As part of a very busy family of four, I often struggle with deciding on what meals to cook. I am the main cook in the house, because I love being in the kitchen, but I find myself utilising trusted recipes on a rotation basis and to be honest it can get very boring.
After a day running around after my toddlers and then work my brain just wants to switch off and I will happily eat something of convenience because it’s quick and simple. But I have been making a little more effort to start planning our main meals during the week – so Monday to Friday I know what I am doing in the kitchen.
Our difficulties lie in the fact that we eat at different times because of our schedules, but I have found that meal planning and preparation has benefited us because we use up leftovers, minimising food waste, and meals have become more varied and interesting. So here are my top tips for meal planning:
Get yourself a lovely planner to write it down! I am a stationery geek, so a nice book, whiteboard or those lovely chalkboard wall-mounted menus are fab for writing your meal lists for all to see!
Figure out what works for you and your family. I used to work on a two-week rotation with food and recipes, but now I find it easier to plan the working week, especially now I have two hungry little ones to feed! This has got easier now that weaning has ended and both my girls have the same meals.
Pick a planning time! I know it sounds like too much hard work, but setting aside 30 minutes or an hour to sort the week ahead really helps. I find the night before food shopping is a good time – be it a Sunday evening, Monday morning or Wednesday afternoon, it will save you so much time!
Get everyone involved. Ask them if there is anything they particularly want to eat, or if they have a favourite recipe that they would like to include. It’s also a great opportunity to teach children about seasonal eating and introducing new foods to them.
Make a shopping list or shop online. I have found that making a list or doing an online shop really helps me keep within my shopping budget. I also try to shop without my husband – otherwise I get to the cashier and the trolley is full of treats!
Use recipe books, family and friends, and the net for inspiration. There are over three million posts with the hash tag ‘recipes’ on Instagram and over 100,000 with #recipeideas. Searching the Internet, books and social media brings up fresh ideas, different cuisines and helps expand your cooking repertoire.
Be open to change and have staple items in. The weather has been glorious for a couple of weeks now so I have changed meals. We had a last minute BBQ on the Bank Holiday, which was amazing, and instead of chilli and rice, I made jacket potatoes with chilli.
Often we have food leftover from a meal because I tend to go wild on quantities! It’s nothing to worry about though. I tend to freeze them for use the following week (a really easy dinner!) or the girls have them for lunch the following day. I hate wasting food and find this is the best way to counter my poor measuring skills!