Meal planning is a tool that I couldn’t live without. Having structure to what I make for dinner for the week and month makes it so much easier to decide what to eat, shop and cook dinner. I’ve written an introduction to the meal planning method I use, as well as an update to how I plan meals at the beginning of this year. When I heard about the Plan, Prep, Plate Method of meal preparation I was keen to try it out and see how it worked. I pre-ordered the book in September and have been waiting for it to arrive. The week before last it did and I have been trying out how it works.
The main idea in the book is to take the time one day a week to prepare all the food that you’re going to cook that work week, so that in the evening you only have to combine the things for that meal and reheat them. This is using the method most professional kitchens use, as there’s no way they could cook everything from scratch for everyone in a restaurant every time.
Last week I tried it out – in the photo above you can see the results of my cooking (not all of it from this book as I did a couple of other things too while I was in the kitchen. This all took me two hours cooking time, plus pre-heating the oven and then having to put it all away and tidy up afterwards. Organising what I was going to do, the order to do it in and the shopping took time before too. And I still managed to forget to cook the fish!
Last week the four of us and our houseguest (who is vegetarian so I’m having to expand my kitchen repertoire anyway) ate through a series of dinners using the ingredients I had cooked. And all of it was eaten with gusto and no complaints by anyone, apart from the tofu which I overcooked a bit. That was the one recipe that didn’t seem to come out right, but I’m not sure I followed the instructions properly. I’ll have to try it again and see if it works better.
The illustrations in the book are beautifully presented and really help with understanding how the method works. It has obviously been really thought through and produced with care. The personalisation options and ideas for tweaking the recipes also allow you to use this as a jumping off point, and develop your own ways of using the method for other dishes and your own variations.
The only issue I have with the book is the number of recipes for plated dinners which use the oven: out of the twenty dinners only five of them aren’t oven-based. Now I know I have a really old oven, which takes an age to heat up, but when I’m wanting to cook a meal fast I wouldn’t use it. So I felt it a bit odd that the recipes were weighted so heavily towards using the oven.
But given that most of the recipes for plated dinners use the oven, I’m not convinced that pre-cooking all the veg in advance is really worth it. As if you need to be in the kitchen/house for the oven to heat up anyway, cooking green vegetables for 10 minutes, rather than re-heating them for 2, isn’t a big deal.
Personally, moving all the food prep to one day a week probably makes me more time efficient, as I can do more than one thing at a time. So I plan to continue doing that, though as I am lucky that I normally have plenty of time during the week to cook I will probably be a bit more relaxed about it and only prep those things that take longer to do. For those families where both parents work, and there is limited time for getting food on the table I can see how it will be incredibly useful method to follow. For us it will certainly mean I can feed us with a greater variety of things on those evenings after swimming lessons when I want to have food on the table within ten minutes of walking through the door.