Make menu planning a monthly habit in 5 simple steps

Menu planning is a tedious job – you need to think about the likes and dislikes of each family member, ensure variety of food and diverse cooking styles, consider availability of food, and build in balance and nutrition.

Over the years, with a little planning, I have taken the chaos out of menu planning with the following approach, and I am sharing my experience with you, to help make your life an easier one and ensure you come up with a well-rounded healthy diet plan.

Menu planning step 1: Think availability and use first

List down all the possible vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, egg, tofu, tempeh, soy products, beans, peas & lentils you are likely to find in the supermarket and will definitely consider using first. At this stage, do consider personal likes and dislikes of each family member and place an asterisk on everyone’s favourite food, as those should be on the ‘must include’ list every week.

Menu planning step 2: Chalk out a weekly meal plan

Create an excel sheet for your healthy diet plan.  List down the days of the week and add two columns to the right for lunch and dinner.  From your list of potential food choose 14 vegetables and 14 protein sources for the week, and slot them into the 14 lunch & dinner boxes.

From a nutrition stand-point, Include greens e.g., spinach, bok choy, chye sim, kalian etc., three to four times a week; and pumpkin and carrots once a week. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are also a must include once or twice a week. The other 6 to 7 times, you could select Chinese cabbage, Regular Cabbage (red / green), French beans, long beans, bell peppers, mushrooms, egg plant, tomatoes, baby corn or any of the gourds. Also, remember, as greens do tend to spoil easily, include them in the menu in the first half of the week. Once you key in the vegetables, list down the style of cooking. In some cases, you may mix up the vegetables for stir-fried vegetables or noodles and this is absolutely fine, but to avoid chaos, fix the day and the meal for this mix! For example, you could fix stir-fried mixed vegetables with meat or tofu for lunch on Tuesdays, and stir-fried noodles with vegetables and meat for dinner on Sundays.

For protein sources too, do the same thing – slot the variety of the options you have into each section of the menu first and list down the style of cooking to match the vegetable. In terms of style of cooking, a good balance of grilling, steaming and stir-frying is the best way to go for building a healthy diet plan.  Limit deep frying to no more than one to two times a week, to limit fat and calorie intake.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

Menu planning step 3: Plan a menu for the rest of the month

Once you complete the excel sheet for your weekly healthy diet menu, create 3 duplicate sheets to create a monthly healthy diet menu.  For each consecutive week, use the same vegetable list with alterations, for example, you could use baby spinach or any other greens instead of spinach. You could also alter the protein source, for example, long beans with tofu could be switched to long beans with chicken.  And you could also change the style of cooking too for e.g. a stir-fried noodle with meat and vegetables could become a pasta with meat and mixed vegetables, or a laksa curry with meat and vegetables.

Menu planning step 4: Create a shopping list

Once you have created a 4-week healthy diet menu, list down all the ingredients you will need each week. The advantage with this list, is that you will only buy what you need; and unnecessary extras won’t enter the house. You will actually end up saving a lot of money with limited buying! This also implies less wastage, as you are likely to use everything you buy and the other advantage is, you also won’t have to run out for emergency buys!   

Menu planning step 5: Revisit the menu once a month

Revisit the healthy diet menu you create and tweak it for use the next month. If something did not work for you or your family, change it! If it worked well, you may want to repeat it again. And yes, save all the menus & recycle them for the next year.

The key really is to spend time on creating a strong base menu and then revisit it and tweak it every month. Good luck with your menu planning.  Let me know if my tips were useful for you. If you have some tricks of your own, do share them with me.  

VeVeva Nutrition Pte Ltd established in 2019, is a nutrition consultancy for the food and beverage industry, individuals and groups. With a personal passion to create a healthier world, we assess your current diet and lifestyle, and recommend dietary changes for optimal health and/or weight management. As worksite wellness for a healthier more productive workforce is of essence, we will work with you to design customised corporate nutrition programmes to help your employees eat their way towards a healthier lifestyle. For more information, email: yashna.harjani@vevevanutrition.com.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *