When there are seven hungry people in your house wanting to know what’s for tea in half an hour, replying with “I don’t know” would be a disaster!
That’s why I started meal planning. Meal planning reduces my stress massively. It reduces the amount of money we spend on food. It helps us to eat healthier. It helps our days to flow smoothly because the huge task of preparing every one a satisfying meal has been dealt with.
I used to do meal plans weekly. But since term 4 last year I have been trying something different and it’s working really well. I was finding that I wasn’t able to keep up with meal planning every single week and some weeks I wouldn’t get around to planning and would fall back to ‘winging it’. I find it stressful not knowing at least the day before what we are going to eat for the following days evening meal. When I have a meal plan I feel better prepared because I can just check and see what we are eating tomorrow before bed and get out any meat to defrost overnight.
My new and improved way of planning our meals involves sitting down with a pile of cookbooks and my laptop every school holidays and typing out the whole next terms worth of meals. I usually plan for the next 12 weeks so that I can still follow it during the school holidays while I’m planing the next 12 weeks.
I only plan the evening meal because we like to keep lunches, breakfast, snacks and sides very simple and repeat the same foods over and over.
For Breakfast depending on the season the children can choose eggs, porridge, muesli, yoghurt, smoothie, fruit, Vitabritz or toast. Sometimes we have other cereals for a treat but not all the time as they are too sugary and expensive.
For lunch we eat things like sandwiches, salads, soup, wraps, baked sweet potatoes or leftovers.
I always keep snacks like Saladas, rice crackers, cheese, yoghurt, nuts and fresh and dried fruit on hand for the children. I like to bake up large batches of biscuits too and try to always have some available in the house for them to eat but if life gets busy this doesn’t always happen. The home made biscuits that I usually have on rotation are chocolate chip, Anzacs, ginger bread and vanilla cockals.
To help make my meal planning simple I like to choose a theme with for each day of the week on the meal plan. For example Monday = lamb, Tuesday = chicken, Wednesday = vegetarian, Thursday = soup, Friday = pizza, Saturday = fish, Sunday = leftovers.
I also repeat the same meal 3-4 times or more throughout the 12 week meal plan. This helps to make cooking simple and to help me become confident with cooking a new recipe. Plus I’ve noticed children like to eat the same foods they like over and over again and are not keen on trying new recipes.
When choosing the meals I try to finds recipes that I think everyone will enjoy. Even the fussy ones.
I don’t include side dishes on my meal plan because I usually serve every meal with whatever vegetables are in season and were on special when I went shopping. We have vegetables with every meal either in a salad, roasted, fried or boiled. (or steamed, but my steamer is broken and I need a new one!) I serve many meals with rice, white or brown or with quinoa.
Savannah and Holly enjoyed flicking through cookbooks and pointing out meals that they would like to try this week while I was doing the plan.
I don’t usually get my 12 week meal plan done in one hit. I find I need to work on it in a few 30-60 minute sessions over a week or so. I can’t sit down and concentrate on something longer than this amount of time during the day when I have 5 children to care for who all need me to help them with something.
Above is my latest meal plan for the next 12 weeks. I always put a reference to myself of the cook book a recipe is from and the page number so I can find it quickly when I do my shopping list.
I really like Sarah Wilson’s cookbooks. Two of my favourites are Simplicious and her slow cooker one. I used her slow cooker cook book heaps this winter. Her vegetable korma is really delicious and was a huge hit with my family and friends at Savannah’s 5th birthday party. Click on the pictures below to purchase them for yourself and help me to earn a commission to support this blog.
Shopping is a huge part of meal preparation and I always go to the shops with a list. I have been using a master shopping list for a few years now. I simply typed up every grocery item I buy and store in my cupboards, fridge and freezers including household and toiletry items and printed out many copies. I then highlight the item that I’m out of with a highlighter texta. This saves me writing out a list from scratch before every grocery trip.
Do you plan your family’s meals? My mum likes to simply shop for similar ingredients every time and plans her meals based around what’s in her house and garden. She usually just decides what she’s cooking the day before.
It’s all about finding something that works for you. If my planning looks too elaborate then try something that suits you better. I believe that it’s a huge responsibility as mothers (and fathers) to provide our family with a healthy, filling meal everyday. It’s very important to eat meals together as a family with the TV and all electronic gadgets off. We don’t even allow our son to read when we are having a meal because I want him to engage in conversation with his family. A lot of joy and laughter can be shared at mealtimes. Luke, my husband, is especially good at making everyone laugh and we have a great time together while enjoying tasty food. These memories can bring a deep sense of comfort and belonging for our children and will last a lifetime.