Meal Planning (and why we love it)
Meal planning. I’m not going to try and fluff it up - it’s not by any means sexy, but it is a total game changer. I’ve been both types of people: the meal planning queen which naturally suits my organised persona and the person who visits the supermarket every day, staring longingly down the aisles hoping some inspiration will come (spoiler alert, it never does). Let me tell you, the latter makes me miserable. Our family ends up eating the same old, boring things, we spend more, both in time and money, and the food waste is less than exemplary, none of which sits easily with me, so we’re back on the meal planning bandwagon and we love it.
Save Time, Save Money
It goes without saying, we all lead busy lives. We might not quite be doing all the things we once were, but the juggle is still very real, so any way in which we can save time is a bonus. Without meal planning, I can easily spend half an hour in the supermarket on most days and yet if someone told me to take half an hour out, three times a week, to do something for me I’d absolutely baulk at the idea. One hour on a Sunday morning spent planning out the family’s week of eating means very little precious time is wasted in the time vortex that is Sainsburys. And, we spend much less. Everyone knows those quick trips into the supermarket easily add up, especially if you’re anything like me and can’t resist a bunch of flowers or a magazine, while meal planning keeps to our budget, meaning more for the finer things in life, primarily Liberty fabric bedding!
You’ll already know that I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, however, there’s something about January which feels like a natural bedmate for getting back to healthier choices post-Christmas’ indulgence. Having our meals planned means not only a mindful approach to what we’re consuming but also avoids the last minute dash to the freezer for beige, processed food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to let anyone feel guilty for giving the children fish fingers now and again, but when they’re book-ended by something nutritious and delicious there’s even less to feel bad about.
When we don’t meal plan we tend to get stuck in a rut. Ideas are less forthcoming and we eat the same things with little awareness of seasonality. By giving some extra time and attention to planning our meals I can think about what’s in season - all of which is usually more tasty, more affordable and better for the environment. To stay abreast of what's in season, a great website to reference is Eat The Seasons and I then use recipe websites which allow you to filter by ingredient (BBC Good Food, BigOven, Waitrose & Supercook). This is also a fantastic way to use up something specific from the the fridge, freezer or cupboard. Again, I feel I should caveat this and say that we try our best but are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination! My children would be bereft if there weren’t raspberries in their lunchbox in February, despite them flying from somewhere far afield.
Our Meal Planning Tips
Meal planning doesn’t have to be regimental - sometimes we just don’t fancy what we had planned and that’s okay! Some days we plan not to cook, in fact, we almost always leave our Saturday night’s unplanned to allow for meals out, takeaways, friends over or a beige buffet in front of the TV. It’s all about balance, after all.
Trying new recipes is one way to keep meal planning interesting. When you see a recipe that sounds nice, save it straight away - I can’t ever resist Sunday supplements that promise great recipes. I keep links to recipes I’d like to try saved in a note on my phone, ready for my Sunday morning meal planning session and sharing with friends.
Get Children Involved
I’m really trying to instil confidence around food and an awareness of seasonality in our children. I get them involved in the meal planning, they love helping pick out food at the fishmongers and farm shop and after some initial reluctance they enjoy helping cook. All of which seems to make them more open to trying new things - always a bonus, especially as they would be happy eating pasta every single night! If your kids are a little more hesitant start with fun things like making placemats, menus or place names for the dinner table. Anything which makes it fun with no pressure.