How I Create My Meal Plan

This is how I made my one-month meal plan.

1. Determine the days we have meals at home.

Obviously, on days that we usually eat out or have meals at our parents’ place, we don’t need to plan for anything. The weekend free days also offer the flexibility for me to cook new things that are not in the plan.

2. Determine what our meal typically looks like

We are a Chinese family so our meals are the typical Chinese meals. For us, it is usually one soup, one veggie dish and one meat dish, eaten with rice. Yours may be different. It depends on how many people are eating and whatever special dietary requirements you may have to meet. It also depends on the preference of your family, e.g. some families must have fish every meal.

3. Determine ‘special’ days

There are some ‘special’ days in a week, e.g. Sunday, when my domestic helper goes for her day off. So even if we eat at home, it will have to be something that is simple and quick to cook. You may also have certain days when you are more busy. You may need to be out of the house more, running errands, bringing the children to classes, etc. On those days, you need to plan for quick and easy meals, e.g one-dish meals.

4. Listing down my repertoire

(a) Start writing down all the dishes that I usually cook. This is a brainstorming session, so I would just list down all I can without considerations of contraints. You may be surprised how big your repetoire is after going through this exercise.

(b) Classify everything under ‘meat dish’, ‘veggie dish’, ‘soup’, ‘one-dish meal’. Or ‘appertiser’, ‘entree’, ‘salad’, etc, whatever makes sense to you. I will elaborate based on my system.

(c) Shortlist the dishes that are good for normal day meal and put aside those that are more tedious to prepare which I might only do it once or twice a year, on special occasions.

(d) It helps to write down all the shortlisted dishes on small, Post-It notes. It helps even more if you were to colour code them. Write one dish on each piece of Post-It. Write meat dishes on pink Post-Its and veggie dishes on green Post-Its if you wish. One-dish Meals can go on yellow and soup on blue.

(e) Have a hug piece of paper, draw up a table on it. It should have 3 rows and 8 columns. On the very top row, write the days of the week. On the very first column, write week 1 and week 2.

(f) Now you will see why it is useful to write all your dishes on Post-It notes. Start combining the dishes into meals that make sense. For me, it would be to put 1 meat Post-It, 1 veggie Post-It and 1 soup Post-It in one square. This makes up one meal for a day in a week. As you do so, you may find that you need to move things around a bit. It is easy since everything is on Post-It notes.

5. Make up enough meals to fill up your meal plan.

For me, my 1-month meal plan consists of 5 weeks worth of meals. Week 5 is optional because some months are longer, some months are shorter. The dishes planned for Week 5 are also the wild card dishes. In the event I cannot find the ingredients for any of the dishes during the first 4 weeks, I can swop with one of the dishes in Week 5.

Extra Flexibility

I actually have more dishes than 5 weeks worth of meals, so I write those extras down so that on days I feel like having some changes, or I need to add an additional dish or two because I have guests coming for dinner, I can fall back on those extras. When I am sick and tired of the current plan, I may make some changes to the meal plan using those extras too.

The meal plan is not cast in iron, so you should be flexible and be prepared to make changes along the way. E.g. some veggies are very seasonal, for instance, China leek. Once the season has passed, you will need to change the dish to something else.