Map your meals: How to successfully plan ahead

Posted by Ella Buchan on 17 October 2016

Credit:  LanaSweet

Everyone has their own style when it comes to shopping and planning the week’s meals. Some keep detailed notebooks, others scribble on blackboards - and some just wing it, picking up bits and bobs as they go along.

Planning ahead could reap rewards when it comes to cutting down on what we throw away and slashing those household bills. With one eye on the next few meals, it’s easier to think about when there will be leftovers, and how these can be revived for the next day’s lunch and/or dinner.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro when it comes to meticulously researching what you’re going to cook, or a slap-dash shopper, these top tips will help you think differently about mapping your meals.


The internet is a top source of meal inspiration and spending a little time each week drooling over new recipe ideas could, ultimately, help you save money on your next food shop.

Sites such as Pinterest are great for bookmarking the ideas that make your belly rumble, like a virtual shopping list. You could even create a new board each week, selecting suppers you’d like to try and searching by ingredient to ensure you use everything you buy.

The Sainsbury's website is another delicious source for tips, recipes and food trends that could revolutionise your kitchen. Browse for fab ideas with leftovers too.

Shutterstock via: Finetones

List your favourites

Every home has a core of go-to recipes, whether it’s for a quick, easy supper, or evenings when you fancy spending a little more time over the stove.

Just jotting these down on a sheet of paper and sticking it to the fridge will jog your memory next time you write out a shopping list.

Then, as you find new ideas, add a sheet with recipes for leftovers, too.

List on a fridge
Shutterstock via: Patty Chan

Keep a meal diary

Tracking what you cook each day and how you used up any leftovers will help you think about what worked - and what didn’t. It’s also a way of reminding yourself of favourite recipes you may have forgotten.

Equally, the super-organised might use a calendar to scribble plans for each day’s meals. This can then be used as the basis for your shopping list.

Meal diary
Shutterstock via: Slavica Stajic

Theme nights

Having specific foodie themes for each night of the week could really simplify your shopping and cooking, especially for families with kids.

It might sound boring to have regular pasta, fish or steak nights, but the variations are endless - and it will make searching for new recipe ideas even easier. Just search by core ingredient and scribble your shopping list accordingly.

Keeping it themed can also help with ideas for using up leftovers. You could have spag bol for pasta night, for example, and re-use the ragu to fill tacos the next day.

Shutterstock via: George Dolgikh


Once you have your plan, make extra so you can freeze leftovers. That way, for days when plans go a bit AWOL, you’ll always have something on hand. This guide to batch cooking will give you some inspiration.

Equally, where you can, cook extra that could be used in another dish - for example, where a recipe calls for roasted veg, double up so you can toss into salads, mix with couscous or quinoa, or use to stuff pittas for an easy lunch.

And make sure you’re always stocked up on non-perishable items like pasta, grains, tinned pulses and tomatoes, herbs and spices. These can make tasty dishes in their own right, such as a chickpea curry, or jazz up other meals and transform leftovers.

Read our guide to getting store cupboard savvy here.

Shutterstock via: stockcreations

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