Developing a family meal plan might seem like a daunting task, but like anything related to organisation, over time, it will only help you and pretty soon you won’t know how you coped without it! There are lots of ways to do it, but the most important thing is finding a method that works for you and your family.
Not only does meal planning let you maximise time, save money and simplify grocery shopping, it will also help you sit down and enjoy what should be an important and special part of the day – sharing a meal together.
Meal planning also helps you avoid those last minute, fast food or unhealthy snack options. You can get your kids involved in the planning and cooking process, and it will encourage you to eat a wide variety of healthy meals as you create a new habit of planning meals and looking for different recipes.
Monica’s 10 Commandments of Meal Planning
1. Commit to it. Make the time to sit down and create the plan each week and get the family involved. Ask what dishes or ingredients everyone would like to see and what commitments you have on for the week so you can tailor the evening meals accordingly.
2. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Plan five or six meals at a time, go through your fridge and pantry to check what you need and create your shopping list based on that.
3. Focus on family favourites. We all have regular meals that our families love, so keep them in mind for when you need a simple dish to cook together. Create a regular dish for the week like ‘Pasta Mondays’ to help make planning and shopping easier.
4. Keep it simple. Don’t be afraid to have things like tacos or chicken and salad wraps on the list. The key is to be organised, think nutrition not feasts with hard to find ingredients!
5. Include snacks and drinks on your meal plan. These can be opportunities to include all the food groups in your family’s diet, such as milk, or fruit. Also, planning snacks in advance will help ensure that healthy options like organic popcorn, fruit bars and rice crackers are also included on the shopping list.
6. Don’t forget breakfast and lunch! Planning these meals are just as important as dinner time. Variety can be easily achieved at breakfast time with cereals, eggs, fruit and yoghurt etc. and lunches can be made up of wraps, soups, corn fritters, frittata, bruschetta, home-made patties, the list goes on, so get creative!
7. Make a double batch of your favourite meals. One can be eaten straight away and the other can go in the freezer for those nights when a last minute option is needed.
8. You can reuse a meal plan. If you write them down on paper or prepare them on your computer, save the plan and shopping list of ingredients for another week, you could put your meal plans on a bi-monthly rotation or create a file and grab a new one out each week as you need it.
9. Keep the basics well stocked. There is nothing worse than getting ready to cook, then realising you’re out of something. You will start to recognise the things you use all the time, whether it’s tinned tomatoes or brown rice so it’s always wise to keep your favourite ingredients always in the pantry or fridge.
10. Stick with it. Just like starting a new craft hobby or going to the gym, you might be super enthusiastic at the start and then slowly the commitment fizzles out. Try getting the whole family involved to help keep the enthusiasm going.
By Monica Meldrum, Founder of Whole Kids