Four working mums gave us the lowdown on why and how to meal plan. Because, just as with eating, there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of getting organised in the kitchen. These mums have developed different planning techniques to ensure their families Eat Colourful!
1. The complete meal planner
This mum plans dinners completely and efficiently, organising all elements of the meal in advance.
Why do you meal plan?
I meal plan for three reasons.
1. I got sick of coming home from work around 7pm and then staring into the pantry trying to decide what to eat. We often didn’t start cooking until 7.30 so we’re still eating at 8.30. Just too late.
2. Then once we had finally decided what to have, we would be missing a key ingredient so it would be an incomplete meal.
3. Wastage. I realised I was throwing out half eaten food or, worse still, food that I hadn’t even used.
What does the plan look like?
We plan out the week on Sunday and get some food at the weekend. I have groceries delivered Wednesday with the rest of the week’s fresh food. We usually include one freezer meal ( cooked earlier and stored in the freezer) and try to include some meals that will also make work lunches.
Last week’s plan:
Monday – Chops, Salad (lettuce, tomato and cucumber) and potato
Tuesday – Chicken wraps (oregano, turmeric, salt, pepper and oil marinade) and salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots)
Wednesday – Crunchy stir-fry (ginger sauce) – Basa fish, carrots, broccoli, snow peas
Thursday – Beef Penang curry with carrots, broccoli and corn
Friday – Crunchy chicken with sweet potato chips, carrots and corn
2. The partial meal planner
This is me (Foost Founder and dietitian Kate Wengier)
When did I start?
I started meal planning more consistently when I went back to work. I wanted to reduce the stress and chaos of doing school pickup, racing to after school activities, needing to think about dinner…..and possibly having to drag tired, hungry kids around a supermarket. Now I feel lost without a plan and my meals are more colourful with less wastage.
How do I plan?
I tend to plan the base of my meals but often do the veggie part ad hoc. I plan the meat/ egg/ bean component and then decide what veggies to have on the day (as I always have lots in the fridge and freezer).
This week my plan looks like:
Monday – Ginger salmon and salad
Tuesday – Tofu stir fry
Wednesday – Anything sauce, pasta and salad
Thursday – Tuna patties
Friday – Quesadillas
Saturday – leftovers or omelette
Sunday – Roast chicken and roast veggies
3. The fridge re-stocker
What does your plan look like?
I sort of meal plan 2- 3 meals a week. Other days, I just work it out on the day. I always have lots in the fridge and pantry so I guess I do plan in a special way.
Why do you plan in this way?
I do it to reduce stress and save time but I also enjoy some flexibility. This means, for example, that we don’t have a hot curry on a hot day. Or if kids need extra time with me, I can organise a quick meal easily.
4. The gourmet chef and food lover (and freezer stocker)
Tell us about your weekly meals?
I try to cook something special and complicated every week so I need to plan to have the ingredients handy. Otherwise, I just buy salad stuff, and veggies for stir fries or to accompany our frozen meals, which I choose when time is tight or I am too busy to cook. Once I see the freezer is getting low, we do a big weekend cook up. A batch of Bolognese could be at least fourteen serves.
What’s currently in the freezer?
Spaghetti bol, chilli con carne ( to have with rice or baked potatoes) chicken soup, borscht, pumpkin soup, minestrone ( adding the pasta after defrosting), goulash, several curries…..
All of these meal planning mums have, through trial and error, decided what works best for them in the kitchen. And that is what it is about. Any combination is fine so long as it makes for a stress free, harmonious, heathy and colourful family life.
Do you plan your meals? Which way works best for you