secondary infertility
ivf babies
morning sickness
problems - mastitis
bad case of 'shoulds'
- coming soon!
homemade baby food
travel tips
play - make believe


meal planner

Yet Another Meal Organizer!

Do you find yourself staring at your pantry hoping for some inspiration?

Or do you seem to spend a whole lot of money on groceries and never seem to come home with much?

Do you often end up buying an expensive takeaway meal because you either can't think of anything to cook or you are sick of eating the same meals over and over??

This was my situation just a few months ago.

I started checking out different websites looking for inspiration. If you are reading this then you have probably done the same thing and would know all about the many different ways that people have to try to organise their cooking. You can cook and freeze all your meals for a whole month or write down all your recipes and buy in bulk. In fact, there are countless ways to organise your household's mealtimes. I'm not offering anything new or even that exciting - just a system that I have adopted which works well for me.

You see, I'm not a really well-disciplined person and so the thought of planning and cooking 30 meals in advance scares me LOL. I also love to eat food and enjoy different tastes so I like to have room for exploring new recipes and adapting the ones that I know and love. I should warn you now that I don't cook with recipes - I make things up as I go along, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I don't think that I have ever made one pasta sauce that tastes the same as a previous one!!

The System

With this system you are not tied down to a rigid meal plan nor do you have to go out and buy a huge deep freeze. The information provided here will help you to maintain a semi-organised meal system which allows room for improvisation and last minute changes.

The main objectives behind this system are to:

  1. Save money
  2. Avoid food wastage (and therefore money wastage)
  3. Provide variety
  4. Make grocery shopping less of a brain strain
  5. Avoid the "what's-for-dinner" doldrums

So how does this system work?

Well, it's basically just a list of complete meals that you have in stock which you keep on the fridge door and cross off as you use one.

Sounds simple doesn't it?

Well it is in principle, but in practice you need to maintain a fairly well organised system so that you have all the necessary ingredients to cook all of the meals on your list. There is no point in listing ten exotic dishes if all you have in your pantry is a can of tuna!

What goes on the list??

So what goes on the list?

  1. Tried-and-true meals
  2. Ready-in-a-flash meals
  3. New meals
  4. Variations on a theme


These are meals that are easy to make (or that you don't mind making) and that you don't mind eating - there is NO point in stocking your cupboard with things that you don't really want to eat because you will end up getting takeaway instead and spending unnecessary money!


These are meals that you can cook in less than 20 minutes for the times when you have absolutely no time to cook and are really hungry.
If it's quicker to cook than jumping in the car down to McDonalds then it fits this description!
I keep a couple of complete frozen meals for days when I arrive home late and the troops are starving. I don't like those TV dinners with meat-and-two-veg so I keep a packet of stir fry veggies and sauce which can be cooked in a wok in 10 minutes - you can always add cooked rice to bulk out the meal.


Food isn't meant to be boring!!

So I always try to add something to the list that I have never cooked before. It's usually something that can be cooked without buying a lot of exotic ingredients. I tend to leave this meal for a weekend or some other day when I'm not pressed for time. The family is always appreciative of something new, and if it's a success then it can become part of the tried-and-true list!


I don't always like to be tied to a strict plan and so these meals give me the option of changing my mind. Eg, I might decide not to use the mince in the freezer to cook chilli con carne but to make bolognese sauce instead. If you organise your list under main ingredient and have a good stock of common ingredients then it shouldn't matter too much nor should you need to rush out and buy extra ingredients at the last moment.


yes, you DO have to make one LOL

I used to shop from memory.

The problem was that my memory wasn't as great as I thought it was and I would arrive home to find myself stuck with ten tins of tomatoes and nothing else!

I used to cook from what I had bought which was often a disaster because I would be lacking a key ingredient and end up either buying it at twice the price from a convenience store or giving up and buying a takeaway. Now I buy for what I am going to cook and usually have all the ingredients to hand (of course there is still the odd dash to the 7-eleven, I am human after all LOL)


Your shopping list will be made up of these things:


This is usually the main ingredient for a meal and is most likely going to be some form of meat (unless you are a vegetarian/vegan!).


These are things that you use in a lot of different recipes, eg tinned tomatoes, onions etc. These are things that are worth buying in bulk because you know that you will use them.


There's nothing more annoying than going to make a meal only to find that you are missing a key ingredient or that the fresh ingredient that you bought last week is now a soggy mess in the bottom of your refrigerator (of course if you had used your list correctly you would have avoided this situation but we all make mistakes, right??!!).
While you can't beat fresh veggies, having frozen standbys to add to meals is very useful!

I use a lot of chopped onions in my cooking - in curries, pasta sauces, chilli etc. I now buy a 500g (1lb) bag of frozen chopped onions. Now I don't have to worry about green things sprouting from my onions and (best of all) someone else has already peeled and chopped them for me!

Other useful ingredients include a jar of crushed garlic, tinned new (tiny) potatoes to add to casseroles and tinned stir fry veggies to add to stir fries and Asian meals. Chunky style frozen veggies are great to add to any cooked dish and tinned tomatoes can be used in just about any dish too add flavour or provide bulk.


In the rush to buy all the goodies that you will need to get your meal plan underway don't neglect all the other grocery items. I've found that it helps to keep a typed list of all the things that I always buy like cat food, coffee and washing powder etc and then add the other items.

You can either type this up yourself or set up a master grocery list with one of the online supermarkets like Woolworths and print it off - this has the advantage of giving you the prices too.

Of course you can always try shopping online but bear in mind the delivery charges.


How to be a bargain shopper


A friend of mine told me that the best time to shop for meat at a supermarket is on a Wednesday because that's when they mark down their stock in anticipation of adding new stock for Thursday night shopping (in NSW anyway).

Always keep an eye out for bargains in the meat section.

They markdown meat prices when the use-by (or freeze-by) date is approaching. As long as the meat still looks okay and you freeze it that day it is perfectly fine (and cheap!!) to buy it.

Don't be afraid to experiment or substitute if you see a bargain. Many recipes work perfectly well with a different kind of meat.

Last week I was at the supermarket when I spied some trays of diced turkey breast which were reduced from $7.50 for a 500g (1lb) tray to $2.99. I usually buy chicken breast for my recipes and then I dice it myself but I decided to buy three trays of the turkey instead. I ended up paying only $9 for 1.5 kilos (3lbs) of the turkey when I would have paid $12.99 a kilo for chicken breast. So I saved quite a bit of money on just that one purchase!

By the way, the turkey tasted great and was a welcome change from chicken LOL.


Look out for discontinued items.

These are items that the store no longer wants to sell and they are often heavily discounted.

For example I have purchased jars of boutique simmer sauces for just 50c - they were originally $3.50 each and were now cheaper than buying packet sauce mixes. Just remember to make sure it is something you WILL use!!


Take out your preliminary meal list and note any changes or substitutions or any last minute additions (or inspirations!!). It's best to do this while you have the food in front of you so that you don't forget anything.

Now divide up the meat into meal sized portions and pop it straight in the freezer. Put the stuff that needs chilling into the refrigerator.

Now it's time to organise the pantry!

I put the ingredients for each meal in a separate pile (not including herbs and spices and oils etc, just the tins and packets). This allows me to grab them quickly when it comes time to cook a certain meal. It also allows me to make sure that I do have all the ingredients. Eg I would put a packet of penne pasta with a tin of tomatoes and a tube of tomato paste all ready to make Penne in a Tomato Sauce.

Now I type up the new list of meals, transferring any remaining meals from the previous list to the new list.

If you find that that you keep transferring the same meals then it's time to cook up that meal and then scratch it off the list!

I keep the list in order of key ingredient. By organising the list this way I avoid cooking several chicken dishes in a row etc. You could always consult with your household about what they might like to eat that night or (better still) delegate the cooking to someone else - after all they have a menu plus all the ingredients to hand LOL.

Once finished I print my list and stick it to the fridge.

TA DA!!!!!

That was fairly straightforward wasn't it??!!

Now comes the easy part - once you have cooked a meal you tick it off your list.

Here is an example of one of my MEALS IN STOCK lists


DISCLAIMER: Any information provided on this website is not intended to replace qualified medical advice.
For diagnosis, treatment and medications you should consult a health practitioner.