We've covered a lot of information about Practising Meal Planning, and not so much about the do's and do not's because in all honesty it is trial and error for what works for you and your family when meal planning (check them out here). In this post though, there are a few things you can do to make meal planning a bit easier.
To theme or not to theme
Another way to plan meals, that I have picked up while Practising Meal Planning, is theme nights. Yes, I realise that we all have those nights where we barely have time to feed the troops and no I am not getting my family to dress up in sombreros (although…)! I’m just talking about the dinners for that night,and I don’t mean just Taco Tuesday.
While Taco Tuesday might sound like a great idea, every Tuesday? Every week? Forever? And although my middle child would love that, I (and definitely hubby) would not.
Now, a Mexican night, that I could get behind. A Mexican night opens up more possibilities too; tacos, nachos, fajitas, chilli con carne. Then there’s Pasta Nights; spaghetti bolognese, fettuccine carbonara, gnocchi, ravioli. Meat free Monday will allow lots of healthy vegetarian options (although if I’m honest it has not really been picked up in the Bahrami household yet), the list goes on.
Adding a theme or two to your meal planning will mean you don’t have to try and think of so many different meal varieties during any one week. Unless you like that kinda thing, then this may not be for you. I don’t like to have the same things all the time. I try not to replicate in a fortnight, a month is even better but sometimes the family favs sneak in more regularly.
I would love to claim that I am a culinary superstar, but perfect paella (insert your unicorn meal) is not going to be on the menu anytime soon. I realised that I needed to go easy on myself, having a theme for each night of the week, while making sure I meet everyone’s dietary and nutritional needs (this has varied from gluten free to dairy free to now preservative free as often as possible) is not going to be easy and sometimes damn near impossible.
Not to mention having to take into account what Master 8 won’t eat this week, because it’s green (or whatever offending reason it is/will be this week) or whether hubby will complain because we had the exact same meal on a Thursday night in March of 2015 (actually happens)!
My decision was to theme a couple of nights and see how it panned out. We started with a Filipino night (representing hubby’s culture) and a pasta night.
It was such a hit that we now also include a Mexican, Asian and I’m slowly trying to get in a Meat Free night occasionally. The closest I get is Spaghetti Broccoli (don’t judge me!).
Have a think about what type of nights you and your family would enjoy. Even ask them! You might be surprised by their answers. Just remember you don't have to start with a theme for every day, start small if you need to.
Take Stock, Stock take
To reduce over purchasing or excessive time and food waste, I spent a little bit of time doing a rough (very rough) stock take of my fridge, freezer and pantry. I have my usual herbs and spices up the wazoo and a freezer we could live off for six months, so I want to try and keep these things in mind while I meal plan.
I recommend that you take the time to do this, now. Jokes! When you’re free next or have 10 minutes up your sleeve, sneak it in. It will help you in the long run. In fact, do it every few months if you can.
I do the same for our pantry. As well as reorganised it about a dozen times. Glassware, plastic, roller baskets. I swear it’s not my fault! We live in a rental and when we move there’s a different pantry, so I gotta make it work. Right!?
After doing this stock take I made note of everything on one of the Ultimate Planning Pages (you’ll see when you get your Ultimate Family Planner) and refer to it each week when meal planning. As for any item I have used the last of, I write it down on the next week's shopping list so I can get it when I shop next.
Simple now, but it wasn’t always. This took years of stuff-ups and demotivation before I actually came to something that works for us.
Use a notebook or something in the meantime to help you keep track. Whatever you do, DO NOT use a random piece of paper. You WILL lose it. You won’t need to wait too long, we may just have something coming to help you out ;)
What next, with your meal planning?
Recipes that’s what!
If I can be honest and tell you something that I am really not great at, it’s keeping track of recipes. Especially those that were a hit.
I have recipe books (lots of them), pieces of magazines where I saw a recipe once that I liked, printed pages from the internet and a Pinterest board dedicated to food (multiples, actually!). Could I tell you where any single recipe is? No! I could not.
Finding the one recipe I want, at the time I want it, well that can be challenging to say the least.
So if I could share one bit of advice from my mistakes, that I need to take on myself. Keep track of recipes you like. A folder, write them in a book, whatever it may be. It will make your meal planning so much easier.
Wow, talk about kickin’ goals.
We’ve covered so much over the last Meal Planning posts. In fact, I think we might just be done!
To simplify it follow these steps, but first PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE - stuffing up is inevitable and it’s ok!
1. What day are you going to meal on and how often?
2. How many meals are you planning for?
3. Are you going to have theme nights?
4. Do a stock take of your freezer and pantry!
Once you’ve done that work, each week (or your designated frequency) follow these steps
1. Look in your fridge for what you need to use
2. Look in your freezer and pantry for what you have to work with
3. Plan your meals based on what you have first
Ok, I’m not really finished. I lied!
I did warn you I could write for days about Practising Meal Planning.
There is one more thing. I have had loads of people asking questions about meal planning, how I do it specifically and tips and tricks to help with Practising Meal Planning etc. So next week will be more of a Q & A discussion.
So if you have a question, don’t be shy, ask it!
If you have a tip, help a Mumma out, post it below!
Look forward to seeing your questions and tips.
Until next week.
THE Ultimate Family Planner