I ONLY RECENTLY STARTED USING A MEAL PLANNER, AND BOY, WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT'S MADE!
Every night I used to stand in front of the fridge, doors wide open, gazing at the dwindling contents and wondering what on earth I could cook for dinner. Ugh!
It was stressful trying to be creative each night. It was wasteful as there was always something I forgot to use up that ended up in the bin. It took twice as long to cook dinner as it took me so long to decide what to make.
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Anyway, I've found planning meals at the start of the week means I don't have to think about it each night - I just start cooking whatever it says on the planner.
I've done up a few different printables, depending on how you like to organize yourself, but first, here is the Cooking Section Cover, with one of my favorite quotes from Julia Child.
1. WEEKLY MEAL PLANNER:
This is the classic Meal Planner with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Not only is it a really useful style of meal planner; it's a great tool for changing your family's eating patterns, such as going gluten or lactose free, as all the meals are spelled out for the entire week.
2. FORTNIGHTLY DINNER PLANNER:
This is the planner that works best for me, and needs a little explaining. Our little family has never eaten heaps of processed foods, and now we are trying to eat even less, so most of our dinners are meat and veg in some form or another - like I was saying in my last post on Recipes here. I also like to buy as much seasonal fruit and veg (i.e. what's on special) as I can, so this changes every week. And, meat is the most expensive part of my shop, so I try to keep this under a certain dollar amount.
Anyway, I just plan out two weeks worth of meat that stayed under budget, and do up whatever veg we have in the fridge to match. For example, Thursday is fish night so sometimes I bake it, crumb it or just grill it with butter, salt and pepper, and sometimes we have salad, roast veg or steamed veg etc. Whatever works.
I find this lets me be flexible but also takes the decision stress out of dinner. Also, the trick for me (so we aren't eating basically the same thing every night) is to have a well stocked pantry so I can whip up a sauce or spice rub easily.
3. SCHOOL LUNCH PLANNER:
I don't have kids at school yet, but I do have a husband whose lunch I pack sometimes, and it's hard work! I can only imagine what it would be like to pack three lunchboxes for fussy kids!
So I've done up a quick School Lunch Planner for everyone who needs it. I've just written Day instead of Monday, Tuesday etc. so you can have one sheet for each child, or put two or three kids alongside each other on the one sheet, e.g. Monday - Jack, Monday - Imogen etc. I figured this would be more flexible with some kids going to playgroup and kinda a few days a week, whilst their siblings are at school each day.
If this one needs any changes - please let me know, as I don't have kids at school!
4. KIDS FOOD DIARY:
Or, as I prefer to call it 'What My Fussy Child Actually Ate This Week'. Honestly, last week, Missy was subsisting on Weetbix and sulltanas - that's it. She wouldn't touch anything else.
The wisdom from local health nurses over here is to look at what nutrients a child is getting over a week rather than a day, and try to balance it up that way. Many kids eat very little at mealtimes but snack all day long, others will eat nothing one day and lots the next, so their patterns can vary greatly, which is absolutely normal.
So this printable is for those times you think to yourself 'Um, when was the last time Junior ate a vegetable...or dinner....' or just when you want to check up on what they are actually eating. Because, as we all know, even though you gave it to them, doesn't mean they actually ate it, and it can be hard to remember what they ate yesterday, let alone last Thursday.
I only use this printable occasionally to check up on Missy, but this would be invaluable for tracking possible allergies, relationships between behavior and food, and, in summer when it is super hot, to keep on top of how much water they are drinking.
So there we go for today! To download these planners, simply scroll down to find the links.
Tomorrow I have some grocery and food lists to help everyone stay organized with their shopping and cooking. Let me know if you have any suggestions or improvements for the printables I've done so far too!
All the best,
Click the links below to download printables in this post: