The struggle is real for most mothers, like myself, whether a working mum, home-schooling or a stay at home mother. Meal planning and creating interesting meals for the family, or even just getting the correct food shopping in, at the right time and onto the table, with juggling everything else in the day can be a struggle to say the least. As women, especially, we tend to strive for perfection, yet it's OK to try to make life easier on ourselves once in a while.. there's no need to obtain this idea of 'perfection' in everything we set out to achieve and then to fall victim to our own thoughts and criticisms if we think we fall short with our own ideas. Things like meal planning is just another task on the list that doesn't have to be daunting and as Fly Lady, Marla Cilley the Author of 'Sink Reflections' taught me, most of what we struggle with is through being dis-organised. So start your day on the right foot and don't overwhelm yourself, just take baby steps and aim to do better.
By no means am I an expert in this but I am passionate about this topic and that's why I agreed to be apart of this blog hop. It's something I recently started looking into on a deeper level and have made some personal changes in my life, that i'd like to share with you all. So, here are my list of 10 Tips to Meal Planning Success. I hope you will find them useful. Be sure to check out all the added links, and remember baby steps is the key to success.
1. Have an Evening Routine. As well as the morning routine and to do list that you should have in place to make any day run smoothly. I've learnt an evening routine is just as important, if not, more. Yes, you're tired, but it really does only take 5/10 minutes to look round the rooms. Set your timer, have a power tidy, wash the dishes and shine your sinks whilst thinking about what to prepare for tomorrow. And if you need to take food out of the freezer, season, marinade etc, do this before bed. Trust me on this, you will thank yourself for it in the morning.
2. Have a Meal Planner on Paper. Yes, I said it. Take the time to write up your family meals, first in pencil and get your family involved. List the favorite meals and then start picking out what works best for you and for which day. Be repetitive. It's not a restaurant, you can have oats 3 times a week or omelette for dinner. It's your family, your rules. Start simple and get more adventurous with recipes once you have a system in place. Remember it's not about perfection at this stage.
3. Write up your Meal Planner. This will help serve not only as a reminder to you but visually will also help you plan ahead to make sure you have in what you will need. You can do this in a home planner folder, laminate and pin to the fridge or use a white wipe board or notepad. Whatever works best for you.Be sure to checkout this simple template.
4. Stick to it but be flexible. If you have a day out, or a take away night then write that in, don't be hard on yourself. Switch it around, it still helps visually to have that guide in place. Even if, you play around with it and switch up the meal days, if something else arises or you don't fancy a certain meal come that day.
5. Have a Plan B. Our kids, can play a big part in deciding whether to cook a roast dinner or whether to make them chicken nuggets. I suggest to choose a healthy meal for your children or something that the bulk of your family likes and if your little one/s refuse to eat it. Give them a choice, however a controlled choice. Either A or B or nothing. That way you are not running around cooking up different meals for each person like your in a restaurant and you avoid the aggro of arguing and debating with a 3 year old. It's either you eat the chicken and rice or you can have the leftover pasta, you decide. Don't fall in the trap of making up a super extra meal for the kids and don't give in and give them jam sandwiches either. Check out this book for more on giving an alternative option.
6. Be vigilant as a habit. Get into the habit of checking the foods you already have. We all fall into the category of wasting food at one stage or another because half the time there's either out of date stuff in the back we didn't release we had. Like that half used cream cheese in the back of the fridge or myself and my husband buying too many tomatoes because we didn't check to see if we had any to start with. Sorting your fridge and keeping it clean by giving a quick wipe down at least once a week or before you notice it's got filthy. Helps to keep on top on it all and maintain a clearer mind and an accurate shopping list, which means saving money in the long run!
7. Food Prepping. It's become more popular recently to meal prep and there's a good reason for it. Meal prepping not only helps to make healthier choices by seeing what you have and making it more excess-able than the packet of biscuits. It also helps you to use up what you have and saves on time in the long run. Prep as much as possible after a food shop. To make life easier for you, don't prep every meal but some lunches and snacks or fruit and veggies prepped makes it easier to throw a meal together at the end of a long tiring day. Tip I found worked is those gimmick food choppers. If you don't already own one,I'd suggest getting one.It's actually been great and cut back so much time with chopping the dreaded, onions, garlic, peppers, ginger etc I don't have time to be prepping that for the freezer in bulk,but hats off to those that do. Another way of getting round this, is some supermarkets actually sell the herbs and garlic, chilli etc already pre-cut in frozen bags. Well worth the money I say. There's also the tube form purees but I prefer to have fresh ingredients. Here's a handy meal prepping ebook you can purchase with helpful tips.
8. Organise your Cupboards and Fridge like your rooms. If it's clean and tidy your more likely to want to cook that's a fact. Since I decided to remove my cupboard goods and re-organise it from it's orginal packaging into glass jars and containers. Not only does it superficially look more pleasing to the eye. It serves a better purpose. I'm more selective with what I purchase now, I can see exactly how much I have so I'm not wasting food. I can buy some in bulk and wait till other things are used up before re-buying. Also by having to re-fill containers I can regularly see if it's reached it's expiration date. No more faffing looking for things in the back of the cupboard and no more food bags and pegs to my husbands delight. If you opt for clear glass containers you don't have to label as you can see what's in it already and there's something beautiful and organic about seeing your food arranged without the advertising packaging. If you want to label it doesn't have to be a hassle or an expensive project. Think of it as an investment in the long run. You can purchase labels, plain or chalkboard ones from the pound stores and I had a great find and purchased all my mason jars from HomeBargains for 99p each and 69p for the smaller ones. Which I think is great, but everywhere sells them nowadays and even reusable glass jam jars or plastic clear tubs can be just as nice and effective. I used the Dymo labeller for the expiry dates but you can also cut out any instructions and just pop it in the back or attach it to the lid if needed.
Check out Pepper and Pine's video for more inspirational tips on using Mason Jars.
Here is one of my cupboards I recently started working on, It's a small awkward sized space but you can make anything work with a little bit of love and some storage containers. The labels were from Poundworld and the chalkboard pen I got of off Amazon and wrote on them freehand, it dries on but is wipeable when wet so can be changed if and when needed. I also have a cupboard space just where I keep my spare containers and leftover food packets bulk items.
Storage bins, baskets and containers are a great way to arrange your produce and sort it neatly and for easy accessibility. If you do use storage for tins, packets or loose foods, plastic food bags etc, be sure to clearly label these and work out a rough plan beforehand. Otherwise, to you it may make sense but for anyone else in your family it could easily turn into a disaster zone. Be clear on how you want the space to work.
9. Freeze meals. This one is self explanatory. You don't have to go all out to do this but by over cooking a meal and freezing some or making up a homemade soup and freezing some for a rainy day really does help those days when you just really can't be bothered.
10. Template Shopping List. Create a shopping list as a checklist and mark up the main things you purchase regularly, then all you need to do is mark it when your running low. Have this somewhere accessible so all the family can see it and help that way if your husband is popping to the shops he can check the list before he goes. An even better way of doing this which saves a lot of time is to categorise the list to sections so you aren't running around back and forth like a headless chicken in the supermarket. Lastly, for those that don't have time and just want to use a standard shopping list. Checkout the app Evernote. If you husband is anything like mine he's usually forgotten the shopping list or lost it before he reaches the store. This way he can take a pic of the page/list etc and easily find it later. It works like a convenient digital notebook making it easy for you to store and access your to-do lists, notes and reminders.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the following links for more great meal planning tips: