Meal planning sounds tedious but it really can help you and your family live more healthy and organised lives and to stay within the budget.
”Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Life can get pretty hectic and juggling all the balls of life is no easy undertaking. But for you and your family to function at your best, your diet is key. If you want a healthier lifestyle you need to plan for it!
I want to share a few tips and tricks on how I make meal planning work for my family. I don’t always get it right. Life happens and some weeks are harder and busier than others but I do try to plan most of the time.
I have really struggled to meal plan in the past and even though I am supposed to be really good with food, recipes, and ideas I still sucked at planning and shopping. I use to write some recipe ideas for the week on my shopping list but then lost it somewhere between containing my children at the checkout line and stuffing my receipts into my wallet. I came up with my very own MEAL PLANNER, and decided that others will also find it handy. So I decided to brainstorm, worked with a graphic designer (because it had to be pretty), and began the tedious process of finding printing companies. That is a story for another day.
The meal planner has magnets so it can mount on your fridge. There is plenty of space to plan all your meals for the week and extra space to write notes, Sunday cook-offs, and goals for the week. The best part is the perforated shopping list that you can tear off. I stock the meal planners in my online SHOP.It is bound to make your life easier.
Meal planning tips to help you along
Although I enjoy cooking, I cannot come up with a meal plan off the top of my head. I need inspiration. So once a week, normally Saturdays or Sundays I will sit down and have a look at recipe books, magazines or Pinterest (create boards for your favourite recipes or follow my boards) for my weekly dose of meal planning inspiration. Some people like the routine of eating the same meals every week. I get bored too quickly. Also, start making a list of family favourites that you can refer to if there is no time for planning.
Ask your family members what they would like to eat in the week. We have ‘family fun’ nights on Fridays where I cook the kids favourite meals and they help me. It is with great excitement that they are looking forward to Friday evenings. Also, try to accommodate everyone. My children are also fussy, but I always make sure that there is something they like to eat. So when making salads, I deconstruct the salads for them and they get to choose what they put on their plate. Works like a charm, and sometimes they will also try something new. I also like to add fruit to our meals, papaya, strawberries, apple, and orange slices. They will always eat the fruit.
3. Assess your week
There are 21 meals in a week. How many meals do you need to plan for? Do you have any school functions, family events, or restaurant meals coming up? Mondays should be an easy dinner to make the start of the week easier. If you do your weekly shopping on a Friday for example, cook a clear your fridge meal like Frittata’s or Egg fried rice with all the leftover vegetables.
4. Fruit and vegetables
Research tells us to eat at least 5 fruit and vegetables a day, but more is even better. Plan your meals accordingly, 2 fruit portions for breakfast in a smoothie or with porridge, 2 portions of vegetables for lunchtime in the form of a salad, fruit as a snack during the day, and another portion of fruit and vegetables in the evening. Make sure you also plan for plenty of nutrient-dense raw salads and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, pak choi, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and green leafy vegetables at least 1 portion every day. They are packed with fibre, leaving you fuller for longer, and containing cancer-fighting vitamins and minerals.
What season is it? Will you be in the mood for soup, salads or stew? If it is winter we eat stews and soup at least four times a week and warm porridges for breakfast. And in summer fruit salads, smoothies, and light meals like wraps are great. So always try to work that into your meal planning.
Fill in your shopping list on the WSK meal planner as the week progress. If the washing liquid is depleted, write it down before you forget. Choose a specific day to do your shopping. There is no need to be in the shops every day if you do your planning in advance. There are also some excellent delivery services from organic and good quality food sources available in South Africa like; Munching Mongoose and Wensleydale. Most supermarkets also have a delivery service so make a shopping list on your phone and add it to your online order when you are ready.
7. Blue Monday’s
Make the first meal of the week the simplest, just to get your moral up and to help you stay focussed for the rest of the week. Great recipes are simple salads or one-pot wonders. Or grab a prepped meal from the freezer and defrost or cook in the Instant Pot. Mondays are not for Lasagne or any recipe that has too many steps and uses too many pots.
Plan with leftovers in mind. If you still have potatoes, spinach, eggs, and filo left in the fridge first come up with meals for these first before creating a new shopping list.
9. Sunday cook-off
Try to have a Sunday cook-off. For example, make roast chicken and veggies with extra quinoa for several meals in the week. Use it in salads, wraps, and soups. Bake some muffins for lunchboxes and make some berry chia jam for pancakes, yogurt, and porridge.
Prep as soon as you get home from the market or shops, wash fruit and veggies, and chop. I like to add carrots and cabbage to my food processor so I can easily make wraps and salads during the week. Go beyond prepping and cook components of the meals. For instance, start a batch of tomato soup while you wash fruits and prep veggies. Make quick date balls in a food processor. Don’t start from zero every night, prepping is as much a part of successful meal planning as the menu and shopping list.
11. The freezer is your friend
Make once-eat twice. Make a double batch of soups or stews and freeze it. Prep smoothie mixes by freezing them in bags and just add liquids to make a quick Smoothie in the mornings. Healthy muffins, banana bread, and fruit ice creams are great to have in the freezer when hunger strikes.
12. Keep a well-stocked pantry
Then you will always be able to whip up a meal if your planning has gone pear-shaped. Stock tinned beans, tomatoes, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, a variety of flours, herbs, spices, condiments, and pasta.
Stay away from the sugary cereals and make bircher muesli and chia puddings the night before. Batch cook healthy muffins that can be frozen for a quick breakfast or on- the go-option. Smoothies can be made in minutes, just load them with extra protein like nut butter, nuts, seeds, or good quality protein powders to replace a meal. Stir-fry leftover mushrooms, peppers, spinach, and courgettes with bacon, beans, or eggs if you have a little extra time in the morning.
14. Quality over quantity,
Rather buy a good quality piece of fish and leave the ready meals, sugary snacks, sugary cereals, and all the other junk food off your shopping list.
Make sure you also include snacks into your meal planning for healthy snacks during the week like fruits, biltong, oat biscuits, nuts, seeds, veggies sticks, fruit lollies, popcorn, and healthy baked goods. I try to bake or make at least one ‘healthy snack’ every week.
Becoming healthier takes a lot of commitment, planning, and some extra work but reaping the health benefits and teaching your children about real food and cooking skills are so worth it. Good luck with your planning. Let me know how you are getting on.