We all lead busy lives so we need to make sure that we are looking after ourselves and our families.
It is so easy to fall into a pattern of preparing the same meals each week because A. you buy the same ingredients every week from the supermarket, B. the recipes are well practised and therefore you don’t have to think about it and C. you know your child/ren/husband/wife will eat them.
Mix it Up:
Variety is the spice of life, they say. What better way to get your family enthusiastic about mealtimes and excited about their own nutrition than mixing it up a bit with interesting new meals. Exposure to a range of flavours from early on can only be a good thing to avoid good homemade food being pushed around a plate and the same unhealthy or convenient food choices being made.
Try New Recipes:
I am the first to admit that I am rubbish at following new recipes and tend to go off piste whenever I do. I am happiest looking at foodie websites, blogs, TV shows, books or magazines for inspiration and then create something myself using flavour combinations or techniques that I like the sound or look of. Sometimes however it is good to follow a recipe to the T, and then make your adaptations the next time you make the dish. So, I now force myself to try one new recipe exactly, once a week. And this is where the menu planning comes in.
I plan our family menu for 7 days and make the weekly shopping list at the same time. It takes about 30 minutes in total and is time well spent. Not only does it ensure a balanced menu over a convenience based one, but it reduces wastage by using the ingredients that you already have and controls costs as a result. Following a menu plan means also that you then don’t need to be creative with minimal ingredients on the spot when suppertime hits. This isn’t a ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ challenge. Although I do quite like that sometimes!
Use a Basic Structure:
A structure for lunch, my daughter’s supper and then our supper goes into a large note pad. Breakfasts are pretty simple affairs in our house, alternating between toast and cereal. I write the menu plan on the right hand side of the pad and then the shopping list on the left hand side. Following a simple, but flexible structure for your menu planning makes the process quicker each week.
For example, since our move to Canada our suppers usually follow this format.
Sunday… Roast and veggies
Monday… Fajitas or tacos using the leftover meat from the night before with usual accompaniments
Tuesday… Vegetarian recipe
Wednesday… Fish based recipe
Thursday… Pasta or risotto with salad
Friday… Soup, salad and/or sandwich
Saturday… BBQ and salads
Because my daughter eats earlier than us, her supper will either be the same or a slight variation using the same ingredients of what we are having. I then structure the lunches to nutritionally compliment the supper plan. The note pad is then a great reference for the future to flick back through for ideas. You will be surprised how your repertoire will expand over the weeks.
If I am spending the time to make something that requires a longer preparation and cooking time, I tend to double the recipe and then chuck either a second one or individual portions in the freezer for another day when I don’t necessarily have the time to spend prepping extensively. Casseroles, lasagnes, sweet and savoury pies and pasta sauces are good examples of what I have in my freezer at the moment.
When you are Inspired:
Inspiration can hit at the most random of moments, particularly when you are juggling 101 things day to day. Keep the notepad handy so that when you see a recipe, ingredient, or combination of flavours that appeals, note it down on the back pages so that when you are putting your plan together you have a starting point.
This works for us and is very time effective.
Happy menu planning!