At last year’s Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers conference, professional organiser and mother-of-seven, Rivka Caroline, gave a keynote speech about organising the disorganised family. One of the key takeaways was to minimise your day-to-day thinking about food by investing a little time each week to plan your family’s meals.
Here are some of my personal top tips for Better Organised meal planning!
• It takes some of the day-to-day thinking out of what to eat
• If you display the meal plan, you’ll never need to answer the question ‘what’s for dinner?’!
• You can save money and minimise food waste, as you’re more likely to only buy what you need
• When you’re not making impulse buys or buying food on the go, you can make healthier choices
• You can make a point of choosing recipes that use seasonal produce
• You’ll perhaps dig out those recipe books and be intentional about trying new things
• If you look at the week as a whole you can plan a good variety of meals, rather than falling into a rut of having the same thing over and over again
• Look at your diary and see what’s coming up – who is at home each evening, are there any special occasions etc?
• How much time is available for cooking each evening? Some nights might be busier than others, so an easy tea might be a more sensible option than anything time-consuming or elaborate, whereas weekends might present opportunities for meals that take a little longer to prepare and cook
• Before hitting the shops, look in the fridge, freezer and cupboards and see if there is anything that can form the basis of a meal i.e. a pack of mince = burgers, spag bol or chilli
• If you’d find it helpful to have a rough template to work to, consider having different themes for each night of the week i.e. Meat Free Mondays, Taco Tuesdays etc., or having a predictable cycle based around the protein that forms the basis of each evening’s meal i.e. chicken, beef, pork, fish, veggie etc.
• If you are stuck for ideas, there are countless options on the internet. I like the BBC Good Food site, as the ingredients are usually readily available in UK supermarkets. Also, if you want to use up some specific ingredients you can type them in as keywords and it will present a few options i.e. typing in ‘courgette, chicken, rice’ brought up 11 results for family dinners. This is a very handy way of using up leftovers!
• If planning a whole week of dinners seems too overwhelming or rigid, simply plan for 4 or 5 nights and treat the other evenings as flexible (particularly handy if your kids are ravenous after swimming lessons – just swing through the drive-thru!)
As you work out what you’re going to have for each dinner, update your shopping list accordingly.
Here’s an example of what we might have in a typical week…and why!
Monday – Pasta. The kids and I eat together before my son goes to an after-school activity at 6.30pm, so we usually have something pasta-based that my husband can easily heat up later.
Tuesday – Chicken. A family dinner – usually a casserole, stuffed chicken or seasoned chicken breasts.
Wednesday – Easy Tea. Generally, this is baked potatoes (I use the oven timer so they’re ready for us getting home), scrambled eggs & toast or soup & a toastie. Basically, it needs to be something that is super-quick to prepare, as we have a short turnaround in between after-school activities.
Thursday – Slow Cooker. I work a longer day on Thursdays, so like to have dinner as ready as possible and just prep some rice or potatoes when I get in. To save more time, I’ll occasionally use pre-chopped veg and a packet mix such as Schwartz sausage & bean casserole.
Friday – Fish/Chicken. Something simple that’s oven-ready, so breaded, battered, goujons or fishcakes – served with chips, baked potatoes or steamed potatoes + either salad or veg.
Saturday – A takeaway, fakeaway, pizzas or a Dine in for 2 meal.
Sunday – A roast, traybake or a new recipe that we want to try. This is when I’m most likely to dig out my cookbooks and recipe cards.
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