Save time and money by setting aside 1 hour each week to meal plan and shop in advance.
Let me start by telling you I’m a “lazy meal kinda mamma!” In my house the expression “feeding time at the zoo” really is a reality, these kids want to eat; All the time! I have always fancied the idea of meal planning and knowing exactly whats for tea, but I’m never usually organised enough. However now, I am on a meal planning mission and determined to take back my time, save some money and make it work.
I felt stuck in a rut for years, wanting to feed the kids healthy nutritious food but at the same time utterly worn out by 5 pm. The prospect deciding what to have for tea, shopping for it (generally with the kids because I’ve put it off until it’s “that time!”) cooking it and cleaning up gives me utter brain rot!
By 5:30 pm, dinner time rolls around we are generally eating sandwiches, cereal or I’m panic buying a takeaway, and that’s any hope of consuming any “proper” food out the window.
If any of this even seems vaguely familiar then fear not my fellow food time fraudster, I’ve got you covered!
Making the meal planning magic happen
First of all the only way you will make it work is to be disciplined, and actually put in the work before the upcoming week. I hear ya, urgh, you say! Nonetheless, I guarantee this prep will save inordinate amounts of time and energy spent throughout the coming days. So worth it!
The 101 of meal planning
You will need a pen and paper. (Or one of the rather lovely printable meal planners in the library. Sign up to receive the password!)
Set aside 1 hour on Friday afternoon (or over the weekend if you can) to work on your meal planning. My first port of call is my recipe books rather than the internet, which is always full of unhelpful distractions.
Look for recipes that take under 30 minutes to prepare and generally have ten ingredients or less. I know myself and understand I am setting myself up for failure if I choose something too complicated and ambitious.
Think about your life and how you will work making a particular meal into your schedule. Take a look at your schedule for the coming week. Check if there will be nights people will be eating out, or the kids have friends over for tea, etc. (yeah right!)
Choosing your meals
Try to use recipe books to plan meals; it is less distracting than say, using Pinterest! Go through each page and select seven meals, one for each evening meal ahead. Then write a day of the week on a sticky note or piece of paper and pop it in the page. This way you won’t have to spend ten minutes finding the recipe you’ve planned to make.
As a last resort! The internet can be useful when searching for recipes before your meal planning session; there are some great apps and sites available. Yummly, for example, is an online recipe site/app that allows you to save recipes and vote for the yummy ones; A bit like Pinterest but exclusively for food.
If you find yourself with some free time, write out or print the meals you fancy making. Perhaps, store them in a binder specifically for recipes and keep it in the kitchen.
I find shopping online is the easiest way to buy food once I have my meal plan and list in place. If you’ve never shopped for food online before, I agree, it can be a daunting task; But once you get the hang of it well worth the effort. You can get some great deals and discounts for first-time shoppers.
To save time I use the search bar to find ingredients for my meals rather than browsing the site. This way you will spend way less money too! How many times do you go to a shop for one thing and come out with ten?! Once I have everything I need in my basket I select a suitable delivery time and checkout. Most supermarkets deliver until late these days.
Be sure to go through the shopping once it arrives.
Occasionally, when shopping online, there may be an item or two missing from the delivery. Therefore, I go through each planned meal and check I have everything I need.
The only downside to shopping online is you don’t get to choose the stuff with the longest date; Supermarkets will claim they choose longest date items, but I don’t believe them! So, bear in mind the meals you have selected for specific days are not set in stone. You can check the dates and rearrange your meals to suit.
Now that you have a plan there may be some meals you can make ahead if you choose. I tend to stick to recipes with few ingredients that can be thrown together and prepared quickly. That way even if you are totally wiped out, or the kids are rioting you can still get a meal on the table.
The first couple of times you prepare a meal plan it can be a bit of an effort. Don’t let this put you off. Soon you will have a system that works and have meals you know your family will love planned and ready to go.
Print out your free family favourites meals cheat sheet here. Jot down the meals everybody enjoys as you go. You can refer to this list if you ever feel stuck, get caught out or have to dash to the shop.
I am well in the swing of this meal plan thing now. I can’t emphasise how much less stressful and calmer my evenings are. Admittedly, there are still days where I really can’t be bothered. That said, the alternative of listening to the kid’s whine that they are STARVING gets me in the kitchen.
Once the meal is cooked, and kids are full, the prospect of doing is always far worse than the actual doing!!
Give yourself grace.
Don’t worry too much about getting a full healthy meal on the table every day. Three “healthy” meals per week will suffice. Not that I am advocating unhealthy meals for the rest of the week! The aim is to feed the kids nutritious meals every day. However, such meals every day can get expensive. If you can’t afford it to do it, this is when meal planning and shopping becomes stressful. Which is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve here! By planning three nutritious and healthy meals per week, you can afford to throw in beans on toast or tuna pasta on other nights.
If you can’t afford it to do it, this is when meal planning and shopping becomes stressful. Which is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve here! By planning three nutritious and healthy meals per week, you can afford to throw in beans on toast or tuna pasta on other nights.
Cheap and cheerful doesn’t have to mean bad!
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