Why do I meal plan?….So many reasons!….
MY SANITY: The main reason is about saving my sanity!! It’s not just to save money, food waste and time but it’s also about saving my sanity! The daily dilemma of what to cook my kids for tea every night used to drive me a little nuts!…If you’re not one for meal planning, do you find it hard having to think of what to cook every night!? I certainly did! It’s especially hard when the kids are hungry and they want their tea NOW!!
Thinking off the cuff about what to feed my kids was a daily chore and adding to that the pressure of wanting to offer them something healthy & nutritious meant dinner times were all a bit fraught and stressful!!
If you can relate to any of this then I can tell you meal planning changes all of that!
By meal planning and doing a little prep it takes away a lot of these daily stresses and that question ‘what’s for tea mummy!?’ suddenly becomes easy to answer!
Meal planning also means I can pre-empt those days where I have less time, like when we’re rushing in from clubs etc so I can plan a quick and easy meal to throw together in minutes…OR it means I can whack a load of things into my slow cooker in the morning so that i know when we’re all back late i’ll have a healthy and warm meal to feed my kids without any of the stress or meltdowns that come with hangry kids! Sounds good right??
TIME: The other reason is that is saves time.
I don’t have time to pop to the shops every day nor do I want to be in the shops everyday for that matter…that’s no good for the bank account either but having a plan means I know exactly what we’re having for each meal, as do the kids and I don’t have to think about it EVERY DAY! I can sit down with a cuppa once a week and jot down a plan and do an online shop then I don’t really have to think about it for the rest of the week!! (Other than the actual cooking of the meals but that’s the easier/fun part!!) It’s the deciding what to cook every night which wears me out!!!..or at least did wear me out before I started meal planning!
FOOD WASTE: I can definitely say that by meal planning it definitely reduces the amount of food I waste. You can plan meals using leftovers..what about these croquettes using leftover mash??
There’s still some work to be done on my part, don’t get me wrong, but i’m getting a lot better and meal planning means i’m buying less top up items which i don’t need and which then sit at the back of my fridge! It also helps that i have a husband who works from home a lot and loves to hoover up leftovers for his lunch!!
Frozen veg is a great way to save on waste as you only take out what you need. I tend to buy a week’s worth of meat and fish and then put it straight into the freezer. I take out what I need the morning of or the night before that way if plans do change i’m not wasting food.
MONEY: Planning most definitely saves money. If you’re not having to pop to the shops every day then you’re less likely to add random bits to your basket! Yep I don’t think I can go into a shop with a list and actually stick to it!…there’s always something else I think I need!..or something that just catches my eye – i’m an advertisers dream!!! So if I can plan, do one main online weekly shop it prevents me doing those danger top up shops.
Now, my food bills could be even cheaper than they are but I don’t mind spending a little more on quality products. Food is (if you hadn’t guessed) so important to me and i’m slightly obsessed so I don’t mind spending a little more on nuts, nut butters, quality artisan breads etc…) but since meal planning my food bills have defnitely dropped!
So next point if you have to go into the shop then make sure it’s on a full tummy so you’re less likely to want snacky things and extras you didn’t go in for!!
Do an online shop where you can – you’ll be tempted by extras if you’re actually in the shop going down the aisles!
So those are the main reasons I meal plan – i’m sure there are others!…but how do I do it?!…Now I am not a professional meal planner (if there is such a thing!?)…but I do have a few hints and tips to share if you need some help to get started!
FIND TIME TO PLAN: Sit down once a week with a pen and paper & a cuppa and maybe a few of your favourite recipe books. Sitting down once a week to work out a plan will save you time during the week – promise!!
GET YOUR DIARY OUT: Look at the week ahead and see what you have in the diary. Is there a random dentist appt which will mean you need something quick before you go? Or will you be back late from school clubs? Have you arranged a playdate so need more mouths to feed? Are you out for dinner? Are you having a dinner party at home? Work out what you’re doing so that you can plan accordingly, which days you have more time to prep and which days you need something speedy. If you’re out then pop that in the meal plan.
DO A QUICK INVENTORY: Check what you have in the fridge/freezer/cupboards first – it’s amazing what you can make out of a fridge raid! Write down what you have and see if you can make some recipes up based on what you already have in the kitchen. You may have some random chicken fillets in the freezer, do a quick google search for chicken recipes to see if that will inspire you or head to my website and search chicken!! Also try to keep a list of what you have in the freezer and for any homemade dishes/sauces etc write down the dates you made them so you know when they need eating up by!
BE REALISTIC: If you feel you can’t do a whole week of meal planning then start with a few days. Also be realistic with what you physically have time to cook on any given day. If you’ve got after school clubs, tired and hungry kids then don’t go for something which will take a long time to cook! Obvious I know, BUT by looking at your week ahead you’ll know which days you have more time than others. Likewise, if you have that kind of an evening maybe go for something which can be prepped or even cooked beforehand and you can just re-heat when your kids need it…a slow cooker meal is a great idea for these busier evenings!
COOK ONCE EAT TWICE: Freezer stashes are a lifesaver on days when you can’t really be bothered to cook. So batch cooking is a fab way to do this. Where you can, always make double as that makes for an easy meal the following week! It’s a really good idea to pop in a freezer stash meal onto your planner once a week to take the pressure off yourself!..and you also get that smug feeling that you haven’t cooked that night but your kids are eating a delicious homecooked meal!! Win, win! Just remember to take it out of the freezer the night before or the morning of!!
GET YOUR KIDS INVOLVED! Now, I don’t do this every week as I quite often like to plan during the week when the kids are at school BUT the weeks I do plan with them are the weeks they generally eat better! They’re pretty good on the whole but when they have a say about what they’re having they’re much better!
So go through recipe books with your kids, let them choose a meal. If they’ve chosen it they’re more likely to eat it! Or say to them that you’re having fish on Monday what veggies would they like with that? Getting them involved in the process (this goes with helping to chop, stir, cook etc too!) really helps them feel like they’re in control of what they’re eating. They’re still eating vegetables but they’re deciding which ones! Or do the same with carbs so what would you prefer, mash or wedges??
When meal planning try to look at the veggies etc that you’re buying that week and incorporate them into a few meals so you’re not wasting.
Last but not least – I’m not perfect (haha nothing shocking there!!!!!)…and nor are my kids! They change their minds every two minutes about what they like, don’t like…but i do think that constantly exposing them to new foods, getting them involved in the cooking and the planning, getting them to serve themselves at meal times, offering the same food in different ways (try roasting broccoli, steaming, mashing, grating or making into patties?) There are lots of different ways you can present food to kids, they may hate them all, which is fine, but just keep offering and offering!! One day they may just turn around and ask for some more broccoli mummy! We live in hope!!!!!
If you’re still reading you are amazing!!!….and deserve a medal!…thank you i hope some of this is useful and not all totally obvious! Would love to get your feedback!