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6 Tips for planning meals

Planning can really help you have healthy meals and snacks no matter how busy things get. It's the key to healthy eating.

If you have a meal plan for the week, it makes food shopping much easier.  It also means you won't come home with more than you bargained for, which could lead to food waste or an unhealthy weekly shop.

If you need some help getting started, try these ready-made healthy balanced meal plans:

How to make a meal plan

Here are six steps to making meal planning part of your weekly schedule.

1. Give yourself time to plan

  • Set aside about 30 mins each week to make a meal plan. Keep to it each week. Once you get into the habit of planning, you will need less time.
  • Think about
    1. How many meals you need to prepare for the week
    2. Your weekly schedule and when you need to make quick meals or prepare them in advance
  • Good meal plans means you will save time in the supermarket and probably reduce food waste also.

2. Check what you have

  • Before you start planning check to see what ingredients you already have in your cupboard, fridge or freezer. This may help to give you some recipe inspiration. For example if you have eggs you could make an omelette. Use up vegetables with a stir-fry.

3. Make it fun with favourites

  • Make a go-to list of meals that your family enjoys and alternate between these. Introduce new recipes each week and if it’s a hit add to your favourites.
  • Get the kids involved by asking them what they would like to eat. Kids are more likely to eat meals that they have helped to plan.
  • If you’re struggling to think of new ideas why not introduce a themed night, for example Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, Fishy Fridays or Something New Saturday.

4. Love your leftovers

  • Plan meals that can be refrigerated and heated up or eaten cold the next day such as pasta bake, soup, shepherd’s pie, curry, lasagne or beef stew.
  • You can use leftover vegetables in an omelette, soup or salad while leftover meat could be added to a curry or stir-fry.
  • Remember leftovers stored in the fridge must be used within three days.

5. Cook in bulk

  • Cook extra and refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Pies, curries, stews and casseroles all freeze well.
  • If you are using the oven, think about what else you can cook at the same time. If you are doing a casserole, you could cook some chicken breasts to go in sandwiches.

6. Make your ingredients work

  • Chose recipes that use the same key ingredients to save time and money by reducing the amount of food you need to buy.
  • Introduce variety by picking 2-3 main vegetables and adding them to a meat, pasta or fish dish. For example peppers, broccoli and sweetcorn can be added to a beef stir-fry but can also be used to make a vegetable pasta bake or served with meat or fish.

Get started with quick and easy dinner recipes

The following recipe ideas should take no more than 20 minutes to cook and prepare, perfect for when you get home from work or with the kids:



© The Food Safety Promotion Board