meal planning for beginners

How many times have you heard "what's for dinner"? either from your nagging kids or your inner voice reminding you that you have to sort dinner out! If I told you that there was a way to make that stupid question go away would you believe me?  Well actually there is and it's called meal planning. I initially started meal planning when the kids were little, Pete and I both working full time. It made such a huge difference to our week and to this day, even though the kids have grown and flown, we still meal plan. 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. It's a great way to manage the food budget. In this post I take you through all the steps to make this easy for you. I also have FREE printable for you and some great tips to get you on your way.

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Meal Planning is actually very easy, just plan in advance what meals you are going to cook each night over a week, fortnight or month. Easy eh!!!! For me I follow these simple steps;

  • Decide the planning cycle

  • Check my planner for upcoming activities & events

  • Choose my meals to cook

  • Shop

  • Cook

The first step you want to do, is to work out how often you want to meal plan, I call this the planning cycle.

WOrk out your 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 as we shop on Sundays. When we shopped fortnightly, I planned fortnightly.

Just a quick tip, I find weekly planning  a lot easier, as 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 your upcoming events and activities

The first thing I do is to check  my planner, checking for what's on that week, evening activities and so on. I note which nights we can cook and which nights we will be really busy. Therefore planning out the best options for dinner to fit around our activities.

Let's take this weeks meal planning. This week we have extra visitors at the end of the week and I am travelling in the early part of the week. So for us this week, I know that for Friday night we will have more people to cook for and Saturday night we are hosting our party, so we need a quick gab dinner. Sunday will be late so we will have to do something quick and easy. 

So this week we need a variety of quick and easy meals and some pre made meals, like slow cooker meals.  

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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.

Choosing the meals to cook

For me the meals need to be quick, easy, healthy and budget friendly. I also have to balance our different food tastes. Pete likes meaty, spicy and really hot food, more spicy hot Asian style, where as I like less spice and chillies and more vegetarian. The biggest challenge for meal planning is finding inspiration for meal ideas.

So how do I find meal ideas? 

There are great online food bloggers and pretty much any food genre you want. I would suggest using Pinterest for this, just set up your own recipe board, search for meal ideas and pin the recipes to your board. As you can see I have done that on my Pinterest page. Also check out some of your favourite chiefs and they are likely to have a website, sign up for their weekly newsletter and you can get meal inspiration to your inbox every week.

Also local supermarkets have great websites with food and meal inspiration and your can have the added bonus of shopping online.  Countdown is a good example and there is a great app that you can use as well. I also have one favourite cookbook on the go which I will refer to as well. Tip,  just as an idea you could have a monthly cookbook theme.

My favourite cookbook when the kids where at home and we were pressed for time was Jamie Olivers 15 min meals. I would go through his book every week and pick out yummy meals.

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It does make it easier and quicker if you have a good stock of recipes or meal ideas that you can refer to when planning them out. A good tip is to make up your own home 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 to reduce your food waste and is a cheaper way to shop.

Prepare your shopping list 

Once I have decided which meals to cook for the week , I then work out which ingredients we will need to buy. On my meal planning page I note beside the meal what I need to buy then just transfer that onto my catch all shopping list. The other thing that is really handy is that I note the reference, i.e where the recipe is from. E.g if it's from the cookbook I would just have the page number as the reference. As I have variety of sources of meal ideas this referencing is really helpful.

To make this easier for you I have a created a FREE weekly meal planner printable for you to use.  As you plan out your meals just note down the side what you need from the supermarket. It's really handy to have on you when doing the shopping. To receive this FREE weekly meal planner download just sign up below;

FREE Meal planner

Free meal planner printable pic
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Display your Meal Menu

This may seem a bit strange to display your meals for the week, but trust me it's worth it!. Firstly everyone can see the meals, so no need to ask what's for tea...."it's on the board" secondly if someone else has to cook they know which meal to make. And lastly it makes you accountable to actually cook the meals!  Once you have written them down and got them up for all to see if does commit you to making them. As in the end meal planning will not really be of any use if you just end up not cooking and getting takeaways instead!! (tempting as that may be sometimes)

My menu display board is just a photo frame with a piece of card stock behind and I use a whiteboard maker. I just wipe it down each week and write up the new menu....easy as that. 

Hints and Tips to help with meal planning

  • 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, when our kids were younger Shepherds Pie, Lasagne, Bolognase, Sausage Casserole and Homemade burgers were our high rotate.

Summary of steps

I hope this post has given you some useful information to help you get started with meal planning. Meal planning is such a simple and easy thing to do and does make such a difference to your life. Remember the 5 simple steps;

  1. Choose your planning cycle

  2. Check my planner for upcoming activities & events

  3. Choose my meals to cook

  4. Shop

  5. Cook

Get inspiration on a weekly basis on my facebook page, 7nightsaweek , it's dedicated to my weekly meal planning and so each week I share my meal plans, provide links to recipes and share any meal ideas and tips that I have come across.

Happy meal planning my friends!

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 If you found this post helpful ….check out my other featured posts below


 

How to create a home folder

I am sure that we are like most families, with household and family information all over the place, in drawers, in piles of stuff on the desk, in files, it goes on....you get the picture!

One way we have found to remove this mess is to have one place to hold all, so for us it's a "Home Folder". It's sort of the one stop shop for key information about your home and family. So today I thought I`d take you through ours, and how I created it. Hopefully, you may find this helpful.

 

Decide on what information you need

The first step is to make a list of the types of information that's important for your home and family. Think about what you often look for, what's always lying around, what does everyone need to have access to and so on.

This can include calendars, weekly plans, to do lists, shopping lists, projects list, meal planning, cleaning plan, important contacts, school information, info for babysitter, maintenance schedules for house, cars and garden.

A helpful way to decide on these topics is to have a look at the free printables available on line. There is a lot of great information available on blogs as well as You Tube on this topic. I found a couple a really good sites with a lot of free printables, these are justagirlandherblog and scatteredsquirrel

What was useful for us, was to have all the "home" information together, especially for Pete.  I keep personal contacts and other important family information in my planner. It's totally personal how you do this, every family and home is different so you will need to work out what information is right for you.

So we decided on the following topics,

  • Calendar and Weekly Planner
  • Goals and Projects
  • Maintenance and Cleaning
  • Important Information
  • Local Information

Chose your folder

This folder I sourced from a folder from the local stationery shop, Whitcoulls . I know there are lots of different sizes and designs of folders/binders, again go with what you like and what will work for you.

I use plastic shelves to hold the printables/papers as it's easy to take in and out as information changes. What I also find helpful for the "Important Information" is to use business card inserts, rather than writing or typing the information in. Again, this is really handy when changing the information.

Divide the topics and Label

For each topic or subject I used "L" shaped pockets as the dividers and just punched holes in them for the folder. The L shaped pockets are great to insert information, like the latest menu from your favourite local restaurant. I created a tab on each of the pockets and labelled them. As an aside, a label maker at home is an essential tool, I use the P-touch Brother, it's great.

I also got an A5 zip wallet and did the same, as above. In this I hold a small amount of cash. It's great for those times when you need small change for kids school, donation, bus......coffeeeeee!

I found most of these items at Warehouse Stationery, again any stationery supplier will have these.

And, all importantly, make sure that you have the folder out in a central place so everyone can have access to it.

I hope this was useful to you, enjoy creating your folder!

Big hugs and smiles

Tania

Mum and Career, the 4 things you need to do to succeed in both

It was a conversation with one of my staff that lead me to this week's blog. With two young ones at school and working full time, she had a challenging week. Like a lot of women, she chose to work full time and have a career, and why not? However it can be a tough road being a Mum, whether working full time or at home, it can be a hard but rewarding road. Surprisingly enough we are not superwomen and we need to recognize this and give ourselves a break.

 

Having raised my kids and worked full time in my career I have learnt a few things on the way, so I thought I'd share some of these with you and, hopefully, you can take something from it to make your life a bit less chaotic.

You are not the only parent

Ok, so you’re the Mum and you think that because of this you should be the authority on your children……well, that is true, but there is another parent, so make sure you let them be the parent too.

One of the most frustrating things I hear is “hubby's babysitting the kids” or Dad saying “I'm babysitting the kids”. No you are not! They are your children, so you are actually simply doing what a parent should do - parenting.

I learnt this really early on with our daughter, first born. Within our first day back at home with her, Pete was bathing her and I was hovering over him…..”do it like this…..don't do it like that.. blah blah” He turned around and said to me “she is my child too and I`ll do this my way”. It really made me stop and realise that I didn't know any more about bathing, dressing, changing nappies etc than he did , we were both new at this. So yeah, I totally let go of feeling that I had to be the authority on our kids. From that day on I never had to plan or organize anything when Pete was with the kids, he did it his way and he did it well.

So as women we need to stop feeling precious about that and let go sometimes.

Let it out of your head and share

I don't know about you but I carry lots of crap in my head, you know the usual stuff, school stuff, dates, appointments, birthdays, sports… it goes on. You need to get this information out of your head and get the family aware of these things and involved in helping with them.

There are great ideas and tools that can really help with this

  • calendar
  • diary
  • to do list
  • family home folder

Whatever you chose to use, make sure you keep it for everyone to use and see.

We always had a big calendar that had everyone’s name on it, so you could easily see what was coming up for the family weekly and monthly. We found this kikki-k one worked really well.

Flexible work options

Ok, so we may not all be in a position to have flexibility in our work, but I strongly suggest that you do try and achieve this. If your present work environment doesn't support this, think about finding one that does.  I know this is easier said than done, but think about the difference it would make to your life and parenting ability.

One of the reasons I remained with my employer was because they are so supportive of work-life balance. I always made the effort to attend all the important events in my kids' lives - at school, on the sportsground, etc. It wasn't always easy, but I did it.  My husband did the same, between us we were always there.

I recall once at a parents' event at the school, a group of mums talking to me about how hard it must be working full time and raising a family. This was about fifteen years ago and a full time working Mum was still not that common. Obviously I talked about the challenge, but I did ask them if they had asked my husband the same question? And do they ask other fathers this question? I didn`t meant to be rude, but it’s important to change some perceptions and expectations that we place on ourselves.

Create the Social hub

My final word on this topic is, as far as I am concerned, the most important. No matter what else is going on in the world, your home must be the social hub for your family. It has to be the place from which their values, and their skills to get through life successfully, are developed . Yes, school and sports friends and other external factors help to broaden their skills and can influence them, but don't ever underestimate the importance of the home. Its one of the things you can actually control and achieve as parent, is to make your home a strong social hub. Always keep your kids close, and never, ever, stop communicating with them, especially in the teenage years.

I know we all have our own family experiences , but I hope this has helped in some way towards making your life easier.

I will be sharing a lot more practical ideas for organizing and planning in my upcoming blogs, so please “stay tuned”. Look forward to talking to you again soon.

Hugs and smiles

Tania

My First blog

 

Kia Ora everyone, I can’t actually believe that I am really doing this. It’s my very first blog on my lovely new website

Firstly let me tell you a bit about myself.

My Mountain, my place

I am a Kiwi gal, more really a Kiwi woman, age and all that. I live in Auckland with my husband and two children. My mountain (this is how we describe where our family roots come from in New Zealand) is Mt Aoraki, otherwise know as Mt Cook

My home town of Timaru is on the coast and I got to see Mt Aoraki every morning from my bedroom window. Most of my childhood was spent in the McKenzie country, which essentially Mt Aoraki reigns over. I truly believe I was blessed to have grown up in such a breathtakingly, beautiful environment.

Following my dreams

Well at the age of 47, my journey to become a Professional Organizer and become my own boss lady has just begun.

I have always loved organizing and planning.  I love making my house a home and have a lot of experience and ideas on home organization and management.

Gardening is a real passion of mine, especially  vegetable gardening. Over the years I have built up a bit of knowledge on how to produce a great crop.

My goal is to be able to share as much of my skills and knowledge about organizing and planning to help people to overcome the noise in their head, the clutter in the home and the mess in the garden.

The other experience I want to share, is of raising a family while working full time in the Corporate world. I have a lot to share, not only about working full time and raising a family, but also about being a woman and having a career and the struggle and juggle that comes with that. I have learnt a lot about being really – freakingly organized – to cope with what is really, chaos sometimes.

And finally, you would have guessed, I am a planner addict. I have been using them even before they become so popular.

Stay in touch...Please!

So, if you are interested in reading and seeing more about my ideas and learnings on home organization, life planning, garden planning and care, home management , home renovations, how to multi task, please subscribe to my blog below.

I’d love any feedback, as I am just starting out on this journey and have sooooo much to learn. I really look forward to hanging out with you all on my blog!

Hugs and smiles

Tania