Meal Planning: The How’s And Why’s

Hi, loves!

Meal planning is a huge part of Matt and I’s week, and it’s something we now do every week without fail. I love routine, I love organisation and I love being able to do things in a quick and effective way. Matt isn’t as fussed, but what we’re having for dinner each night is something I had always made the decisions on, because Matt is super indecisive! Now, through changing our habits and meal planning, this makes it a joint decision for both of us. I’ve mentioned meal planning many times on the blog, and been asked lots of times for recipe ideas and why we do it. I’d love to share a week’s worth of dinner recipe ideas, so that will definitely be up in the blog in the next month or so. Today I’m focusing on the how’s and why’s of meal planning for us, and asking some of the questions I see popping up over and over again. Is it actually beneficial to our lives? Should you be doing it? What does it even mean?

What is meal planning?
It’s pretty self explanatory, but meal planning is literally to plan – usually for the week ahead – the meals you (and your partner/family) will be eating. Some people do this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, however Matt and I only really focus on breakfast for Matt (I generally eat at work), dinner for both of us with leftovers for lunch the following day and healthy snacks/desserts. I’m not really a baker at all, but I made this banana bread last week before I picked Matt up from a night out with the boys and it was so good! Also, no bake desserts are great, and they’re super quick and easy when your evenings are busy.

How do you do it?
On a Sunday, Matt and I sit down for twenty minutes to talk about what we want to make the following week, and plan our shopping list(s). We look at Matt’s shifts as this has an impact on what we make; on the days he works until 9pm I make dinner ready for him coming home, so we tend to go for meals that go in the oven and can be timed perfectly (for example, cod and roasted vegetables or a good ol’ pasta bake). I make a list in the Notes app on my phone of what meal we’ll make each evening, writing underneath all of the ingredients required to make the meal. I don’t include items like sauces or spices which we use in every meal as we already have those, although if I had to re-purchase something during my shop that week then I’d write them down too. Miscellaneous items like almond milk, protein bars and bread are bought every week, so I keep a generic shopping list I buy from too. I love that I can tick off the lists as I go through my shop, and have even started writing in the order that I’d walk around the shop, that’s dedication LOL. I grocery shop twice per week, sometimes a third time if we’ve ran out of anything, and I can get round the store in fifteen minutes or less every time.

Does it save you money and/or time?
YES. As we plan ahead and have a shopping list, I literally buy to the shopping list. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a sneaky bag of Haribo or Cadbury’s buttons will find their way into the trolley – I’ve no idea how – but most of the time I stick to our list. I tend to do almost all of our grocery shopping as it just works easier that way, and I enjoy buying based on a list as it saves so much time. It also cuts out any extra deliberations in store where I ring Matt and say “is X okay for dinner tonight? What do you fancy for tomorrow?” I also have the flexibility to go to more than one supermarket when I can, as I know what I need to get and we prefer certain items from certain places. Aldi and Lidl are great for freshly baked bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, and they also have great deals on pasta, spices and yoghurts. When it comes to chicken and meat, we always buy from Asda as I feel you get more for your money there, and we buy specific branded things like rice, almond milk, frozen goodies, and sauces there too. To be honest, I generally do most of our shopping at Asda as it’s nearby work, but I should get better at buying from various stores. However if we’re ever having a cheat night and eating rubbish, we love the Taste The Difference flatbread pizzas from Sainsbury’s (with a tub of Halo Top or Alpro ice cream thrown in, obviously)!

How do you get your ideas for recipes?
This has built up over a long time of trial and error of trying out new foods, as we now have our own little (mental) portfolio of go-to meals we love. We don’t eat much red meat and it’s something we’re actively trying to cut down on, and we generally favour chicken or fish dishes if we’re not eating vegetarian. When we’re not cooking a tried and tested favourite and want to try something new, I firstly look through our three favourite cookbooks. Our go-to’s are Pinch Of Nom by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone, A Year Of Beautiful Eating by Madeleine Shaw and Gino’s Italian Coastal Escape by Gino D’Acampo. Whether we follow the exact ingredients and method, or take inspiration to create something else I can almost always find something that looks good. If nothing was to take our fancy from those cookbooks we’d then look online at BBC Good Food, Pinterest, Tesco Real Food and of course, social media.

Do you find it easy?
I really do, and I would advise anyone who is thinking about giving it a go, to just try it. It took us a long time to start cooking with fresh ingredients, and we were regulars at M&S Food Hall for their dine in for two offer (we ate those almost every night!) for our first year of being together, but now that’s definitely a treat and something we do on the nights we really have no time. We didn’t know how to cook at all prior to last Summer, so we’re self taught (well, with the help of Matt’s lovely mum). I hear people say all the time “I don’t know how to cook” but honestly you just have to give it a whirl and practice lots, it gets easier and now we love every aspect of it. After we got the methods down, it took us a little time to tweak how we do things each week, but after a little trial and error it works perfectly for us. We’ve also been eating way healthier since we took meal planning seriously, as it’s developed a new interest in creating new meals, and we’re forever trying new things. I’m very interested in eating more vegetarian meals, and Matt’s on board to try whatever I want to try too, which is great! We’re thinking of eating vegetarian only for a week, pretty much just to see if we can do it, and if we do I’ll definitely share my thoughts on it with you on the blog.

Does it work every week?
Yes, for us it really does. We look at the week ahead, so if we’re heading out for date night on Friday we know we don’t need to buy anything for that night, or if we have plans with friends on the Saturday we’ll more than likely grab something when we’re out. If Matt’s out for the evening with the boys I also take great pleasure in having a kid’s tea before I go pick him up (Quorn crispy nuggets, Strong Roots spinach bites and a whole lot of this amazing BBQ sauce, if you’re interested) and those are the kinds of food we always make sure to have in the freezer, and I replace without fail on an almost weekly basis (especially those spinach bites, we literally eat them with almost every meal HA). The best part of meal planning is that it works around your life and your schedule, and it’s very flexible as a result. You could definitely just do one shop per week but we buy so many fresh vegetables and fruit it means by the end of the week items are out of date or just not as good as they should be, so I’d rather not waste food and just go to the supermarket two or three times per week.

I hope this post was informative and helped in some way! I love seeing what people eat for dinner, and what must-have recipe they recommend to others. I can’t wait to share with you a week’s worth of dinners for Matt and I. If you’re wanting to get a start on meal planning, I’d really recommend the three cookbooks photographed/linked in this post! Do you meal plan? Do you have any extra tips that may help me or my readers?!

-G x

Spring Bucket List

Happy first day of Spring, beautiful people!

I am so excited for the new season, and to finally say goodbye to Winter! It’s weird, we definitely didn’t have a super cold Winter like we have in past years, but it seemed to last so long, I feel like I’ve been anticipating Spring since January. Although most of our Winter was pretty warm, this past weekend we woke up to snow, I was not impressed haha.

Spring is a season of new beginnings, blossoming flowers and warmer weather, and I think this year it’s going to be one of my favourite seasons. Matt and I already have so much planned and it’s the best feeling to have exciting things to look forward to. I’ve been feeling very reflective over the past few days, and after having something unfortunate happen I’ve been truly counting my blessings more than ever. I feel so lucky for what I have; an amazing boyfriend that I love more than life itself, a solid family and friend network, a job that I enjoy, my blog, car and so much more. I’m feeling happy and ready for a fresh new season to bring a little more joy!

I shared Matt and I’s Winter Bucket List in this post, and we ticked off so many of our items despite being super busy, and had so much fun throughout Winter! I recieved messages from people saying they enjoyed seeing what we had planned and took some ideas from what we wanted to do, so I’ve decided this will definitely be a post that is updated for every season this year. Unfortunately we didn’t get to squeeze in a weekend getaway to Glasgow – we’re hoping to this season instead – but we did book our Summer holiday and we’re heading to Croatia in June, we’re so excited! We also went to five NUFC games (and we won most of them), took a few day trips up North, explored Northumberland and Newcastle SO MUCH, and we went for lots of breakfast dates and beach walks. We had lots of fun date nights – some with our friends, and just spent lots of quality time together. We also got to see my family who live in Alaska for the first time in almost five years, it’s so much better to see each other in person instead of FaceTime-ing. We went for dinner with them this week and had such a lovely evening! A few of the things we didn’t get round to in the Winter may have made their way into things we hope to do this Spring…

Explore more of Northumberland during day trips
Spring-clean our wardrobes/lives (again) Marie Kondo style
Enjoy a staycation at Hotel du Vin in Newcastle
Go for more breakfast or brunch dates
Make s’mores on a chilly Spring evening
Go to a drive-in movie
Spend a weekend away in Glasgow
Celebrate bank holidays the way we always do – date night at one of our favourite restaurants!
Start my new blog series. It’s been a while in the making but I’m so excited
Enjoy a picnic in the sun
Use up beauty products before I buy anything new to replace it. I’m officially on a ‘Beauty No Buy’ for Spring… UHOH
Go to Alwnick Gardens during cherry blossom season
Make/create new recipes together for warmer weather
Buy fresh vegetables from a farmers market for the week
Spend as many weekend mornings as possible walking along the beach
Shoot a Spring fashion blog post (super nervous about this one!)
Go to the Lake District
Squeeze in all of the date nights – this will be listed for every season!
Book a city break to Lisbon
Feel comfortable wearing shorts in England as it gets warmer. Matt has no problem with this one, he’s been wearing shorts since February HAHA
Celebrate Matt and I’s birthdays – we both turn 25 this season!
Go to more NUFC games
Buy all the bunches of beautiful peonies – prepare to see them in every blog photo
Change up my hair colour/style a little (I’m thinking coppery, rich brown tones)
Play mini-golf
Spend an afternoon at The Garage Spa
Write more ‘think pieces’ for my blog
Pick fresh fruits at a nearby farm
Begin shopping for our holiday to Croatia
Plant new flowers in my grandma’s garden for her
Take a road trip to somewhere we’ve never been before

Thank you so much for reading! What are you hoping to do this season? Are you as excited as I am for Spring?

-G x

How To Have A Better Night’s Sleep

Happy Sunday, loves!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend! Yesterday Matt and I had such a fun date day. We went for brunch at the cutest cafe called Post Box in Ponteland, I had the best veggie breakfast I’ve ever had! We spent the rest of the day doing a little grocery shopping, football watching and cleaning out Matt’s wardrobe Marie Kondo style. (I’m OBSESSED with her new Netflix show! Have you watched it?!) Today Matt’s unfortunately back at work, so although we got a mini lie-in this morning, I’m home alone until 5pm! I am however hoping to declutter ALL of my skincare/makeup and maybe a few more clothes, and have dinner ready for Matt coming home… productive Sunday’s are my thing! What are you up to this weekend?

I think during the Winter months more than ever, I appreciate every single second I get to spend snuggled in bed! Matt and I have been lucky enough to squeeze in lots of early nights recently, and we have our evening routine perfected to suit us. Today I’m sharing with you a few things that have been helping Matt and I to have the best night’s sleep.

Unwind during the evening. From the minute Matt and I arrive home from work, we spend the evening relaxing and unwinding. Even if sometimes we have to take a few minutes to send that last email or complain to one another about a bad day at work, we then switch off from the work day and allow ourselves time to relax and enjoy being together. We don’t spend much time on our phones during the evening other than to reply to a few texts or post the odd photo to our Instagram story (guilty), but we really try to be fully present with each other. I am obsessed with scented candles, and Matt has finally agreed they make everything feel ten times more cosy! I love nothing more than lighting a few candles, turning on my Himalayan pink salt lamp and snuggling up with him under our huge Costco blankets (they’re hands down the best thing you can buy this Winter and they’re so inexpensive!) watching a movie.

Eat good food. One of the best feelings in the world is snuggling up in bed next to your loved one when you both have a full belly. It’s something I’ve often took for granted but I realise just how lucky I am for this to be my every day reality! Matt and I love to cook and although we have a few favourite go-to recipes, we’re currently trying new ones out and often making things up as we go along. Coming in from the cold to make a warming, filling meal after a long day is, in my opinion, the perfect way to begin the evening. One of our favourite things to make recently is a vegetable chilli, I can’t wait to share some recipes with you over the next few weeks. I’m also very into drinking hot chocolate at the moment and I love to make one before bed!

Read or listen to a podcast. I find that whenever I do either of these things I feel so calm and relaxed. Reading blogs is my favourite pastime day or night, and I’m forever playing catch up on my favourites. I love losing myself in a good book (this year I’ve challenged myself to read 20 books). I might be a little too confident. I love to read in the bath especially, and then curled up in my dressing gown post-bath. When Matt’s on a late finish (meaning he’s not home until after 9pm) I read for at least an hour, and wonder where the time has gone! I’ve also really got into podcasts over the past six months – Small Town Murder is forever my favourite – and I find they help me unwind too. It’s different to watching YouTube or Netflix, as I don’t have to concentrate as much, and I can also listen whilst doing other things, such as planning my week, changing our sheets or cleaning.

Invest in good quality pillows, duvet and bedding. I’m a sucker for a good smushy pillow and I can’t tell you how happy I am that I picked up some new ones just before Christmas, they are SO. COMFY. Matt and I are such cuddly sleepers (anyone else remembering that Friends episode where Rachel is a cuddly sleeper and Ross isn’t, well I promise we both are HAHA) that we generally snuggle in to go to sleep and after a few minutes we’re flat out! Soft, hotel-like pillows are my jam, and Matt thankfully loves them too. If you’re in the market for new ones, Dunelm have some great options for really affordable prices that you can feel in store, I’d highly recommend checking them out!

Take time for my skincare routine. Is it just me that feels SO incredibly good after spending a tad longer than usual carrying out my skincare routine? From cleansing to toning to moisturising, it just makes me feel relaxed and refreshed, and TBH, ready to snuggle up in bed! I love to use super moisturising products and oils at night time, as my skin always thanks me for it when morning rolls around. I can’t wait to share my current skincare favourites with you, my routine will be up on the blog next month!

Use pillow mist. I love the smell of essential oils, and I got a sample size of This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray in a Look Fantastic monthly subscription box at the end of 2018. I’ve used this product in the past and honestly forgot all about it, but now I quite enjoy spraying it on our pillows before we go to sleep. Matt thought it would make no difference, but we’re sleeping better than ever, and waking up so much easier after a good night’s sleep, so it must be doing something right. The smell of essential oils is so calming and relaxing, and although it’s quite an extravagant product it’s such a fun one to use – maybe you could pick it up if you have a little Christmas money left over? I’m definitely going to invest in the full size once this is gone.

Have a relaxing bath. I could happily spend half my life in the bath! Tbh, I probably do. I love nothing more than settling in with a glass filled with Diet Coke and lots of ice and letting the minutes (cough hours cough) tick by. I shared my favourite bath products back in December which you can check out here, but any products that make you feel relaxed and pampered will do just the trick. I find that if I’ve had a bad day I tend to stress my whole drive home, then the second I’m preparing my bath I can literally feel any stresses or worries easing off. This also means by the time Matt gets home from work (most days I’m home first) I’m relaxed and feeling much happier, and we’re able to enjoy our night together. Using all my favourite pamper products will almost definitely make for a better sleep too, all products from Jo Malone or Sanctuary Spa are heaven to me!

Take ten minutes for a yoga sesh. Yoga? Again? SORRY I can’t stop! I’m more into it then ever, it makes me happy, relaxed and sometimes, quite sleepy. You can spend just a few minutes or an hour winding down, it’s totally up to you. Evenings where I can’t really be bothered to take time for yoga usually end up being my favourite sessions, I always feel like a weight’s been lifted when I’m finished. There are so many yoga practices you can find on YouTube or on apps if you don’t have your own 10 minute unwinding routine. This is my favourite routine for nights I just need a little more relaxation.

Thank you so much for reading! Did you find any of these tips helpful? What do you do to ensure you have a good nights sleep? I can’t wait for Matt to come home tonight so we can fall asle-zzzzzzz

-G x