How often do you find yourself last-minute scrambling to find something good for your family’s dinner?
Finding a healthy and manageable family dinner routine can seem impossible at times. However, with just a little bit of organisation and variety, dinner time can be a whole lot easier. My simple tips for family meal planning will save you money, time and energy; leaving the dinner time scramble a thing of the past.
Fresh is best
Planning your meals in advance gives you the time to provide healthy, fresh and delicious food! Your growing kids need a variety of healthy foods to get all the essential nutrients that help them grow up healthy and happy. Last minute dinners usually end up being ‘convenience foods’ of basic carbs, minimal fresh veggies or unhealthy take-away. The more time you spend meal planning, the more time you have to make a great dinner.
Photo credit www.tastesofhome.com
All this healthy and fresh food sounds expensive doesn’t it? Nope! Planned meals are so much cheaper than take-away, eating out or last-minute meals. My favorite money saving trick is to batch cook healthy meals and freeze extra portions. This means I only have to shop once a week for staples and fresh food, and once a month for meat. When I go to the shops with a mission, I don’t add extra items to my trolley. I end up saving so much money!
Time is one of the biggest benefits of meal planning. Batch cooking means you get to have nights off. No supermarket trips. No cooking. No dishes. With all the other hundreds of errands mums have to run every week, it feels great to know dinner is sorted. You might even get to have a little time left for yourself.
Decrease mental load
Without realizing it, if you haven’t planned dinner, you’ll spend a lot of your day with the stress of dinner in the back of your mind. Having a plan decreases your mental overload, and gives you one less thing to think about during a busy day.
Creating a meal plan gives you and your family consistency and routine. Over time this will cement healthy habits for you and your kids. Your family will be more likely to eat together, and the kids will be encouraged to be involved in the meal process. Meal time = family time!
How to meal plan
It doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a number of different strategies, but I like to plan over a whole month. I’d recommend you start with a week and grow from there. These are the 5 steps I recommend:
- Have each family member select four favorite meals for a month. This allows them to be involved and excited for dinners.
- Select a theme for each day of the week, like Italian, Asian, one pot meal or BBQ. This reduces decision fatigue while creating variety.
- Add all events to the calendar, including extra curricular activities, sports, appointments and anything that might change meal requirements or cooking time.
- Put your families favourite meal selections under the appropriate themes.
- Finally, fill in other meals for the rest of the month, making sure to have variety in nutrition.
Photo credit – https://blog.adventisthealthcare.com
Tricks to save time
Recipes in one spot
In addition to following a meal plan, start by keeping your recipes organised. It doesn’t matter if you prefer books, online or family recipes; keeping all your favorite recipes in the one spot will make meal prep easier. I’ve started to use the app Paprika to organize my favorite recipes. It’s great!
On line groceries
Using the wonders of internet and apps are great tricks. Why not try doing your grocery shopping online? This saves time, and stops you spending money on eye-catching food in store. You only buy what you need. You don’t even have to pay delivery as Click n Collect is free to pick up. You can even save lists on your account for next time, make ordering really easy each week.
Love your freezer
The best trick is to love your freezer! Freezers allow you to keep food fresh and save big batch cooks for weeks to come. I make time every weekend to do a big batch of cooking. This helps me get ahead with meal preparation so on the nights we’re home late, a healthy dinner is already organised, ready and waiting. Batch cooking sure beats making a big mess in the kitchen every night (dishes, argh!). It also saves time so I can be more present with my kids.
Photo credit – http://www.denisegaylord.com/batch-cooking/
See, cooking isn’t so overwhelming when you’re prepared with meal ideas! A little extra time preparing will save you SO much time in the long run.
If you enjoyed these meal planning tips, but feel like there’s never enough hours in the day to implement them then download 8 Simple Steps to UNBUSY Yourself and share the load WITHOUT letting anyone down.
Missed a post? You can check out my other Simply Happy blog posts like ‘Get your family organised with a command centre’ HERE.