How To Become A Pro At Meal Planning
Do those very words strike fear into your mama soul? “How on Earth am I meant to think of meals in advance when I can’t even think of what to cook tonight?!”
Or are you one of those “Oh, I can spend one weekend cooking meals for 10 weeks and then not have to lift a finger” types?
Or are you a little in the middle, you’d love to be more consistent with meal planning but something throws you off course?
BENEFITS TO MEAL PLANNING
So many mama bloggers and Insta peeps rave about the benefits of meal planning, but it really is worth it?
- Less trips to the supermarket each week (yay for not having to drag cranky kids around the aisles every couple of days!)
- Saves money
- Reduces food wastage
- Less stress
- No more staring at the fridge at 4:30 wondering what’s for dinner tonight!
Rather than starting from scratch every single week, which is a sure fire way to make you hate meal planning faster than your kid can say “I don’t eat broccoli on Tuesdays”, there are a few ways you can go about meal planning to make it more effective and easy for your family:
THEME NIGHT MENU
Each night of the week is a theme, then you only have to choose a meal within that theme. For example:
Monday – Pasta
Tuesday – Mexican
Wednesday – Vegetarian
Thursday – Asian (curry or stir fry)
Friday – Take Away (homemade or ordered)
Saturday – Meat and Vege
Sunday – Leftovers
LUCKY DIP MENU
Write ALL the meals your family likes on small cards and place them into a container. Each week, pull out 7 cards and voila! There is your week’s meal plan!
You can either put those cards back into your container or put them in another container so you’re choosing new meals next week.
Create a 4-6 week menu that rotates:
- Write a list of ALL the meals your family enjoys (or at least, that they usually enjoy, unless Mr 3 year old is having a 3 year old moment)
- Spread them across a 4-6 week menu and use this plan as a basis for planning each week.
Things to remember:
- This long term menu is a base for each week. If you have a busy week planned, tweak the menu. If someone is requesting tacos for their birthday, tweak the menu.
- Repeat meals within the menu if they’re family favourites. For example, we have wraps 3 times and carbonara twice over 5 weeks.
- Incorporate leftovers, easy dinner nights and new recipes
FAMILY CHOICE MENU
Each family member is responsible for choosing the meal on a certain night. For example:
Monday – Mum
Tuesday – Dad
Wednesday – Oliver
Thursday - Mum
This one is harder because your 3 year old may always choose Spaghetti Bolognese. But with a little encouragement, getting the family involved can be so beneficial. It can also encourage kids to get into the kitchen with you!
MAKE MEAL PLANNING ACTUALLY WORK
Regardless of how you choose to implement it, here’s how to ensure that it works for you AND actually makes your life easier:
- Allow for easy nights: we call them Easy Dinner, which means leftovers, easy freezer food (meat pies and frozen vege), take away, eggs on toast….
- Allow flexibility: a meal plan is not a rule book! If you’re having people over for a BBQ on Mexican night, then have a BBQ! If you get an unexpected dinner invitation, leave the meat in the freezer!
- Focus on core family recipes: don’t think that meal planning has to include 5 new recipes every week. Add a new recipe every 2-3 weeks.
- Think about your schedule: If you get home late from swimming lessons on Thursdays, make that an easy dinner night.
- Stick to your plan! Yes, I know it sounds obvious but the more you stick to your plan, the more money you’ll save, less food you’ll waste and less stress you’ll have.
Do you meal plan already? Are you going to give it a try?
Let us know by joining the meal planning conversation in our Facebook Group!