Popular Recipe pages for some inspiration for new meals to try.
Life doesn’t always work out exactly as you planned it. I think we only need to look at the whole of 2020 to know that.
If you’ve planned a week of delicious and tasty meals made with yummy fresh vegetables and then suddenly you have to work late, or get invited out for dinner, or just really, really, want to get a takeaway tonight then you don’t want food going off or going to waste.
My solution to this pitfall has been to make sure that at least 2 of the meals I carefully plan in every week are almost entirely made from store cupboard, long-life or frozen ingredients. I make a sausage and bean dish from frozen sausages and a can of kidney beans in chilli sauce. Something like these Refried Bean and Halloumi Tacos are mostly made from ingredients that can easily be rolled over to the next week, halloumi has a long life, it’s just the lettuce that might be a problem, but I find Little Gem more long lasting than other lettuce. Or use your batch cooked chilli, frozen pies, or other frozen items to cover a couple of days to allow for life getting in the way.
This is a pitfall that I’ve addressed myself over the last year or so as Mr LLL and I have made moves to reduce our meat consumption. When I grew up almost every meal was based around some kind of meat and I had literally no idea of any vegetarian meals. I am not a huge fan of just buying meat substitutes, its expensive and I’m not convinced that buying hugely processed foods all the time is much of a step forward, so whilst I could replace meat sausages with veggie ones, for instance, I didn’t really have much of a repertoire.
The HelloFresh Recipe Book has therefore become a bit of a go to for me in my weekly meal planning. You can filter the recipes by cuisine, but also just browse the vegetarian options, so its much easier to find interesting and simple meals to cook that feed 2. You can also be assured that they won’t turn out to be absurdly complex or contain thousands of hard to find ingredients. I’ve found the odd “what’s that” ingredient, but most of them are easily substituted, and the recipes are designed to be easily followed and easy to prepare.
I shall leave you with a HelloFresh recipe that I had for my dinner last night. It was almost absurdly easy and very tasty. You can see the original version on the HelloFresh website.
Preheat your oven to 210 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthways (no need to peel!) and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice each half, widthways into wedges 1cm thick. Pop the wedges onto a large baking tray and drizzle on a glug of oil, a pinch of salt and the smoked paprika. Mix well, rubbing all the flavours into the flesh of the squash. Roast on the top shelf of your oven until soft and golden, 30-35 mins. Turn halfway through cooking.2
Meanwhile, chop the broccoli down into small florets (small trees). Remove the seeds from the red chilli and finely chop the flesh. Roughly chop the parsley (stalks and all) and walnuts. Cut each block of halloumi into eight slices. Keep to one side.3
Mix the walnuts with the honey, a pinch of chilli and the parsley. Give it a quick taste to check for seasoning and add a pinch of salt and pepper if necessary. We will spoon this over the halloumi when it is cooked.4
Put the broccoli on a baking tray and drizzle over some oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the butternut squash has been cooking for 20 mins, put the brocoli in your oven to roast for the remaining 15 mins.5
Heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Add the halloumi slices. Cook until golden, 2-3 mins on each side. Tip: The halloumi needs to be golden brown so don’t overcrowd the pan, cook in batches if necessary. When all the halloumi is cooked, remove to a plate. Add the honey and walnut mix to your pan and warm through to melt the honey.6
Arrange the butternut wedges and broccoli on your plate. Top with the halloumi slices and drizzle over the warmed honey and walnut dressing. Yum!
This post was sponsored by HelloFresh, all opinions and advice are my own.
Header image by Vegan Liftz