If I hear that ......."what's for dinner Mum" one more time this week!!!
Surely there must be an easier way to do this. Actually there is and it's called Meal Planning. Meal Planning is really simple, easy, it saves heaps of time and your week feels a lot less crazy.And as a bonus it will actually save you money. Its a great way to manage the family food budget.
So how do you meal plan?
It's simple, just plan in advance what meals you are going to cook each night over a week, fortnight or month.
The first step you want to do, is to work out how often you want to meal plan, I call this the planning cycle.
From my experience the best way to work this out is to line it up with your shopping routine. I plan our meals from Monday to Sunday and shop in the week. When we shopped fortnightly, I planned fortnightly.
Just a quick tip, I find weekly a lot easier, you normally know what you will be doing during that week and able to plan the meals around that. However another week out there are likely to be things that come up that you have not planned for. So you do need to have flexibility in planning the longer your cycle is.
Check Family/Personal planner
The first thing I do is to check the family calendar, checking for what's on that week, evening activities and so on. I note which nights I can cook and which nights I will be really busy. Therefore planning out the best options for dinner to fit around our activities.
Lets take this weeks meal planning. This week we have extra visitors at the end of the week and we also have dinner out to celebrate Pete's birthday. So for me this week, I know that for Friday night we will have more people to cook for and Saturday night we are out, so no dinner. Sunday will be late so we will have to do something quick and easy. Also on shopping night (Wednesday) we have "self service" . That's when we each make our own meal, having older kids makes that easy.
So this week I only need to plan for meals on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
Now that you have sorted what the week looks like and which nights you need to plan the meals for then, it's just a matter of choosing the meals.
Picking the meals to cook
For me the meals need to be quick, easy, healthy and budget friendly. I also have to balance the different style of foods that the family like. Pete likes very tasty, spicy food, more spicy Asian style, where as my son loves pasta, mince and mashed potatoes, basically anything with lots of carbs to fill up a fast growing 17 year old. I am easy, I just eat pretty much what is in front of me.
I have a stock of regular favourites that I cook and also try and mix it up with new receipes from weekly publications. There are great online options Countdown is a good example and there is a great app that you can use as well. There are also some good meal ideas in the weekly women magazines. Use your favourite cookbooks, just as an idea you could have a monthly cookbook theme.
My favourite cookbook for a long time was Jamie Olivers 15 min meals. I would go through his book every week and pick out yummy meals.
It does make it easier and quicker if you have a good stock of receipts or meal ideas that you can refer to when planning them out. A good tip is to have a recipe folder.
See my post here on how I created a recipe folder.
Another tip, try and have meals that use seasonal ingredients as they are cheaper and fresher, like a cabbage and carrots in winter for slaw versus a lettuce variety salad. Also try to share ingredients across meals - mince 1kg - split in half over two meals. Veges, like spinach, half bag for one meal, half for another.
This really helps with food wastage and will be cheaper.
Prepare your shopping list
Now that you have decided what meals you are going to cook, all you need to do is work out which ingredients you will need to buy and put them in the shopping list. It's a lot easier to do this when you have the meals listed down one side of the page and the shopping list on the other side.
To make this easier for you I have a weekly meal planning printable for you to use, just see below to sign up to receive your free printable.
Display your Meal Menu
I like to write the weeks menu up and have it some where the whole family can see so they will always know what is for dinner. I just use chalkboard paper and chalk pen and put it on the fridge, family love it.
Here I just used chalkboard and chalk pen from Spotlight
Hints and Tips
Try and maintain a pantry with the staple items, so all you need to do is to buy the meat and vegetables.
Collect recipes from magazines, cooking shows, subscribe to food blogs.
Use your family's favourites meals , these are which were on high rotate when the kids were younger;
- Shepherds Pie
- Sausage Casserole
- Home made hamburgers
Meal planning is such a simple and easy thing to do and does make such a difference to your life.
I hope you got some good ideas and tips, so go to it!
Happy meal planning