In our house I’m in charge preparing all our meals and my wife is the clothing expert. She keeps us dressed, I keep us fed. That’s the deal. This division of labour works for us as two working parents. When things go to plan, I’m home at 6:00 and a hot meal is on the table at 6:15. When I drop the ball however, I lose husband points.
I needed to up my game so I turned to Katrina, the expert organiser from The Organised Housewife blog (have your fun, but yes, men can read housewife blogs too). Her first recommendation: Get a plan.
Step 1: Book a weekly meeting with your fridge and your laptop
Katrina says there are great benefits in giving your meal plan the attention it deserves. I now try to carve out an hour on Sunday evenings to plan our weekly meals. I take my laptop into the kitchen, pour myself a glass of wine and turn on some music (wine and music are key). Now that I’m ready, I have a peak into the fridge to see what we need, what we need to eat (like soon) and what has become a bio-hazard. After a quick scrub out and re-org of the items in the fridge I’m ready to do the weekly shopping.
Another great planning tip from Katrina is to keep flyers and online discounts and coupons handy then use them for your planning session. You can save big on your grocery budget. [Click to Tweet]
One final note for the weekly plan – There are plenty of meals which are delicious and very easy to make, like a roast, but you need a few hours for cook time. Some slow cookers now come with an iPhone app. Why not start a meal from work?
Step 2: Don’t call them boring meals, call them old favourites
Katrina suggests keeping a list of your family’s favourite meals. Remember: keep it simple, hamburgers, curries, tuna melts etc. Repeating easy meals lets you become super efficient at everything from shopping to chopping.
Pay attention to which meals are devoured and which ones end up in the dog’s dish. When you hear the compliments coming, add that meal to the rotation.
Pro tip: Never say “leftovers”. Always call them “tapas” instead. [Click to Tweet]
Step 3: Schedule your meals to a day of the week
When you allocate meals to particular days of the week it removes a lot of decision making i.e. stress. Keep in mind things like who is doing daycare pickup, after-school activities or work commitments on a particular evening and schedule accordingly. Katrina suggests creating meal plans based on themes. For example Monday is casserole night, taco Tuesdays and Wednesday is leftovers.
The trick? Plan to eat as fresh as possible. Don’t buy fish on Monday if you can’t cook it until Friday – trust me on this one… Much better to make a quick mid-week stop at the butcher, fish market or veg shop for a top-up. Just make sure you know what you need so the stop is a quick one.
Step 4: Do your shopping online!
Katrina strongly recommends online shopping to help families stay on track and I could not agree more. Here’s why:
- Convenience: I’ll pay the delivery fee anytime to avoid the shops.
- Costs: Ordering online lets you to keep an eye on your total bill before you pay. Embarrassment will stop you from putting items back if you are in the store. Online, it’s no problem.
- Repeat orders: Add everything from your previous order to the cart to save time, then go in and make adjustments.
Step 5: Make dinner at breakfast
See if you can chop the veggies and marinate the meat while you flip the pancakes and pour the coffee… Easy right? Now when you get home, all you have to do is start the steaming and frying. This can buy you precious minutes to get homework started or to say a friendly hello to that neglected life-partner of yours. Even just deciding at breakfast what your plan for dinner is can put you ahead of the game.
Pro tip: If you know you will be home late, prep dinner and deliver the cooking instructions while your stand-in is eating their banana bread. “Networking drinks” are much easier to sell-in when dinner is already sorted.
Putting it all together
When you take a step back and think about family meal planning, there are really only four components: Cost, effort, nutrition and taste. It’s not always easy to maximise one without sacrificing another; but you can usually tick more of the boxes if you sit down and plan. Make the planning session enjoyable. Make it important. Don’t worry if things go off the rails initially (they will), or if you miss a week (you will). It takes practice. Soon you will find you are well on your way to stress free meals, less wasted food, healthier eating and more time with family.
Do you plan your family meals? What’s your tip for making meal planning simpler? Let us know in the comments below.
Our April blog theme is Simplify. So look out for our other articles in this series for practical tips on simplifying your life.
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