How to…plan your family’s meals


As a busy working mum, there are some things I have to do each week, or the wheels fall off.

Simple as that.

The most important of these is making sure the fridge and food cupboard contain the necessary supplies. This consists primarily of my meal plan, which informs or is informed by my grocery order (depending how organised I am at getting it done). Most weeks my plan is born of the last minute basics in my online grocery order, but these lists were born of my meal plans…so now I’ve got me a nice little virtuous circle going on! *makes smug face*

imageI keep default “templates” of four weeks menu plans in Evernote on my iPad mini (a Christmas gift from Mayfair Dad to help me with my blogging but actually a greater distraction from…!). I then mix these up as needed, depending on our plans. I also try to cook from scratch as often as possible. I am a realist though and sometimes I need a night off, when we’ll reach for a better quality ready meal instead or, if we’re feeling really naughty, a takeaway.

I may be coming across a bit saintly here, but we really do try to eat well in our house. I have an underactive thyroid, Mayfair Dad has diabetes and we both find that eating well helps us manage symptoms better. We do share a love of good food though, so when we set up home, I made it my mission to always at least try to meet healthy eating guidelines and make good choices. Rest assured it works in tandem with my other mantra, which is that “a little of what you fancy des you good”! As a mother, I also want to share a love of food and knowledge of the right choices with our Little Chap, who is already a great little foodie in the making.

Little Chap eats earlier than us so the meals I plan tend to be for us, but I’ll include at least one dish each week that I can make large enough to freeze a couple of portions for him to have another day. As Little Chap eats tea at After School Club two days a week, this quickly stock piles in the freezer so I can offer him some variety.We all eat our main meal together on a Sunday. I don’t plan lunches, but we all have packed lunches (a whole other post, I fear!) so I tend to have our regular favourites in the fridge or store cupboard which see us through the whole week. Little Chap has recently taken to making requests *folds arms and purses lips* – but perhaps more on that another time!

With limited time to cook after a day at the grindstone, the criteria for our meals look a little like this:

Healthy – ideally this means made from fresh in line with healthy eating guidelines, i.e. low in saturated fat, salt and refined sugars and high in fibre, lean protein and good fats, with an overall low glycemic index/load)

Flexible – to keep to our budget, I can’t afford for many of our meals not to feed the Little Chap too

Good value – despite working in Mayfair, we don’t have a Michelin star style family food budget! I tend to stick to supermarket own brand basics.

Quick – from fridge/cupboard to table tray on lap in 30-40 minutes max and less is a pleasure!

We typically get the groceries for the week online. They are delivered on a Sunday morning as we are invariably in the house and awake. By basing our week’s meals on the Sunday roast, we typically last through to the end of the week requiring no more than an extra loaf for sandwiches midweek.

So this week’s menu plan looks something like this:

Monday | Cold roast pork, salad, new potatoes | A meal for one from Sunday roast leftovers. Mayfair Dad is travelling.

Tuesday | Sardines with lemon, garlic and green chillies, rice and stir fry veg | Welcome home dinner for Mayfair Dad – pre-prepared by Ocado.

Wednesday | Chicken & vegetable stir fry with noodles | I’m using up freezer stocks of chicken breast strips I bought on special offer.

Thursday | Pasta with mackerel/tomato/sweetcorn sauce & salad | This week’s omegas (oily fish) doubles as a budget option, using tinned mackerel in oil at a few pence a can. A single can makes enough for two plus a few freezer portions for Little Chap!

Friday | Sausages with mash & cauliflower cheese | An old favourite for the end of the week – using reduced fat sausages of course

Saturday | Baked potatoes, baked beans and salad | Another cheap one and the pulses (beans) are not only reduced salt and sugar, but also reduce the GI of the baked potatoes

Sunday | Roast haddock, green beans, purple sprouting broccoli and new potatoes | We usually have a Sunday roast but to cut costs and red meat consumption, I’m also rotating a nice piece of fish one week in four.

Do you plan meals for the family? Who does it in your house? How flexible is your plan and how easy do you find sticking to it? Have you found it saves you money or time? Do you have any special dietary needs or allergies to cater for? I’d love to hear from you and please include a link to any posts you’ve written on the subject.

4 thoughts on “How to…plan your family’s meals

  1. I have done a meal plan for the first time ever these past four weeks. My shopping bill has halved only ordering what I actually need. I also email it to the OH on Monday’s and he loves knowing what is coming up so he doesn’t duplicate lunchtimes. I am a convert, big fan and shall stick with it.

    • Crikey – emailing to the other half! (Sh! Don’t tell MD!) Now that is impressively organised. I’ve been doing it a while now (think I’m on my fourth or fifth pad of 30 pages, which must be at least a couple of year’s worth!). Can’t imagine living without it now 🙂

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