Inside: Before you find yourself standing in front of the fridge at 5 pm remember these 7 surprising things when you are you meal planning next time.
I can hear this: I’m hungry, I want a snack.
Again he wants a snack, to avoid dinner of course. My toddler is hungry and me, well I’m cleaning sick from the sofa where I played last with the baby, mental note – don’t bounce him straight after feeding.
I have to admit it’s 5 pm and my husband will finish work soon, and everybody will start to get grumpy if they don’t start to chew on something soon.
I tell my toddler to hang in there; mommy is starting dinner. That only aggravates the situation.
” Nooo, I want a snack” he squeals.
” Wait, what? Mommy is making something yummy.”
I dashed over to the fridge and frantically start pulling out random items, a block of cheese, a wilted bag of spinach leaves, two pots of yogurt, great let’s crack on.
Grabbed the remote, park my toddler in front on the tv and the baby on the playmat.
I’ve got this, let’s get started.
I take out the chopping board, fire up the stove and start chopping an onion. Half way through I realized that I haven’t got a clue what I’m about to cook. I go to the pantry and hectically try to scan it looking for, well I don’t know, something that can go nicely with my spinach, yogurt and the block of cheese…
“How comes that again we don’t have anything?” I say to myself – I go every other day to the supermarket and we also do a big weekly shop.
Learning to be more intentional
My food shopping is a bit all over the place. My normal routine is: I take the kids to the supermarket, pile high the pushchair with stuff that I think I will cook but never make it to the stove while being very optimistic about my cooking skills and my family’s taste buds. We get home, unload the pushchair, put everything in the fridge, call my husband to stop for milk and order a takeaway.
Yep, and my husband’s turn to wash up; Kept the kids alive? – checked, sometimes you need to have realistic expectations.
I always loved to cook, but since my second was born and my toddler became a fussy eater who accepts to ingest only mac and cheese, cooking took a back seat – we eat to survive, aaa and to avoid a tantrum; that’s the definition for dinner.
I found that almost always when I was planning to cook something either a key ingredient was missing, or the meat was still half frozen by the time I had to start the dinner – the story of my life.
Until I did this
Most of us start with the best intentions – offer nutritious meals to our family, try to stay on a budget, get creative with the meals but then, well then life happens, and we slowly drift into old habits. For me purchasing same foods, throwing foods because they expired, yet it never saw the light outside the fridge, wasting money on unnecessary items just because we shop on an empty stomach and after all, still having way too many takeaways.
Can you relate to this?
Having young children, trying to keep the house tidy and provide healthy meals for my family while running a blog comes with challenges. I’m unorganized – the kids are hungry, bored and tired.
7 tips to start meal planning like a pro
And so I began to be more intentional about out dinners, at least to cut some chaos from that part of the day. Doesn’t it take long to sit down, research and plan the meals, I thought to myself?
In reality, some of the main benefits of meal planning are saving money and reducing stress. Well yes, if you have the commitment to it.
What I found useful
#1. Create a master list of all best-loved family meals – First of all, it will save you time when you will assemble your menu. Keep your meal plans in a file and reuse them. This is great if in a week you don’t have time to research and create a new meal plan from scratch and as a result to this you will be always prepared without scouring the internet last minute.
#2. Have a backup plan – Plan for one/two meals as a fallback. You know, for those moments when the husband calls you that he’ll be late and you are already at the end of your patience. Things like frozen jack potato with beans and cheese/ tuna mayo and other cupboard foods that require 15 minutes or under will ensure that you don’t need to grab a takeaway or eat out when you are short on time.
#3. Plan your meals around sales – Now I’m not implying that you should eat frozen burgers for 16 days because they are on sale for $1.99 and they come in big packs only, but things like cupboard foods that have a long shelf life are ideal.
#4. Have leftovers for a meal – This is a bit D’oh, I know but in our house, we love Sunday roast, but we don’t eat a whole chicken in one sitting. With the rest of it, I can make chicken broth to use for soups during the week and have the leftover roast in salads or things like sandwiches, quesadilla. A bit like cave man’s but we sit on chairs and use forks and stuff.
#5. Try batch cooking- freezer meals/ slow cooking- If you know you’ll be busy one day, cook in advance and freeze. It also works if you cook too much one evening and you don’t feel like having it for leftovers.
#6. Have a shopping list when you go grocery shopping – Without a list, it is likely that you will forget something unless you are my husband, in that case even a shopping list won’t help you.
#7. Beware of the bulk buying and special offers –It is tempting to go for deals whenever we see the tags with cut-price but does it always work out cheaper? For me, I noticed that I tend to go for a bigger pack because I believe that it’s more value for money even if I don’t particularly need that amount. This behavior can go wrong in two ways. Most of the time I will waste food because I thought I would use it and I don’t, and secondly, sometimes it is cheaper to buy them in smaller packets.
For my part I take the challenge and focus on feeding my kids a healthy balanced meal unless they fuss about it, then they can have the odd stale fries from under the table, I breathe deep and cringe a smile, I nailed it tonight.
Download Your Grocery list and Meal Planner
1. Download the printables
2. Print. Any paper will do the trick.
3. Hang your meal planner somewhere handy like on the fridge and don’t forget to take your grocery list when you go shopping.
Do you have any specific strategies you use for planning your meals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Have a wonderful day!
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