Earlier this week I posted about how I got started planning our Home Rhythm. As I assessed our home rhythm I drew up a list of things that felt either time consuming or stressful. Cooking dinner (and meal planning in general) was top of both lists. Whenever I mention meal planning on Insta stories I get a load of questions about it, so here it is, everything I know!
Get Started With Meal Planning
I’m not a naturally organised person, Scheduling snack times was easy, meal planning was a bit trickier! Every day I was spending too much time chopping vegetables or making last minute dashes to the shop, even worse food was going quietly out of date every day. I needed to make peace with planning!
The first thing I did was decide how often I wanted to cook and how often I wanted to reheat. It important to me that the kids and I still cooked every day, partially so they’d have some practical life work and also because there was a good chance they’d hate a meal the first night and refuse the leftovers the second. Once you know how often you want to cook, you’ll know how many meals you need to plan.
The very next thing I did was to make a list of every meal my children eat. I’ve said before that Alfie is a fussy eater which is a bit awkward for meal planning. I listed everything, even the meals that hardly count as meals! That was my basic, core list of children’s meals. At least this way I had an accurate (and honest) list which I could build on and expand.
My husband and I eat later than the kids and frequently we eat different meals so I have two fairly separate meal plans for them and us. I was able to find a few meals we all eat as it was important to me that we shared a meal a few times a week.
To start planning I simply started planning! I started our plan on a Sunday as my husband was off work so there’d be more time for me to meal prep for the coming week AND I’d be most grateful for the leftovers on a Monday!
Our first meal is usually a roast chicken with veg and mash or something in the slow cooker, because these make massive portions. Then I planned my leftovers. For example if I picked a Roast Chicken and mashed potato one day then I put something like gnocchi or fish pie the next day, both of which need mash and are suitable for young helpers. The first meal always dictated what we’d have the second day. By deliberately planning leftovers we reduced our waste as we never really ended up with a portion that was too small to save.
Or if I knew I’d be using the oven to roast a salmon fillet then I’d put in some root veg to make a Buddha bowl for lunch the next day.
Generally speaking if something would keep well and was on that sacred list of foods my kids eat then I made extra. These were things like pasta, rice (surprisingly versatile, think egg fried rice, kedgeree, pilaf), mashed potatoes (try gnocchi, shepherd’s pie, in soup, potato cakes) and roast vegetables (add tinned lentils for a vegan lunch).
Removing Choice to Reduce Planning
I help me focus my planning I assigned each day a theme (vegan, vegetarian, chicken etc) and started testing and collecting recipes that the family liked. Rather then having the entire internet and a fairly hefty cookbook collection to chose from I ended up with a list of family favourite recipes – 10 vegan, 10 vegetarian, 5 chicken, 5 fish and 2 beef to choose from. Most of these could be made with a small number of ingredients and a few store cupboard staples which instantly flicked my grocery shopping to auto-pilot.
Lastly I removed all choice for lunches! The kids have several variations of something on toast like peanut butter and banana, avocado, scrambled eggs, cheese and ham, while my husband and I eat leftovers. All of this meant that I really only had 7 meals to pick for the week, less if I planned my leftovers!
Sample Meal Plans
So a sample meal plan for us looks like this. There’s four columns, one each for children’s lunch, adults’ lunch, children’s dinner and adults’ dinner. At first I found it easier to plan and shop for 3 days at a time, that way if I fell off the wagon most things were still in date. AND if I was really struggling I could finish the week by repeating the first three days. The picture below was my first meal plan. Apologies for the poor quality its from Insta stories.
This week’s meal plan for the adults in the family is like this. Most of these adult meals also contribute to the kids meals in the form of leftovers.
Sunday Dinner (with kids, meat day) Roast chicken with veg and mash
Monday Lunch (leftovers) roast veg with lentils
Monday Dinner (meat day) stir fry using leftover chicken and veg
Tuesday Lunch eat out
Tuesday Dinner (vegan day) Lentil Fried Rice with mushrooms, kale, walnuts
Wednesday Lunch (leftovers) lentil fried rice
Wednesday Dinner (vegetarian day) Bean enchiladas
Thursday Lunch (leftovers) bean enchiladas
Thursday Dinner (with kids, fish day) Salmon and roast veg
Friday Lunch (leftover) roast veg with hummus and boiled eggs
Friday Dinner (with kids) pizza
Saturday Lunch and Dinner anyone’s guess mummy is TIRED!
So there you have it, it’s not rocket science but it has worked for us and saved my sanity on more than one occasion. BONUS! I’m starting to lose some of the weight I gained over Christmas, meals being mostly ready in the fridge is really helping me make healthier choices!