I tackle meal planning with ninja like precision. I find it cuts down on food waste, saves money AND saves time. So each weekend, I allocate about 30 minutes to comb through my cook books and magazines to plan out what my family and I are going to eat for dinner for the rest of the week.
Now before you go thinking I’m some amazing At-Home-Cook-Masterchef-Wannabe, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, my husband is Italian and believes his mother’s cooking is how all women should aspire to cook, and as such I receive nothing but well intentioned criticism and taunts on the subject. My goal is not to become Kylie Kwong, Skye Gyngell or even Donna Hay (although I would love her business empire). My goal is to feed my family as quickly and as healthily as possible, and not die of boredom in the process.
I swear that it’s easy enough for anyone to do with just a little practice and a few strategies in your back pocket. My only essential is to be ready with my Kikki K planner (it lives on our fridge) and a pen. Read on to see exactly what my meal planning process looks like each week, and my dinners from the last 7 days and I’d love to hear in the comments if you’ve got any great meal planning tips that work for you!
Monday: Quinoa Salad with Salmon and Miso Dressing
I always get my fish in at the beginning of the week so that it’s as fresh as possible. This recipe is great for kids who need their veggies chopped a little differently to get them across the line and in their tummies. It’s also great for breastfeeding mums who want to get their quinoa and salmon kick.
For a full list of the best grocery items new mums need on their shopping list, check out our free guide here.
Tuesday: Lamb Meatballs with Salad and Harissa Yoghurt
Get some really good greek bread to make this into a wrap. My son eats the meatballs just with some chopped up carrot, cucumber and corn on the cob before I add the sauce and harissa for my husband and I.
Wednesday: Vegetable Rogan Josh
This is a not-too-spicy veggie curry with a sweet twist. It’s the side dish of the carrot salad that really makes the whole thing come together. It’s going to be on high rotation in this house.
Thursday: Pasta Broccoli
The easiest way to get your broccoli intake and way faster than ordering takeaway. This is the ultimate, “I’m in a rush” recipe.
Friday: British Burgers
You can make the burger patties in advance and get a pre-made slaw mix from your supermarket to save on time.
Saturday: Flexi- Day
Sunday: Buttermilk Marinated Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts
We always try to do big extended family meals once, if not twice a week so this dish is hearty, comforting, and will feed a crowd. Just mix and match with whatever roast veggies your family loves.
Strategies to help you meal plan like a boss this week
pic via @greatjones
1 – Make it a weekend ritual that you look forward to.
I love my Sunday ritual of sitting down and flipping through my cookbooks to dig out favourite recipes that have been earmarked with notes scribbled on them. I’ll also scroll through my Pinterest feed to look for recipes I’ve been meaning to make. The point is, I make the process fun and relaxing, because even when the weeks get hectic, I want to actually enjoy cooking a quick meal and sitting down to something delicious after a busy workday. I always keep a note on my phone titled “Recipes I Want to Try” full of links to different food blogs, so when I feel the need to shake things up, I always have a collection to pull from.
2 – Choose recipes that can do double duty.
When I zero in on a couple of recipes that I’m dying to make that week, I then think about how one or two of the main ingredients in those can be leveraged to make other meals that sound yummy. Can I pickup a roast chicken and shred half of it for a soup one night, then chop it up for a salad another night? If I’m baking a big batch of cauliflower, why not throw in some sweet potatoes on a separate baking sheet that can be the building blocks for a lunch that week too?
3 – Think about how you’re going to feel based on your schedule.
Take a look at the schedule for the week ahead. Do you have happy hour or ballet drop-off after work on Tuesday? Plan something that you can cook faster than you can order takeout, because I guarantee everyone in the house is going to be hangry and ready to eat. Is the forecast calling for rain on Thursday? Think soup or curry or something similarly cozy. And if you’re like me, Friday night always calls for something a little more fun like tacos or grilled pizzas; kale salads are not gonna cut it at the end of a long week. #treatyoself
4 – Stay agile.
If I’m planning to go out or order in, I put that on the meal plan too. I also add in one flexi-day where we might go out for dinner or order takeaway (depending on my toddlers moods). I try not to be too rigid about it; if I’ve put tacos on the calendar for Tuesday, but am feeling the pasta that I’d planned for the next night, I’ll just swap them on the calendar with no harm done as long as the use by dates match up. And I still feel like I’ve got a plan!
5 – Try ordering your groceries online.
I used to love spending loads of time grocery shopping – and still do if I find myself sans child and on an especially unstructured weekend – but since that doesn’t happen too often, I’ve found that ordering my groceries online saves me tons of time and stress. I also find that I spend less money since I’m not prone to the impulse buys that I might if I’m browsing the aisles of the grocery store.
6 – Always double batch soups, sauces and chilli so you can freeze the extras.
My freezer is always stocked with some kind of soup, pasta sauce, and usually a chilli. This is a seriously lifesaving technique for those nights when I get home in a rush and everyone’s starving, or for when I forget a crucial component to whatever recipe I’d planned to make that night (it still does happen). Knowing I can thaw out a delicious soup and top with a sprinkle of herbs and seeds for a gourmet-ready dinner gives me major peace of mind. It’s always good to have a backup plan.
Check out the FREE RESOURCES tab for more great meal planning ideas.