I would end up at the shops so often it was hard to keep the budget under control; not to mention the fact that I was trying to squeeze in these trips to the shops; and then grabbing whatever was quickest! This meant we were also eating a lot of the same food on repeat. I do love to cook, and it meant I had less time to try new things out because I was disorganised and everyone was hungry!
Then of course came the food wastage for when I had been overly ambitious and bought what I needed for some new recipe I didn't get around to trying.....or we'd simply run out of time to make what we wanted to make....
As the kids got older I started asking them what they wanted; only to be met with "I don't know" or "I don't care" to be met with "oh, this again?". AHHHH!H!!
A better system was needed.... and what I created works pretty well for us!
My Biggest Lessons & Tips:
- Just start. On the days I knew what was for dinner - I felt mentally lighter! It wasn't spinning in my head all day, and I wasn't wondering when the heck I was going to go to the shops again. I had shopped according to what I had planned, everything was there ready to go, and even if I was super tired - I'd just start, and dinner would happen. The benefit is once everyone in the house knows what's for dinner, and everything is there for it, anyone can make a start!
- Set aside 20 minutes on a Sunday. Grab your beverage of choice, find your happy spot and give yourself the space to plan. I choose Sunday because it works in well with the school / work week; and is a "slower" day in my house. Plan your week and your food together. If it's a frantic day- something quick; if I have longer - make double and freeze.
- Everyone has to chose at least one dinner per week. This eases my mental load! One happy Dollop Planner mum says her kids are eating better - they can see they get their fave dinner tomorrow night so they eat tonight's. If they choose the same things over and over it's ok - you can use your nights to introduce new foods and what you want to eat! This then segues nicely into getting your kids into the kitchen to help out too.
- Getting the kitchen, especially the fridge, freezer and pantry organised for how we cook and eat, was critical. A dedicated space for each category, including lunches and leftovers, made a huge difference to our food wastage and our shopping bill too.
- Start with mid-week dinners only. We then have a generally "standard" selection of foods for breakfasts and lunches. Weekends tend to be an eclectic mix of going out, entertaining, leftovers - or cheese toasties....
- Use the time you spend in the kitchen wisely - planning dinners that become lunches; or prepping ingredients (like your fruit and veg) in big batches make efficient use of the time you're already standing there.
- Meal planning doesn't mean home cooked from scratch 3 times a week. It includes making allowances for pre-made and yep, even take away.
- We eat better when we meal plan - better for us, and more variety! When I write our meal plan out, it's much easier to get the balance between the food groups right.
- Meal planning doesn't mean giving up my entire weekend to meal prepping - that's something different too .... and more to talk about another time.
- An organised shopping list that everyone can access and fill in has also saved us countless hours and dollars! I sit with it as I meal plan and fill it out, and then double check my pantry etc before actually going to the shops. My family write what they need on it too or as they use things up.
Dollop, and the Meal Planner, has simply become my way of virtually holding your hand to help set up your own system, using whatever elements of mine work for you and your tribe. I hope that it helps save you the time it took me to learn all this (believe me, it was a lot!), eases the mental load and together we can make dinner happen, every single night!
What are your biggest meal planning woes? What are you best tips and tricks?