1. Create a meal plan for the week, especially for those meals where the family will be eating together or will all require feeding. Dinners and school lunches are generally in this bracket. Sit down somewhere comfortable without distractions and choose some recipes for the week whether they are old favourites or something new. Jot down what you intend on cooking and write your shopping list to suit the required ingredients.
2. When cooking your dinner meals think about the next day’s lunches. It can be a great time to cut up some extra veggies so the lunch boxes can be filled easily the next morning. Veggies such as peppers, onions and celery will last for a few days in the fridge in an airtight container diced up and ready to go, and most other fruit and veggies will be fine overnight once refrigerated. One quick dicing session can save you time and multiple clean ups and only makes the process of cooking the next nights dinner or creating the next day’s lunches during the morning rush much easier.
3. Try and do smaller regular shops, say once a week for most items based on your meal plan.
For certain items such as fruits and vegetables and some refrigerated goods we would recommend a small shop twice weekly as some items may not survive the week if bought in bulk. Regular food shops with a structured meal plan and shopping list can save additional trips to the supermarket for missed ingredients saving a lot of wasted time and helps to keep food waste to a minimum. It also helps remove impulse buying especially for snacks and treats that always tend to look at us from supermarket shelves!
4. Meal planning can help improve your family’s eating habits and nutrition. When it’s on paper you can see what’s being eaten for the week and create a balanced nutritious menu filled with variety. It also prepares the kids for what they will be eating and stops them squeaking at you about what’s for tea! It’s simple look on the fridge! Choose a night a week that the kids help you in the kitchen, the younger ones really benefit from this as they tend to eat more of the things they have put their energy and creativity into! You might even be amazed how good little helpers can be too!
5. On certain nights when cooking, work out your quantities to ensure you have leftovers. For example make a bigger pasta brew as this can make a great lunch the next day, or freeze portion sized containers so you have an emergency dinner on hand one night for the kids. Another idea is to cook an extra portion of steak, chicken or fish…. it can be easily diced up and placed in a wrap, sandwich or wholemeal roll the next day.
6. Think about your daily routine when writing up your meal plan. Choose meals requiring longer preparation time on the days you have the most free time. We all know how hectic life can be so work your meal plan around those after school sports, gym and late finishes! Plan the quick and easy meals for your busier days and save yourself some stress.
7. Reuse and file your meal plans. Once a meal gets the seal of approval from the family mark it and keep that recipe in the rotation. Once you have multiple recipes or family favourites that you know well begin to rotate them over the coming weeks or month. Once a week try to introduce and cook something new. You won’t always keep everyone happy but you’ll be sure to satisfy even the fussy eaters with some trial and error!
8. Every fortnight have a cheap family night out at a restaurant, or if it’s more convenient or better suited to your budget have a takeaway night. But try and make healthy choices where possible. If you put some effort in you will be amazed what you can find even on a budget. Some great options are Japanese or Asian, Pita Pit, Subway, Kebabs…to name a few. If going to burger chains choose grilled instead of fried, don’t upsize! No one needs it! Even try to drop the soda and fries as you will receive enough calories in most burgers alone to fuel anyone’s body.
9. Involve your family in the decision making process of what’s on the menu for the week.
Once a week have a certain day where an alternate family member has their meal pick for that week. This tends to work well for kids, as the thought of knowing that there night of choice will come around they will be more likely to accept another family members choices, and potentially be more willing help prepare a meal even if it is only on their night!
10. Make your meal plan visible so you stick to it! Organisation and preparation is the key to eating cleanly and making healthy food choices for your family. Have your shopping list alongside your meal planner so it is easy to cross reference what ingredients you may need for upcoming meals, having it visible can also help you co-ordinate certain meals when food items are on special helping to save money and eliminating a mad dash to the supermarket