The Usefulness of a Meal Plan

 I used to dislike the idea of having a meal plan. I know it is useful and good, and for years, my husband bugged me to work one out so that we don’t have to think about what to cook and what to eat all the time. But I liked to cook and I liked the flexibility of cooking whatever I happened to feel inspired to cook. Never mind that there were also days when I had no inspiration and had no idea what to cook. It seemed so boring to eat the same things over and over again within a short period of time.

Recently, because of the new baby, we hired a full time domestic helper to help me. She was totally inexperienced and I had to teach her everything from scratch, from cooking to general housekeeping. Marketing was part of her job but we usually ended up with a hodge podge of ingredients which I had to sort through and worked out how to use them. She was not good at working out the menu herself.

When our baby was almost due, I worked out a one month meal plan for my domestic helper so that she could work on autopilot, from grocery shopping to cooking, while I was in confinement. The plan worked out really well, much to my surprise! After the confinement, we continued with the meal plan. Thus, I discovered the merits of having a meal plan.

1. Less Wastage

One of the most obvious merit that I found was that we had less wastage. Previously, because there was no plan, what we cooked was basically dependent on what I felt like buying during grocery shopping. When I was particularly ‘inspired’, I could end up buying a lot of stuff that in the end, I did not have the chance to use or did not have the time to use. By the time I got around to using some of the things, they were all spoiled and we had to throw them away. Sometimes, I would lose my inspiration after buying the ingredients and I ended up not using them.

Now that we have a meal plan, my domestic helper shops for ingredients based on the meal plan and almost everything is used before they spoil. So we buy less and waste less.

2. Less ‘thinking’

Previously, days that I didn’t feel ‘inspired’ were days that we didn’t know what to eat. I would be asking my husband,”What do you feel like eating?” He would usually reply,”Anything. I am easy.” It sure did not help me decide on what to cook! It could get pretty frustrating.

With a meal plan, we don’t have to go through this anymore! My husband is certainly happy that he does not need to answer the ‘what do you feel like eating’ question these days.

3. Easier on the Domestic Helper

This is if you have a domestic helper and she is not very good at working things out herself. Having a plan is almost idiot proof. There will also be less frustration for you because both you and your domestic helper know what to expect everyday. If you need to teach your new helper how to cook, the meal plan will also be a good, systematic guide. You only need to teach her how to cook the dishes included in the meal plan.

4. Time Saving

You don’t have to run to the market and grocery store all the time because you have a plan, you know what to buy and you can do your shopping all at once. This is time-saving and running the household becomes a little more efficient. I stay 5 minutes walk away from stores and supermarkets, so buying things has always been very convenient. Hence, I have never really felt the compulsion to make shopping more efficient. However, with the meal plan, even I can feel the difference in terms of efficiency and time-savings. I can imagine the meal plan would be an even greater help for families that don’t stay near stores and supermarkets.

If you want to, you can even pre-cut everything right after you come back from shopping. Pre-cut the ingredients and store them according to the individual dishes. In other words, all the different ingredients of a dish are stored together in Tupperware or Ziploc bags. You can find compartmentalised plastic boxes from department stores. They are good for storing all the ingredients in one place but still separated. On the day you are supposed to cook that dish, just take out that bag/Tupperware and start cooking!

5. Nutrition Overview

If you don’t have a plan, you actual won’t know what you are eating day after day. With a plan, you know at a glance whether you are having well-balanced diet spread over a period of time. E.g. without a plan, we could end up eating take-out and fast food quite often. When uninspired, it was often easy to just pop over to the coffeeshops or fast food places to settle a meal quickly. At times, if I was ‘inspired’ to cook a lot of fried stuff, we could end up eating a lot of fried stuff within a short period of time. With a meal plan, I can make sure that we have a well balanced diet.

Medically, it is also recommended that you have some kind of a meal plan if you are on special diet due to health reasons. It will help you to monitor what you eat on a daily basis.

Is it Boring?

If you are like me, you are probably wondering at this point,”Isn’t a meal plan boring? Troublesome to create?” Some housekeeping/Organisation books I have read recommend sitting down every week to work out the plan for the week. That can be troublesome and if you are not very keen on meal plans in the first place, you may not have the motivation to sit down every week to work it out. Furthermore, you may still be stuck at the ‘what do I want to cook’ hurdle while you sit there and think through the plan.

I worked out some ways to overcome the ‘Bore Factor’ and accommodate my love for cooking. Firstly, I worked out a one-month meal plan. Not a weekly meal plan. Yes, if you only have a weekly or fortnightly rotating meal plan, it can get quite boring. I feel that one month is a good time frame to minimise the Bore Factor. Besides, I can always modify the meal plan now and then to change some dishes. Certain basic dishes do get repeated a few times within the month, but those are really our staple, e.g. stir fry veggies. If you want, you can even work out a 2-month plan!

Secondly, I don’t plan for every single day. Usually, I leave either Saturday or Sunday free. This is because we quite often go out and eat out on weekends anyway. So there is no point planning for that day and not cook. Those blank days are also the days when I try out cooking new stuff to satisfy my need to cook with ‘inspiration’.

 How To?

By now, I hope I have given you enough motivation to want to work out a meal plan for yourself. If you want to know how I go about creating my meal plan, please read How I Create My Plan.