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The No. 1 Meal Planning Mistake

Sweet Potato Hummus-2

Is meal planning something you struggle with? Well you’re definitely not alone!

Whenever I talk to Stonesoup readers about their biggest cooking problems, meal planning it always near the top of the list.

Last minute changes in plans and chaotic schedules are some of the most common problems. As is the fact that meal plans often ‘fall apart’ because you don’t ‘feel like’ eating what you’d planned to cook that night.

Then there were the people who struggle to come up with new ideas and feel bored with their current meal routine. And running through all this was the costly problem of wasted ingredients and leftovers going bad and having to be thrown out.

Sound familiar?

What IS the No. 1 Meal Planning Mistake?

In a nutshell, it’s deciding what you’re going to cook in advance and then building your shopping list around that plan.

Having a list of set recipes or dishes is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it takes a lot of time to figure it all out in advance. But the biggest problem is the lack of flexibility to cope with the changes that naturally come up with modern life.

It’s nearly impossible to predict that Wednesday is going to be the coldest February day on record and you’ll be craving a comforting bowl of soup, rather than the cool & light salad you had in the meal plan.

No wonder meal plans tend to get broken.

How Do I Avoid This Mistake?

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

It may sound a little scary, but in practice it’s a really liberating way of approaching meal planning. And it’s actually much quicker and easier than traditional meal planning.

Shopping and cooking this way, based on what looks best, is a skill that anyone can learn which is why I wrote the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’.

Speaking of which…

2MMP 3D Cover

2 Minute Meal Plan eCookbook

It’s actually been 3 years since I first released the 2-Minute Meal Plan eBook. It’s easily the most unusual book that I’ve ever written in that it’s all about showing you the easiest way to ‘reverse’ your meal plan and cook with the ingredients you have on hand using ‘template recipes’.

This frees you from the constraints of shopping lists and traditional recipes while providing the support you need to get healthy meals on the table with minimum fuss or effort.

For more details go to:


Sweet Potato Hummus-2

Sweet Potato Hummus + Lamb Cutlets

Fergal just loves sweet potato so I find myself roasting up a batch pretty much every week. A nice side effect is that we often have roast sweet potato in the fridge which I’m finding makes it way into my cooking more and more! See below for tips for the easiest way to roast sweet potato.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

1 teaspoon each ground cumin, chilli, coriander & smoked paprika
6-8 lamb cutlets or other chops
250g roast sweet potato
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, peeled
green salad, to serve
big handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Combine spices with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl. Season generously then toss in the lamb cutlets and allow to marinate for as long as you’ve got (if more than an hour cover and refrigerate).

2. For the hummus, whizz sweet potato, tahini, lemon and garlic in a food processor until you have a smooth paste or smash everything together with a fork. Taste and season with salt and maybe extra lemon or tahini.

3. Heat a frying pan or your BBQ on a medium high heat. Add lamb and cook for 3-4 minutes.

4. Turn the lamb and add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until you’re happy.

5. To serve divide sweet potato hummus between two plates. Top with lamb and tomatoes and serve salad on the side.

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to roast sweet potato – pop whole sweet potato (scrubbed but not peeled) on a baking tray. Roast in the oven 200C for about 45-60 minutes or until tender.

no roast sweet potato – use a drained can of chickpeas or white beans.

different spices
– if you don’t have all of the spices just use any combo of the above – you want about 4 teaspoons or less. Or just use 1 teaspoon of the chilli.

vegetarian – pan fry the tomatoes with the spiced oil and serve a fried egg or two with the hummus with the spicy tomatoes on top.

vegan – replace lamb with field or portabello mushrooms. Marinate and cook as per the lamb might take a little longer. Sliced eggplant steaks are another great alternative.

not tomato season – skip them or use semi dried tomatoes.

lamb alternatives – try a good old steak, pork chops or even salmon fillets. The spices are also great with good quality sausages.

Big love,
Jules x

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Jessie Metty 14 April, 2015, 11:51 pm

    Being a college student, I totally relate to this. Meal planning is something that has yet to work for me in my four years of living on my own. I’ve tried time and time again, but it always fails. I’ve found my crockpot to be really helpful, other than meats, what do you use a crockpot for?

    • jules 21 April, 2015, 12:50 pm

      Hi Jessie! I don’t have a crockpot because I prefer to just slow cook things in my oven… But if you’re looking for meat alternatives beans are great slow cooked as are soups and curries…

  • Heather 15 April, 2015, 6:46 am

    I’ve done it both ways.

    Meal planning a week in advance, shopping on the weekend, does generally work for me. But I am a planner in all facets of life :)

    But recently, I’ve switched it up. I still plan what five meals I want to cook in a week, but now that winter is over, I don’t mind passing by the store on my way home to get whatever vegetables look good. I’m not wedded to a particular dish and can switch it up. I still get canned goods etc. on the weekend. This is also less stress inducing for me because my partner’s mother will often call us at the last minute to come over for dinner and then I am stressed about having vegetables go bad and thus in a bad mood because my plan was disrupted!

    • jules 21 April, 2015, 12:51 pm

      Love it Heather! Having that flexibility is key!

  • Susan 15 April, 2015, 8:00 am

    Jules, your timing couldn’t be better for this offer – when I went shopping yesterday there were three major ingredients I couldn’t find, which meant three meals I’d have to re-plan… Needless to say, I have invested in the ebook. :-) I’m not certain how this is going to work for me, as I’m older and pretty set in my ways. Plus I have a large collection of recipes I really like. So it will be interesting to see what happens. My experience yesterday made it clear that it’s time to be doing something different, and just when I needed it you came to the rescue. Thank you for that. And congratulations on the 3-year anniversary of this book. As with your other books, I’m sure I’ll get something good from this one.

    • jules 21 April, 2015, 12:53 pm

      Thanks for your support Susan! Look forward to hearing how you get on with it! You can still use your favourites as a base and tweak them as required…

  • Michelle Huxtable 17 April, 2015, 4:24 am

    What a great article! Thank you for posting! It is so true. I can tend to have these grand ideas for meals for the week and then life comes into play. You can still have beautiful meals as long as you keep your recipes flexible. Thank you for posting!

    PS….that sweet potato hummus sounds amazing.

    • jules 21 April, 2015, 12:54 pm

      Thanks Michelle!
      And I can’t say enough good things about the sweet potato hummus!

  • Stu 29 April, 2015, 8:56 pm

    It seems you have found a good hole in the cookbook niche and filled it! I’m like most others, suck at planning and then sticking to it.
    Anyway, great idea and well priced, I hope sales are going well for you :)

  • Pia 6 May, 2015, 2:34 pm

    hi jules, may i ask what kind of tahini did you use in this recipe? thanks :)

    • jules 11 May, 2015, 1:38 pm

      Hi Pia
      I just use regular hulled tahini (I find the unhulled one tastes too healthy… and not in a good way)

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