Cooking Advice > Meal Planning

Meal Planning

We are satisfied that our meal planners provide balanced and varied plans for a family of Mum, Dad and two older children.

However, many families will be different sizes, and there are bound to be particular favourites or dislikes, if not allergies or special nutritional requirements. The only way to make a meal plan that fits your family is to write it yourself!

This may seem daunting, after all our planners have 93 meals plus snacks!

But it is not necessary to plan every meal for a whole month straight away, and this can be broken down.

The following is just a suggestion; feel free to work out a system that works best for you and your family.

If you shop once a week then it is really only necessary to plan for that week to start with. A lot of people have toast or cereal for breakfast, so to start with, let’s assume that is breakfasts sorted.

And a lot of people take a packed lunch to work or school – say a sandwich, yoghurt, piece of fruit and a snack. So lets use that as a starting point for lunches.

Here is a selection of snacks you might like to try: snacks

So now you only have the seven evening meals for the week to think about. Write a list of dinners that you know your family will be happy to eat.

Here is our list: dinners

A roast dinner is popular for Sunday dinner.

The joint will probably be the most expensive item you need to buy, but you should be able to get two or three meals from it, depending on the size of your family and the size of the joint.

Our pork tortillas and chicken & onion pie are both made from leftover meat.

Maybe put the left over meal on Tuesday, so the meat is being used up quickly and you don’t have the same meat two days in a row.

Try and keep back some meat for sandwich fillings too, and if you have bones try to make stock. Here’s our article about this, kindly contributed by Shirley Goode: make stock

OK, so now you only have five more meals to find. If you work during the week you may not have much time for cooking in the evening. Have a look at our quick meals: quick meals

That just leaves Saturday, so maybe try one of the dinners that needs a bit more time to make.

Thats it. You now have a meal plan for a week. Go through the recipes and check what ingredients will be needed and write a list. This will be the basis of your shopping list.

Add your lunch and breakfast items to your list and drinks, such as tea bags.

Then check your cupboards, freezer and fridge and cross off anything you already have in. You now have a meal plan and a shopping list that will cover everything needed for one week of food and drink.

Once you are confident with your dinner plans you may wish to vary breakfasts and lunches. Here are our ideas: breakfasts and lunches

You may then want to plan for longer periods, until you have a months plan.

Pantry Principle



This is the above, conventional, meal planning turned upside down, where you shop first and then meal plan from what you have bought.

This may sound like it would end up costing more money, as you may end up with lots of random items that cannot be made into proper meals. However, it has the potential to save even more money.

The idea is that you buy as much as possible when it is on a special offer or reduced, store it for use later, so you always have a good stock in, and then meal plan from this.

It should result in lower food costs overall, as little has been bought full price.

For example, at the time of writing (May 11), Asda has a four pack of branded baked beans on sale for £1 – so 25p a can and less than their smartprice ones. At this price it is worth stocking up.

Meat and fish are generally expensive, so look to get this half the retail price, or less, and freeze it for later.

Always check the reduced to clear section first; if you are lucky this can be reduced by up to 90%!

Otherwise, Lidl have a half price meat choice each weekend (though they sell out very quickly) and even the big four have occasional half price meat and fish offers.

With this method, it is helpful to be very organised. A price book is useful, where you keep a note of the cheapest price you have ever seen a product and the full retail price.

Then, when it is on ‘special offer’ you can see at a glance if the offer really is special. It is also helpful to keep an inventory of exactly what goods you have in, so when you come to write a meal plan you know exactly what is available to work from.

The ideas for both conventional meal planning and ‘the pantry principle’ will apply if you are vegetarian or vegan.

The beauty of writing your own meal plan is that you can customise it exactly to your own requirements. So why not give it a go?