I use to find meal planning stressful enough when it was just my husband and me. to be fair we often worked opposite shifts. So in the end we would just decide on the day what it was we fancied eating.
Now I have kids, it’s even harder. I don’t have the free time, to leisurely stroll around a supermarket. Gone are the spur of the moment decisions. Now it’s all about what we have in and what can be ready easily enough around a bed time routine. Children refusing to eat or not wanting to sleep.
So before Christmas I took some time to sit down and think real hard about our meals. Firstly I wanted to make sure they are health and fresh. I also wanted to make meals that fit around out lives, so I didn’t feel tied to the kitchen. I also wanted to use local ingredient which means being in season. It took some time and a little research but I came with a meal plan that works wonders!
Rather than planning a week at a time and having to find the time every week to think about the week ahead. I planned for 3 weeks. This also means I can rotate the weekly meal plan and actually repeat dinners without them becoming to repetitive and boring. Basically by doing 3 weeks, I can stick to this one plan for the entire season without fear people will become fed up.
Plan for the whole family
So whilst my son is still a toddler and is pretty much in bed by the time we sit to eat every night. I still built the plan around cooking meals he would enjoy too. That way whilst he may eat before us, I am still only having to buy the ingredients for and cook one meal.
Pick meals that the whole family will love
This might sound the same as planning for the whole family. But it’s not. I need to pick favourites. Things we will all look forward too. Because if you’ve not fussed by it, it will be easy to forget or refuse it and then the whole idea of meal planning falls apart.
Plan lunches as well as dinners or make use of leftovers
As well as planning our dinners, I have built-in a list of quick and easy lunches as well. Mainly from a shopping perspective that I don’t have to think about anything for the week ahead and just need to buy the needed ingredients. We tend to eat together as a family at lunch time although it’s juggled around crèche pickups, working hours and errands. So knowing what we are doing here just makes life easier all round. Equally making use of large portions on evening meals to use leftovers for lunches, helps on the days we really don’t have a lot of time or perhaps effort.
Think about quick and easy meals
You may have picked up on a theme here. If you want meal times to be stress free and painless. They need to be quick and easy meals. Not to say you can’t try something new, but if it involves spending hours in the kitchen when you need to tend to the kids or work. The chances are you’re unlikely to make it very often.
Make use of a slow cooker
This little beauty is a favourite of mine and literally a life saver. When I have busy days coming up, knowing I can throw everything into a pot. switch it on and go is a life saver. You can actually make a whole host of meals with a slow cooker. Not just the traditional pot roasts or stews. Although these are firm favourites in our house in the winter months.
Build your plan around the season.
For us, the local produce is absolutely amazing and so so fresh. Really you couldn’t get any better if you tried. We make a point of visiting the local produce market weekly to stock up on our fruit and veg. This is also great for our budget as buying locally direct from source means our weekly food bill it greatly reduced. However it also means we are limited to seasonality when it comes to choice. That’s why making sure you pick meals based around the season will help make things easier. As the likelihood go being able to get all the ingredient is higher and the cost lower.
Draw up a shopping list for each week
Once I have planned out the 3 weeks worth of meals. I spend the extra time noting down all the ingredients needed each week and adding a shopping list to the meal plan. That way every time we come to use that week’s plan I already have the shopping list ready to go and literally just need a quick pantry check to see if we have any of the ingredient in already.
Use this easy planner to help keep track
To keep it all neat and tidy and in one place I use a great meal planner. Laid out with a weekly view it has a shopping list on one side. Once I have written out my 3 weeks I will laminate them and pin them to the board in the kitchen. That way everyone can see what’s for lunch or dinner each day.
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