How to meal plan and reduce stress at dinner time!
- Do you struggle with coming up with meal ideas for your family every night?
- Do you often feel overwhelmed or exhausted at the thought of having to prepare another meal?
- Do you throw away foods because you haven’t got round to using them?
- Are you worried you’re not providing your family with healthy meals?
- Are you frustrated at trying to decide what to eat when you are tired and hungry?
- When you don’t know what to cook for dinner, do you end up buying a takeaway or ready meal and then feel guilty and crummy for eating it?
Everyone’s lives are so busy these days that we all feel like this at some time or another.
MEAL PLANNING can help you solve all these problems.
Why should you MEAL PLAN?
The main power behind MEAL PLANNING is that it helps ensure you cook healthy, nutritious meals for your family. You will have a plan that you can stick to and implement, without feeling stressed or overwhelmed. The brain can only cope with making a limited number of decisions over a day. By MEAL PLANNING you’re helping to reduce the overwhelm our brains feel at the number of decisions we have to make everyday.
The major benefits of MEAL PLANNING are:-
- You become LESS stressed about what to prepare and cook for your family.
- You will SAVE time – no more wasting time popping to the shop or takeaway every day because you have nothing for dinner.
- You will SAVE money. You won’t buy food that you end up throwing away because you didn’t know what to do with it. You can also buy some items in bulk, as you will begin to understand which foods you use the most. You will also stop buying so many takeaways, ready-meals or eating out.
- You will feel much HEALTHIER because you are eating nutritious, home cooked meals.
- You may even LOSE WEIGHT because you are in control of your meal ingredients. Takeaways and processed meals are calorie-laden and full of extra sugars, fats and salt that your body doesn’t need.
- You will also REDUCE or stop impulse grocery buying as you won’t need to keep going to the supermarket every day. You will have a set list of items to buy once a week.
- You will probably enjoy a greater VARIETY of foods.
- MEAL PLANNING can help bring FAMILIES together. You can ask your family which meals they enjoy the most and include these regularly in your MEAL PLANNING. If you pin your meal planning chart on the fridge or wall, everyone can help out in meal preparation as they will know exactly what foods you will be eating that night (get my free printable meal planning chart here).
How to meal plan like a domestic Goddess:
- Sit with your family and make a list of their 6-10 favourite meals (you can get my freebie printable Family Meal List here). Keep this list somewhere safe, then you will always have a backup for meal ideas.
- Start collecting some foody magazines, recipe books or free recipes from the internet that you think your family will like (of course, there are always lots of free recipes for you on this site too!)
- Once a week (or month if you are super organised) sit down with a cup of tea and your recipe ideas and pick out 7 dinner recipes for the week. Try to pick a variety of meals. It’s very tempting to make the same things each week but it’s important for your gut health to have variety in your diet. Plus you will soon get bored and end up ditching your meal plan.
- When planning your dinners, check your diary for the week and plan your meals around how much time you will have to prepare them. I usually opt for a maximum of 30 minutes prep time and 30 minute cooking time for our meals. If I know I might have more time I will pick something fancy or new to prepare.
- If you have a slow cooker, you could set up a meal to cook whilst you’re out, so that it’s ready for when you get home on days when you are particularly busy.
- You can allocate set meals for each day, but I tend to leave mine a little flexible to allow for the mood I’m in, how tired I’m feeling or what the family might fancy.
- Personally, I usually only plan our dinners for the week. We generally eat the same range of breakfasts each day. Lunches tend to be more flexible. We often eat leftovers from the night before or I make packed lunches for school or work. If you are out at work all week, then I would highly recommended planning and pre-preparing your lunches for the week.
- As you pick out your meals for the week, add the ingredients you need to your shopping list (get my freebie printable shopping list here).
- I keep my shopping list in the kitchen during the week so that I can add items as they run low. This ensures that the basic kitchen staples are always in the cupboard.
- When writing up your shopping list also check through your pantry to ensure you are stocked up on all your essentials. (get my freebie printable Pantry Staples List here).
- Next, get shopping! I highly recommend ordering your shopping online through a supermarket delivery service. I find this saves me a huge amount of time. I can click through my order in the evening whilst watching TV with the family. It’s then delivered in a one hour convenient slot.
- Alternatively, you could use a ‘click and collect’ option. With either of these systems, there is no wasted time wheeling a trolley around the supermarket searching for items. You also don’t have to drag the kids around with you either so no moaning, tantrums or screaming outbursts to embarrass you. There’s no queuing at the checkout, no loading and unloading to the car. Most importantly, you are not tempted to buy stuff you don’t need or that’s unhealthy.
- The small downside is that the family will probably moan that they don’t get treats or different foods, but on the plus side, if there are no unhealthy foods in the house, they can’t eat them!
- Unfortunately, with online services you don’t get to pick your fruit and vegetables yourself and can sometimes end up with less than perfect items. The alternative is to go to a farmer’s market once a week. This could be a family outing where the kids get to pick fruit or vegetables for themselves.
- Once you know what your meals will be for the week, you can set aside some time to pre-prep if you wish. I know a lot of people like to prepare all the vegetables and sometimes even the meals for the week at the weekend. You can then freeze meals ready to use in the week ahead. Make sure you label them well – name of meal and date made, because once food is frozen it can all look the same! Personally, I don’t won’t to spend my free time at the weekend meal prepping. That’s why I always make sure I pick meals that are easy to prepare each night.
TA-DAH! you now have a meal plan for the week.
Each morning take out any frozen ingredients that need to defrost ready for the evening. Now, when you get home in the evening you will know exactly what you’re cooking and that you have all the ingredients.
I usually end up multi tasking whilst I’m preparing dinner – the kids might be at the kitchen worktop doing homework, or sometimes I get to catch up on a YouTube video or talk to my mum or a friend on the phone.
If you have had a particularly stressful day, quietly chopping and preparing food can be quite meditative and help you to relax.
Alternatively, it can become a family affair and you can get your kids and/or your partner in on the act of helping!
So, there you go – you are all prepared to Meal Plan like a Domestic Goddess! (or God for the male readers!)
To make the whole process easier for you, don’t forget to get my Meal Planning Pack here!
I hope you found this guide helpful, let me know in the comments how you get on.