There are so many reasons why meal planning is great! Meal planning makes your life easier, saves you money and it can improve your health because your making conscious choices, like eating more fish or vegetarian meals. Introducing something as simple as one meatless meal a week can improve the variety in your diet, improve your cardiovascular and digestive health keeping you and the kids regular (and yes I am talking about number twos!)
As a Home Economist I help busy mums simplify meal planning. Over the years I have worked with all sorts of mums with all sorts of kids in all sorts of situations, and you know what – there are some issues common to all women that I thought I’d share!
Keep it flexible
One of the most common issues I hear from mums is that they plan elaborate meals plans, but they don’t get a chance to make the meals they intended. Quite simply – they over plan!
When we go to so much effort we forget to take real life into consideration – which is disastrous to our food budget. If we undertake ‘aspirational’ meal planning we will be making unrealistic decisions about what we can honestly cook in a week. Aim to cook about 3 meals during your weekdays and build in strategies to reuse your leftovers for the remaining days.
Stock your basics
I am a big believer in shopping your pantry! Keeping your pantry well stocked with food you actually eat is key to making it useful. Avoid the temptation to buy unusual ingredients unless you can identify another 2 or 3 dishes you can make with it. For example Tamarind paste makes your pad thai delicious and taste just like a shop bought one, and to make sure I use it I also make a Sri Lankan Beef Curry with it too. Tamarind paste is so inexpensive but adds an incredible flavour. You just have to balance the flavours!
I don’t know about you, but I have been known to be seduced by the occasional multi-buy. While they are great sometimes, it is important to be super clear on what items are worth buying in bulk vs not. It might not be worth buying a case of tins when the space in your pantry or ‘bulk supplies’ pantry would be better served storing other items you use on a regular basis. Don’t fall into the trap of buying in bulk for the sake of it. A lot of supermarkets offer multi-buys that cause you to spend more in the long run. If you are buying in bulk or choose the multi-buys – make sure the ingredients support your food budget – not drain it unnecessarily.
The reason I am a professional meal planner is because of my parents and grandparents. They grew up in post war times when you had to make meals out of nothing – you never wasted food and creativity with food was valued as a great skill and talent!
Both my parents are amazing cooks – both of Italian heritage, they know how to turn a few unsuspecting ingredients into a delicious feast that would feed a small village! One of the best skills I have learnt from them is how to transform leftovers. Not content with simply reheating last night’s dinner, my dad taught us a wonderful cooking strategy that I love sharing with the world – Revamps! Growing up my dad called it YMCA – yesterday’s meal cooked again! I call them Revamps because it truly reflects my dad’s creativity and goal – to completely revamp your leftovers from a boring rerun into an exciting sequel. Your mission is to be as creative as you can so your family doesn’t recognise that they just had the same thing from last night!!!
I share some of my favourite revamps in Too Busy to Eat Well.
If you really want to save money and eat better, buy foods in season. Not only will they be cheaper, they will also be at their peak nutritionally – packed with vitamins and minerals.
Taking time out to meal plan really can improve the quality of the food you and your family eat, which will have a huge impact on their long term health.
Louise helps busy women solve the What’s for Dinner Challenge and learn more about what’s in the food we eat.
Home Economist @ http://www.mealplanningyourway.com/
Additive Alert Community Talks Presenter
Member of Home Economics Institute of Australia (HEIA)