Creating your own meal plan is a great way to keep family dinners interesting and your food bills down. Our meal planner guide will take you from stocking up your store cupboard to eating tasty, varied dinners in no time.
Make your store cupboard your friend. Ingredients like seasoning, stock, oil, rice, couscous, tinned tomatoes, beans, herbs and spices provide the backdrop to your meal plan cooking. They're great for adding variety and flavour. And if you keep a few key ingredients stocked up, you'll always have the makings of a back up meal to hand.
You may find it simpler to just plan your meals for the working week. If those days are busy for you, think about how much time you want to spend in the kitchen. You could then consider cooking larger joints of meat at the weekends - they need longer in the oven, but have the added bonus of creating leftovers you can use the following day for soup or salad, sandwiches and more.
A great way to keep costs down is to check out what's on offer in store or online and stock up on your main ingredients. That way, you can get more meals for less. For a family of four, for example, think of getting enough mince, frozen fish or chicken to stretch across a couple of meals at least.
It's worth considering what's in season when you're meal planning, because you're more likely to find offers on these ingredients. As a general rule of thumb, look out for root veg in autumn/winter and green leafy veg, salads and fruit in summer months. Some fish is also seasonal - keep an eye out for offers.
Once you've decided on your main ingredients type them into our recipe search and see what pops up. Don't forget to check how many people the recipes feed (you can always double up ingredients, or freeze extras).
The trick to successful meal planning is getting the balance right, both in terms of nutrition and variety. Check out our useful advice on creating a healthy balance for your family meals
Some of our recipes have multiple traffic light labelling to help you balance the reds with plenty of greens. For variety, eat a rainbow of fruit and veg and mix up your carbs - so with mince you could have rice one night (like chilli con carne) and potatoes another (like cottage pie).
And that's it. Just make your shopping list and off you go.