How to meal plan dinner | Extract | Hardie Grant Books
Show menu

The Basics of 4+2+1 Cooking

20 Jan 2020 | Jen Pentrovic & Gaby Chapman

If you've ever felt lost while trying to meal-plan, or overwhelmed at dinner time, The Plan Buy Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman is a must-read. This book was created to teach you the formula that will make meal-planning and getting an entire week's worth of dinner sorted easy. Take a sneak peek into the secret below. 

Dinner Done = 4+2+1 Explained

4+2+1 is not a diet, nor is it designed to make you quit anything except worrying about the evening meal. It is simply a way to incorporate better planning, buying and cooking-from-scratch habits for a fuss-free life. It can be adapted to any diet or recipes with ease.

THIS IS OUR MEAL-PLANNING 4+2+1 FORMULA

cooking graphic

 x 4


Cook 4 meals from scratch each week: 2 Double-Up meals and 2 Fast & Fresh

Double-Up two meals each week. Eat two this week and freeze the rest. The remaining two meals should be Fast & Fresh. These are meals that you can make in under an hour.

freezer graphic x 2

Take 2 Foodbanked meals from the freezer

Simply toss together a salad, or cook some pasta, rice, or vegetables to accompany your defrosted Foodbanked meal on the night as required.

meal plan graphic

  x 1


Have 1 Super Simple meal

Leftovers, takeaway or something easy like toasted sandwiches or eggs on toast will round out your week.


Having a formula doesn’t mean you are tied to set meals on set nights; you can vary your plan as long as you have the ingredients. You can also either choose to use some of our fabulous and varied meals, or substitute some with your own recipes. It will work either way.

THE SECRET

The key is to ‘Double-Up’ two recipes – cook twice as much as you need – to make two freezable meals each week. Plan to eat one of each of these meals this week and freeze the other meals for eating two weeks down the track. We call this ‘Foodbanking’.

Double-Up meals might be substantial one-pot meals like our Chicken & Chorizo Braise

(page 71), or pasta sauces that go into the freezer as nearly complete meals, or basics like Hamburgers (page 88), Lamb Kibbeh (page 97) or any of our marinated meat recipes that can be frozen uncooked. Or they might be pantry meals or soups. You need to put two meals in the freezer each week to achieve freedom from the daily dinner grind.

The other two meals you make from scratch during the week should be ‘Fast & Fresh’: meals that don’t take a lot of preparation and cooking time. The key to these meals is having the ingredients on hand, ready to go.

Importantly, you also need to plan to eat two Foodbanked meals each week to save you cooking time. You should use your previously Foodbanked meals within two weeks to keep everything on high rotation. This way, you are not stockpiling food that takes up freezer space, and you are still keeping variety in your cooking by having meals from two weeks before.

And because we are all about simplicity, we also include what we call a ‘Super Simple’ meal in the mix. This might be leftovers, takeaway or something like eggs on toast, toasted sandwiches, jacket potatoes or flatbread pizzas. Plan to make one Super Simple meal each week that anyone in the family can cook.

7 NIGHTS OF DINNER DONE = 4+2+1.

With this, you should be able to do all your cooking in about two hours when time is really tight during the working week, instead of the countless hours you now spend thinking about, shopping for and cooking meals each week.

You can use your own recipes, or try ours (pages 65–215). To know if your regular recipes can be doubled up and frozen, go to page 25 for our quick guide.

Our Cook section is divided into Double-Up meals (page 68), Fast & Fresh meals (page 144) and Super Simple meals (page 208). We have also included handy Speedy Sides (page 204) and BBQ Salads (page 194) to accompany any of your meals.

The recipes include a range of cuisines, from European, Middle Eastern and Asian to Mexican, as well as family favourites such as hamburgers. They are designed to expand your cooking repertoire through simple techniques using ingredients readily found in the supermarket.


the plan buy cook book cover

This is an edited extract from The Plan Buy Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman
Available now in all good bookstores and online
Click here to find your preferred online retailer