Meal Planning is one of those things that we have all thought about and all planned to implement at some stage. Today I am going to run through my process and some of the benefits that can be seen if a little time is spent each week or month thinking about your meals.
Firstly I am not one of those who make things in bulk, lining up dozens of freezer containers and cooking up a storm. This will suit the lifestyle of some and can obviously be very cost effective, however being a dad I like to provide a little variety in the food I prepare for my family so I do very little bulk prep work but more individual and considered meals.
Food plays a huge part in our lives. Of course it provides nourishment, but beyond that can bring love, joy and happiness to a family. For some it will be fond memories of large family gatherings with copious amounts of food, stuffing yourself silly. For others it may be the joy of teaching our kids to cook pancakes on the weekend. On the flip side it can also be the cause of stress and take up considerable amounts of our time. As a father who cooks I quickly learned how important being prepared can be, particularly the evening meal. Meal planning can help solve the age old question many parents have heard around 4-5pm… “What’s for dinner?”
Unsurprisingly I use a spreadsheet (find it on my downloads page) to write down all the meals that I plan to make during the week. At this stage most of our planning is for the evening meals only as I find this can be the most stressful meal time for my family and my children like to take sandwiches for lunch to school, however I have also included breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert for those who want to take things one step further.
Our family’s process involves printing out the spreadsheet on a weekly basis and sitting down together to discuss the week ahead, we usually do this on a Sunday evening at dinner, mainly because our main shopping day is Monday or Tuesday but obviously you can adjust to suit yourself. We have an enormous collection of cook books, so although it may be just as easy if not easier to simply Google search recipes we (the adults) try and use the books and tab the pages of a few different recipes each of the family members like, also considering prep time, nutrition etc. My personal favourites are almost anything by Jamie Oliver, I just find that his recipes are so packed full of flavour and goodness. We will then go around the table and pick a meal each and write it on the spreadsheet. As there is only 4 of us, the adults will usually then add a couple more and finally the last one will be designated as either a leftovers night or a takeaway treat night (we usually do this once a fortnight or so). We have a rewards system with our kids which allow them to pick dessert 2 nights a week, so we will also write those in as well as weekend breakfasts. From there at some stage we will review the ingredients required and what we already have in the fridge and pantry and write up a shopping list.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. By clicking on these links and purchasing a product The Spreadsheet Dad will receive a small commission. This helps towards keeping this blog alive and providing useful content.
Products from Amazon.com
Price: $19.99Was: $34.99
Price: $26.13Was: $39.99
Price: Check on Amazon
Price: Check on Amazon
Price: $17.20Was: $24.99
Price: $25.34Was: $35.00
Price: $24.21Was: $35.00
I would recommend starting this process as early as possible with your family so it becomes a habit, just part of the normal routine. Our kids are (at the time of writing) 6 and 3.5 years old and love the idea that they get an input into what they and the rest of the family eat. I have also found that they usually want to help make it!
Although this post is skewed towards young families I believe if you can build this into your routine you will find there are many benefits. Some I have listed below, but there are many others.
Save money – being prepared with a shopping list will save you considerably at the checkout. You will no longer mindlessly be putting this in your trolley thinking you may use it, you will have a succinct list you tick off as you go. This will particularly help those who despise grocery shopping (trust me you are not alone). Not only will you be saving my by having a shopping list you will also save on random takeaway meals that you may have bought because you didn’t know what to cook.
Reduce stress – being prepared for anything in life can help reduce associated stress and meal planning is no different. As a parent I know one of the most stressful times of the day is usually around 4-5pm when the kids (and sometimes the wife or husband) are tired and hungry from a busy day. Having everything ready to go for the evening meal gives one less thing to think about.
Save time – you will save precious time to spend with your family or doing something else you enjoy. Cooking for many is a chore and spending a little time up front and being prepared, having all your ingredients on hand and cooking methods set you will save a lot of time.
Nutrition – planning ahead can have a profound impact of the nutritional quality of your food. No more last minute packaged freezer foods or McDonalds on the way home. I also try to get the kids to think about their choices and have a discussion about the nutritional value.
Diversity – by each person in our family choosing a meal it promotes variety in our diet as each person has different tastes. We have found are kids are much more willing to try something new, which can be a struggle for any parent.
Less wastage – by only buying the ingredients required for the meals chosen there is a lot less chance that you will end up with items in your fridge past their expiry date.
Thanks for reading. Have you got any Meal Planning tips, tricks or experiences you would like to share? Please comment below.