Hands up who’s as disorganised as I am.
Nope. Put your hands down. There’s just no way that anyone is less organised than me. I consistently leave everything to the last minute, my washing basket is full to the rim before I remember to put a load on, and I usually decide what to make for dinner at about 7 o’clock at night.
So, today I’m going to talk about something that changed me as a person (yes, I really am going to be that dramatic):
Meal planning! I was so excited when Sian’s Plan asked me to try out their meal planning service this week – finally a reason to get myself organised. Meal planning isn’t something I’ve ever done before, but you know what? I loved it.
Sian’s Plan provides a selection of healthy, family-friendly recipes that you can easily drag and drop to create your meal plan – either 5 days or 7, depending on whether you want the weekend off. I chose the 5 day plan, and you can see the options I went for below (more on those in a minute!).
The recipes are colour-coded to make it even easier for you to choose which you fancy. Red recipes are quick and easy. Blue recipes take a little longer to prepare (you’re encouraged to save these ones for the weekend!). And every few days, you’re prompted to choose a green recipe – these are designed to use up any leftovers you might have, to help you stay economical in your cooking. Each recipe also shows you its nutritional content, so you can make sure you’re eating healthily too.
Once you’ve chosen your meals for the week, you get to the best part: you can generate your shopping list with one click. Literally one click. You can easily adapt your list depending on what you already have in the cupboards, and then there’s even the option to order your groceries online at a variety of British and Irish supermarkets (note: even if you’re not in the UK or Ireland, the shopping list generator is still a hugely useful feature! You can print out your list using the nifty print button and take it to the store with you, or you can even email it to yourself directly so that you can access it on your smartphone).
It felt so good to be able to go shopping at the beginning of the week with an actual shopping list! I usually amble round the supermarket waiting for inspiration to strike, and end up coming home with a load of random ingredients (usually something along the lines of chocolate + cheese + broccoli). Sian’s Plan definitely helped me to feel more organised.
I also found that having my meals planned out in advance (with the ingredients already bought, so no opportunity to back out) helped a lot in resisting the urge to get a take away or go out to eat for no reason. Cooking a healthy dinner is much less of a chore when you know exactly what you’re making, and you know you’ve got all the ingredients to hand.
All of the recipes on Sian’s Plan are healthy, simple and family-friendly. Here are some of the recipes I sampled this week:
Spicy bean burritos – I was shocked at how quickly these came together! Just 15 minutes or so of prep, then I popped them in the oven and we were eating in no time. You know how I love my Mexican food, so these easy burritos were just my sort of thing.
Sweet and sour green bean stir fry with quinoa - Ever since I discovered quinoa a few months ago, I’ve been obsessed. I love how soft and fluffy it is, and it went perfectly with the fresh vegetables and homemade sauce in this quick recipe. Plus, look how pretty this dish is!
Pasta with lentil and tomato sauce - I knew this recipe would be added to my meal plan as soon as I saw it – you can’t beat a quick pasta dish. I’m a big fan of lentils too. This one reminded me a bit of a vegetarian spaghetti bolognese – lentils are a great alternative to meat!
Store cupboard pizza – this was the ‘green’ recipe I chose, which helped me to use up some of the vegetables that were lingering at the back of my fridge. I used some mushrooms and green pepper, but you can obviously adapt this depending on what you need to use. The pizza base was a scone-like dough that used store-cupboard ingredients, which I was very happy to see, because I’ve never quite got the hang of yeasted breads.
I’ve been kindly allowed to share one of the recipes from Sian’s Plan with you today, and I think it might just be my favourite of all the ones I tried – lentil and cheese burgers! I love a good veggie burger, and these were perfectly dense and hearty, not at all mushy like a lot of veggie burgers are. The cheese gave a great flavour to the burgers, and I liked seeing little chunks of vegetables throughout.
Before I share the recipe, I have one more super-exciting thing to share: Because you’re all so special, Sian’s Plan is offering you all 25% off their plans.
Use the code AMB25 to claim your 25% off!
Just enter the code on the payment page and you’ll be well on your way. Sian’s Plan is incredibly reasonably priced anyway, so you’re getting a real bargain here. The offer is only valid until the end of February, so get moving!
So, let’s get down to it: the recipe for these awesome lentil and cheese burgers. I adapted the recipe ever so slightly, mostly just because I wanted to halve it (there are only two of us!). It was really easy to adapt to make a smaller amount, and I’m sure it would have been easy to double up as well, if you have a large family or if you’re cooking for a crowd.
- 65g brown lentils
- 70g red lentils
- 1tbsp oil
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 50g mushrooms, diced
- ½ red pepper, diced
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 slice bread
- 1 small carrot, grated
- 30g cheddar cheese, grated
- Black pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ~25g plain flour
- 2tbsp oil, for frying
- Begin to boil the brown lentils in plenty of water, and add the red lentils to the pan after around 10 minutes (check the packets to determine exactly how much longer the brown lentils should take). Stir occasionally, and keep an eye on them because you don't want them to overcook. They will probably take around 20-25 minutes in total.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan, and add the onion. Cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, before adding the garlic, mushrooms and red pepper, along with the spices. Continue to cook for a further few minutes, until the vegetables are just soft. Set aside.
- Blitz the bread into crumbs using a mini food processor. Combine the breadcrumbs with the vegetable mixture, grated carrot and grated cheese. When the lentils are tender but not mushy, drain them and add them to the mixture, along with plenty of seasoning. Mix well to combine.
- Add the egg, and mix thoroughly. Next, add just enough flour to allow the mixture to come together - around 25g.
- The original recipe suggests forming the mixture into burger shapes and refrigerating for 10 minutes, but I skipped this step. My mixture was fairly wet and I thought it would work well as more of a fritter.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F).
- Heat the oil in the same pan you've already used (no need to wash it), and add dollops of the lentil mixture. Gently press it out into a round, flat disk. Repeat with more of the mixture, but don't overcrowd your pan - I did two separate batches. Cook over a medium-high heat.
- When the underside of each burger is golden brown (which should take something like 3 minutes), carefully flip them over and repeat on the other side. Then transfer them to a baking tray while you cook the next batch.
- When all of the burgers are golden brown, place them in the oven for around 10 minutes, until firm and cooked through.
Tell me about your own meal planning experiences – is it something you’ve tried in the past, or are you as unorganised as I am (or should I say used to be…)?