Picture of a diary
Weekly meal plans and shops

How to create a weekly meal plan for a zero waste shop

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” – this quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin might sound a bit drastic in a zero waste context, it is however somewhat true for attempting a zero waste lifestyle.

Now before you throw the towel because you hate planning, let me assure you that creating a weekly meal plan for a zero waste shop is actually easier than it sounds. And it will save you time and money (plan once, shop once, know what you’re cooking each day), provide healthy meals (as you’re cooking fresh, cutting out processed food), and avoid waste – both packaging and food waste.

Picture of a diary
Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

The key idea is that you create a SIMPLE weekly meal plan that works for you ONCE, and then all you need to do is vary or tweak it on a weekly basis depending on the season, your appetite or what’s on offer at your local market or bulk store.

When I first embarked on our zero waste life journey, Bea Johnson’s classic Zero Waste Home was my daily handbook, and like many things in the zero waste community, this weekly meal plan is loosely based on her guidance, too (check out her blog article on meal planning). I’ve just amended it to fit the Warwickshire zero waste shopping landscape and our slightly more omnivorous diet.

Simple weekly zero waste meal plan

Here is our weekly meal plan based on our weekly zero waste shop in Warwick:

  • Saturday (shopping day): Fresh fish plus veggies and/or bread on the side (Simon doesn’t eat seafood so I normally go for a fish fillet that’s on offer at the fishmonger)
  • Sunday: A big Sunday roast – usually chicken, beef, pork or lamb – enough to provide left-over meats for sandwiches for lunches and one or two meat add-ons for the rest of the week’s main meals
  • Monday: A hearty soup with bread; I tend to cook a large portion to have leftovers for lunches or to pop in the freezer
  • Tuesday: Pasta with a vegetable or egg-based sauce, or an egg-based dish (pancakes, Spanish tortilla, Kaiserschmarrn, omelette or similar)
  • Wednesday: Homemade wraps with leftover meat from Sunday and salad / yoghurt / avocado / whatever you fancy, really
  • Thursday: A grain-based vegetarian dish like a curry or stew with (Naan) bread
  • Friday: This is our cheat day where we either eat out or meet friends so I don’t tend to plan for a meal that day; if we have nothing on, I will use up any leftovers with some bread from the freezer; PLAN for your next weekly shop on Saturday

As you can see this mainly covers main meals / dinners. For breakfast, I tend to have muesli (made up of bulk oats, nuts, raisins, fresh fruit and home made yoghurt) and Simon has cereals (one of the things we haven’t been able to get package free, unfortunately).

For lunches we tend to have sandwiches with cheese or leftover meat, or salad, or leftovers from one of the previous meals.

Zero waste is as much about simplifying your life as it is about avoiding (plastic) waste.

The weekly zero waste meal plan above focuses on simplicity, rather than an elaborate cuisine. I’m no passionate chef, so I don’t mind following a weekly routine of simple meals.

The structure doesn’t mean it gets boring – you can vary ingredients and recipes within each category, depending on what’s in season or what you fancy. And the Sunday roast or the Friday cheat day (meal out or dinner with friends) still allows you to let out your inner master chef and get creative!

Use this template to plan your zero waste meals
Click here to download your FREE editable zero waste meal planner and shopping list

As I’ve been following this basic weekly zero waste meal plan, I’ve collected recipes that work in each category and saved them in an online folder in my Google drive. So over time, you’ll be able to build up a list of favourite recipes for each day that you can revisit, making your weekly zero waste meal planning even easier.

I’ll be posting my weekly meal plans and shopping lists in this blog and I’ll make sure I’ll link to the recipes I use in each week, in case you’d like some inspiration.

In the meantime, here are two great online resources for zero waste recipes:

  • Zero Waste Chef: Anne-Marie Bonneau of Zero Waste Chef is one of the original zero waste pioneers and her blog and social media feeds are full of inspiration and great zero waste recipes. She’s also a keen fermenter and preserver, so you can learn a lot about preserving food to avoid waste.
  • The Plastic-Free Chef: Mary Kat is actually Anne-Marie’s (above) daughter who started her own blog at the age of 16 and focuses on simple, inexpensive meals which she can cook plastic free while being a student. While she hasn’t posted on the blog since January 2018, it’s still full of great recipes.

Please let me and the community know of any other blogs or resources about zero waste cooking by posting in the comments below.

For me the key thing is having a weekly routine that makes it easy to be zero waste, to avoid food waste, and to create fresh, simple, healthy meals. How do you plan your zero waste shopping? Let the community know in the comments below. Cheers, Bettina

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