Food & Cooking

Meal Planning Simplified

I don’t know about you, but clever meal planning is a must for my sanity… 

Living busy and raising robust kids, meal preps can easily slide if not given proper thought and consideration…

I know that many women may feel overwhelmed at the thought of cooking every time everyday, since on average mums prepare, cook and clean approximately 750-1000 meals a year!

Feeding our families is honestly not a minor job that we can do on the side, and sadly enough, dinners don’t magically appear out of nowhere (even though I wish they would)…

Meal planning is a monumental task and a stand-alone full time position on its own, simply because of all the other multifaceted jobs and responsibilities that a mum must do.To prevent exhaustion, we must then find a way to simplify our meals and find out a solution that would work best for our family.

It is of course much easier to succumb to eating thoughtlessly, anything quick, fast and prepackaged, but if we are trying to provide healthy, delicious and varied meals, and when our hands are already busy with the tasks of looking after (and chasing, and if you are homeschooling –  teaching, and if you have goals of parenting the whole child –  training) the children, and keeping the house clean (and organised, beautiful and functional), then meal planning is a must.

For families with tiny tots, and young toddlers, keep in mind that successful meal preparation is only half of the battles won. The other battle is coming to the table with sufficient emotional and physical reserves to deal with possible meal time misbehaviour and to make dinner the most enjoyable part of the family time together.

Because a mum’s job is so multifaceted and her day long and arduous, we need a strategy to prosper in this area of meal planning. We want to have increasingly more days when the best of ourselves are given in conversations and in company with our loved ones during this time together. 

With that, I find that these few thoughts seem to work best for our family in this season of life

1) Build meal planning into your daily routine

With that I mean, sketch out everything needed to get decent meals onto the table (and into lunch boxes) everyday, from gathering new recipes to grocery shopping to cooking to serving them, and plan the same time of your day everyday to do just that.

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For me, this means that cooking take place first thing in the morning before the kids rise, and in the afternoon right after the youngest goes down for a nap.  This also means that sometimes food preparation (chopping vege, marinating meat and defrosting chicken etc) take place the night before.

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This often mean to me that I have to organise my catch ups with friends, playdates, exercises, meetings, school duties, outdoor activities to the morning when the baby is awake so that I can be home in the afternoon to cook while she naps.

Meal preparations take time, and there’s the occasional joy of takeaways and dining out, but there is really not much shortcuts to preparing healthy, delicious, fresh, homemade meals everyday, and so in order to thrive in this area, nourish your family, and preserve your sanity, you need to simply dedicate time built into the regular structure of your day to do it.

2) Capitalise on strength

I find that my kids go through seasons of liking a particular type of food before they get bored of it, and I try to capitalise on those. My children go through periods when they love rice porridge, and then cold or frozen smoothies, and then pasta bake, and then pancake fritters and then vegetable soup…whatever it is, I try to seize this window and pack as much hidden vege and fruits as possible. Cooking them in batches and freezing them for later use have also saved me a lot of time.

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3) Map it all out

I used to do daily and weekly planning for my meals, but later find that I can further save time when I do a monthly planning instead by shopping with that month’s menu in mind.

This is an example of our April Monthly Menu Plan which is not set in stone. When I don’t feel like eating what I planned previously, I just swap the menu around.

I plan not only around my main 3 meals but also the kids’ morning snack, afternoon tea and supper. Sometimes these fringe meals may be lighter and other times more substantial when we have sports or after school activities, and sometimes supper may just be fruits and hot drinks while other days it may be more elaborate. The plans are meant to be flexible and the beauty of mapping them out is that I have thought ahead of what to cook and can pull out the recipe electronically without spending time looking them up.

4) Divide and Conquer

I find that preparing my fridge right after a big grocery trip means that there is less food wastage and that the materials are ready to go for the following day.

What I mean by this is that I get most of my vegetables chopped (not washed) and packed, ready to be pulled out and used as soup, stir fry, baked or fried the moment they come back from the market into my fridge.

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I am not even going to lie to you…sometimes meal times may be the most trying of time with  food refusal, attention seeking behaviour, tired bodies, food preference, worn out parents and busy days…but having food organised where everyone looks forward to a time of laughter and feasting is worth the effort.

Survival and success come through organisation and as you put in the hard work of planning, know that heaven is smiling upon you 🙂 and that your family will greatly thank you for it.

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.” Thomas Wolfe

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