DON'T wait until Sunday afternoon to make a start
Yup. First things first, if you're reading this on Sunday afternoon, all is not lost, but don't expect that you will necessarily be able to get everything done ready for tomorrow. Because most UK supermarkets and larger shops shut at 4pm or 5pm, you're unlikely to be able to stock on the fresh you need, sort through the cupboards to see what is actually lurking at the back (half used, 5 year old bag of couscous, I'm looking at you) AND cook or prep sme of the things you have planned.
DO: Take it in stages, have a look through the cupboards, fridge and freezer through the week and try and run down your stocks if you're planning a big overhaul, spend some of these darker evenings hunting down some new recipes and ideas- start making a grocery list of things you now know you don't have. And FYI mid-week grocery slots for online deliveries are often much cheaper than weekends and are sometimes free.
DON'T shop before you plan
Creating a grocery shop is all fine and good, but without a plan, you're likely to end up with wasted food, wasted money and be missing at least one thing you want later on. Aside the wasted money, because that's your look out, the wasted food really bugs me when food production can be very environmentally damaging coupled with the many who have to manage on tight food budgets and/or food banks for survival.
DO: Consider the days you need to prepare food for, both lunch and dinner if you work from home or make your own lunch to take somewhere, and then create a working meal plan for those days, then you can create a list for any ingredients you need. Don't forget to allow for snacks and we also have a rolling list stuck to our fridge of items we have run out of but don't necessarily buy regularly (condiments, herbs, spices,
DON'T try too many new recipes in a week
I find it tough to believe that anyone who cooks regularly hasn't had a recipe fail. You know the dish that turned out looking like cat puke, or the one that just didn't taste of anything, or worst of all, the one where the cook time was way out on the temperamental oven in your rented flat and is so black it's actually inedible (just me...?). You might be able to laugh about one or two meals in a week that just didn't turn out, but every day, your humour may start to fail.
DO earmark a few new ideas over the course of a month and break them up with tried and tested favourites. It's also worth keeping notes- I keep a recipe notebook in the kitchen to note down any major changes to a recipe or substitute ingredient that works well.
DON'T panic if the plan has to change
I'm not very good at this bit, deviating from any kind of plan is quite stressful, but there are some days or events that either aren't worth planning for or are nice to leave to choice. I rarely bother planning my weekend meals unless there's something we really fancy and I know we'll struggle with the ingredients. It helps that we often have our groceries delivered on a Friday which means we can decide late into the week what we fancy. Also remember that some fresh food might start to go over a little quicker than expected and be prepared to switch days around to use things up whilst they're at their best if needs be.
DO notice the patterns though- if you regularly plan for a particular day and you regularly end up abandoning that plan, time to change the plan, or accept that it has to be a day that you embrace the frozen portion of lasagne from the freezer or the half price Itsu selection.
DON'T give up
Whether you're planning your meals to try and improve your diet, save yourself money, time or to create some routine in your life, it takes a bit of effort and practice. It won't go right every week because life happens. A plan also shouldn't stop you from enjoying things you love- because life is too short to say no to a pizza with your best mate instead leftover chicken salad sometimes.