5 reasons you shouldn’t plan your meals in advance

lentil tabbouleh2lentil tabbouleh3
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Are you happy with your current meal planning system?

If you are, then skip down to the recipe below.

If on the other hand, you’re like most people and struggle with the whole meal planning thing… gather ’round because I have a treat for you.

But before we get to that, lets look at the reasons why you should ditch conventional meal planning ‘wisdom’.

5 reasons you shouldn’t plan your meals in advance

1. It’s almost impossible to predict what you’ll feel like.
It could be that the weather turns unpredictably cold and you feel like something warming and comforting rather than the light salad you had planned. Or maybe your day ends up dragging on forever and the last thing you feel like when you get home is spending the time required to prepare the meal in your ‘plan’.

2. Your schedule and plans are probably going to change.
Modern life can be unpredictable. It’s far more likely that something will come up. Given this variability, isn’t it a little bit too much to ask that we plan in advance when we know the plan is probably going to change anyway?

3. Planning in advance take a lot of time.
I know, because I used to spend a few hours every week, looking through my cookbooks and magazines and writing detailed lists. And then there was the time spent gathering my exotic ingredients.

4. It can lead to a lot of waste.
There are a few components to this. It could be your plans change so you don’t get to cook the ingredients you have and they go bad. Then there are the leftover bits of ingredients that were purchased for a specific recipe that are tricky to ‘use up’.

5. It stifles creativity.
Traditional meal planning and shopping with a list limits your ability to choose your produce based on what looks best on the day. It also limits your options of what to cook, rather than having the fun of cooking something based on what you have in the fridge or pantry.

What if there was another way to approach meal planning?

Well the good news is there is!

You just need to learn how to ‘reverse’ the process.

It may sound scary, but in fact it’s a really liberating way of approaching meal planning. Much quicker and easier than traditional meal planning.

For the last few months, I’ve been teaching students at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School how to ‘reverse’ their meal planning with my 2-Minute Meal Plan System.

When I asked my students whether they have been able to achieve the results they were hoping for with this new meal plan system, the overwhelming majority answered ‘Yes!’.

So how does the 2-Minute Meal Plan work?

Basically there are two key components…

2 Keys to the 2-Minute Meal Plan System:

1. A super simple ‘formula’ to help you figure out how much food you’ll need to buy.
The formula I’ve developed is really quick and easy to work out. If you can count, you’ll be able to do this in your head.

It tells you how many types of protein (or main events) and vegetables to buy. This gives you the freedom to shop for what looks best, rather than having a rigid list.

The formula helps get the quantity right so you don’t end up with more than you need. While still giving you as much flexibility as you need. If you’d prefer to have a few specific recipes in mind before you shop, the formula will help with that as well.

2. The collection of ‘template’ recipes.
These help you learn to cook based on the ingredients you have on hand. Freeing you from the constraints of traditional recipes.

It includes general templates for how to make different classic dishes. For example a great stir fry, a quick soup or a fragrant curry. Each template comes with suggestions for variations so you’ll be able to adapt them to the ingredients on hand. It’s a way to learn to cook more creatively, while still having a basic recipe to follow.

Ready to reverse YOUR meal planning process?

2MMP 3D Cover

I’m super excited to announce that the 2-Minute Meal Plan System is now ready.

To pick up a copy today, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

lentil tabbouleh

lentil ‘tabbouleh’
serves 2

Tabbouleh is a wonderfully fresh Lebanese salad traditionally made with burghul (cracked wheat). This gluten-free version not only tastes super fresh, it’s also higher in protein.

In the photo I’ve used red lentils, but any lentils can be used.

1/2 cup (125g / 5z) lentils, rinsed
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
handful mint leaves
small handful natural almonds

1. Place lentils in a medium saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil.

2. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until lentils are al dente. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.

3. Meanwhile, combine vinegar with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season.

4. Finely chop the parsley stems and coarsely chop the leaves.

5. Toss drained lentils in the dressing with the herbs. Serve with almonds sprinkled over.

VARIATIONS

short on time? – use a drained can of lentils.

traditional tabbouleh – replace lentils with burghul that has ben soaked in water for a few hours then drained and tossed in the dressing.

different lentils
– French style or ‘puy’ lentils will need to be simmered a little longer, around 15 minutes.

split-peas – use green or yellow split peas. Simmer for 25-35 minutes or until tender.

no rice vinegar? – lemon juice, sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar are all good substitutes.

more substantial – to turn this into a meal on its own, just double the almonds or toss in some cooked protein like grilled chicken thighs or a drained can of tuna. Also lovely with a poached or fried egg.

nut-free – replace the almonds with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes.

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video version of the recipe

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With love,
Jules x

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{ 23 comments }

TastefullyJulie April 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

This is great! I hate meal planning. I’m in the mood for different things each day and even if I plan to make something tomorrow, chances are I won’t want to when the time comes. The only problem is that I go to the store constantly.

Matt @ SpoonMatters April 17, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Great post, and I can attest to the 5 reasons for not planning ahead. Change of mood, unused ingredients, I’ve been there. Nothing is more discouraging to cooking at home than regularly throwing out produce because we kept putting off a planned recipe until the ingredients had spoiled.

I now plan my meals only one day ahead, jotting down three simple meals each night before bed, and instead of browsing cookbooks I browse the fridge and pantry. When shopping I just buy whatever looks good or is on sale, and so far I’m loving it, using more and wasting less. It’s a liberating way to cook.

Heather April 17, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Lovely. Head’s up, “burghul” should be bulghur up there.

Stella April 18, 2012 at 3:14 am

Burghul is correct too, though not as common as “bulg(h)ur” ;)

Sue April 18, 2012 at 2:48 am

I am SOOOOO looking forward to your download! I never know what I’m going to cook for dinner until I start to get hungry. I’ve never, ever planned a whole week’s worth of meals. Your planning what proteins to buy plus template recipes sounds great! I can’t wait to see it.

Eileen April 18, 2012 at 3:29 am

Traditional meal planning has certainly never worked for me–it makes me think of the arbitrary meals I was forced to eat, like it or not, as a kid. I’m definitely interested to see your method!

Mallory April 18, 2012 at 4:21 am

I love this idea. It’s true, you never know what you want to eat until you want it. I prefer to keep a stocked fridge with ingredients I enjoy so then I can whip up whatever I feel like eating.

tVM April 18, 2012 at 4:34 am

I’ll respectfully disagree on this one. For every reason you suggest you shouldn’t plan, I believe there is a reason that you should. True, it’s ALMOST impossible to predict what you’ll feel like. So what. Switch the days around during the week; have the meat on Monday you planned on Wednesday, and have the fish on Wednesday. That’s creative. Your schedule and plans are probably going to change but not certainly. So what, again, be creative with your plan. Planning takes a lot of time? That certainly depends on the nature of the plan, but planning a weekly menu is not rocket science. A creative and conscientious person will NEVER let the food go to waste. I hope we can agree to disagree on this one. I do enjoy your posts, and use many of your recipes in my weekly menus.

jules April 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

tVM,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
And totally happy to agree to disagree on this one. If you’re happy with your planning system then this post really wasn’t for you :)

Monique April 18, 2012 at 7:37 am

Thanks for offering this as a separate download! Can’t wait for the details and to try something new. I have tried meal planning and it works for a while but look forward to having a go at this! Thanks

Leah April 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

Great post! I love your blog :)

Ashley April 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I am one of those go-for-alternatives people where most traditional methods of doing things don’t normally work. I can definitely attest to not planning meals, but it sort of boils down to the type of person and cook you are. I’ve done and tried every method of meal planning from strict lists with timelines and specific ingredients to very loose buy-these-ingredients-and-figure-it-out-at-meal-time. I’m also the kind of person that gets very discouraged and give up when my elaborate schedules and plans don’t work out. I also use recipes not step-by-step but as inspiration because I find the specific measurements and ingredients restricting and not fun; but at the same time I can’t live without the measurements and modern recipe structure because they’re god as guidelines. My plans NEVER work out in advance so I don’t bother and plan my time, money and effort into methods that do work (methods which is kind of hard to explain to people). Planning does take a lot of time, but again, that depends on the person. The perfectionist planner in me takes forever.

That’s why I’m so happy I went to culinary school,work as a cook and learned formulas, methods, knife skills, etc. That way I can be creative and know what I’m doing in the process so I’m less likely to mess up, throw away food or resort to shortcuts via processed food and take-out.

Sam April 20, 2012 at 3:56 am

This looks very cool.

I have a question, though – I do a lot of cooking for people who have fairly radically different dietary restrictions. Lots of vegetarians, a few paleo folks (no grains or beans, basically), several with gluten sensitivity. How hard is it to adapt these techniques for people on restricted diets?

Many thanks,
Sam

jules April 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

Sam
It’s really great for people with restrictive diets because the template recipes offer suggestions to cover all different possibilities. In some ways it actually makes it a lot easier than traditional recipes.

Great question!
J

LP April 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I absolutely love salads. My sister thinks I’m so weird bc I’m always craving them. Regarding veggies, would anyone have tips on Asparagus? I found some tip here http://www.dishblogger.com/2012/04/11/a-quick-trick-for-raw-asparagus/

But are there other new ways to cook them?

A. Colleen Jones April 21, 2012 at 2:19 am

Thanks Jules! I just bought the 2-minute meal plan system and I love the flavour directory! I never know how to combine things, so this is really helpful! I’m doing a test drive of a traditional meal plan system for my nutritionist, so I’ll be able to compare that with your system and see what is helpful for me out of both. Colleen :)

Susan Bewley@Budget Earth April 21, 2012 at 11:02 am

I never plan my meals more than two days in advance. I found that it leads to less waste and allows me to keep our fruits and veggies as fresh as possible.

Budget Earth – Ultra Yummy Baked Acorn Squash Recipe

Jos April 23, 2012 at 7:43 am

Thank the gods for this post Jules! I am so over the whole food planning thing – too many are blogging about the need to plan and I totally agree with everything you have said about the reasons not to – hear hear! I’m all for food being fabulous and eating what you feel like as the week unfolds – it really is your body telling you what you need surely?! Go with the flow and eat creatively …. Yes! Big tick!!!!!

Igloo April 24, 2012 at 12:08 am

It is sometimes helpful to plan, but at the same time, I can totally identify with all the reasons you list *not* to plan! Especially the one about wasting ingredients… that’s happened to me so often…

HEW April 24, 2012 at 11:34 am

I totally disagree with you, having a planned menu frees up my time after a hard day of work. Who wants to try to figure out a meal for your family at the last minute when your all tired from working all day. We have very creative meals all the time with no waste, I only buy perishable items a few days in advance but I know what I’m going to fix for a full month. I have been planing my monthly menus for 27 years and I know that this not only saves me time but also a lot of money.

maggi sandy April 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Iam the first time for this blog, really i love this blog…… Thank you very much for sharing this…….. I enjoyed alot….

maria de lourdes araujo August 14, 2012 at 4:40 am

olá !!!

amei suas receitas nesse final de semana ameiiii

Leslie Nicole January 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Love this. I keep reading that I should plan my meals, but I have very sensitive digestion/illness so I never know from day to day what kinds of foods I’ll be able to eat. Also, sometimes I don’t feel like eating at dinner or want something light and other times I’m more hungry. I’d rather listen to my body than eat something just because it’s on my list.

It also gets in the way of spontaneity at the grocery store depending on what’s in season / on special. I’d rather have a good pantry of basics and then improvise. I have started jotting down a list of my available perishable ingredients so that I know what I have to work with and what’s going to go bad.

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