As busy parents we all know how hard it is to keep everyone happy! Not only do you have loads to do but you also have to make sure everyone has clean clothes and are well fed. But what happens when you get in from a long day at work, the kids are hungry, and you are far too tired to cook? There is no way you can eat well so, you end up cooking a load of beige freezer food or giving in and ordering a takeaway. You’ll also find yourself nipping to the shop on the way home, spending way more money than you wanted to and only coming out with enough stuff for 1 meal. So how can you get out of this unhealthy habit?
We have been batch cooking and meal planning all of our meals for about a year now, probably since being pregnant with Lottie and we have found it to be fab! We save money, don’t waste food and can always be prepared for dinner. It can be flexible so if we don’t fancy something one night, we just switch a couple of nights around (this is actually what we are doing tonight!) We also ‘reward’ ourselves with a cheeky takeaway on a Friday night!
So here are some of our top tips:
This is the fastest and most convenient way of making sure you always have something you can grab in the freezer. Very often when I cook something like a cottage pie or a casserole, we don’t eat all of it as there are only 2 of us (the girls eat separately). This means we have at least half of whatever we have cooked left = another evenings food! All you need to do is cook a couple of different things on a Sunday afternoon, pop in them into Tupperware in the freezer, and you already have 4 evening meals for the week there ready to go! It doesn’t have to take all day and you aren’t wasting any food!
Have each meal written out on a board or piece of paper stuck on the fridge so you know exactly what you are having each evening. This means you can always be prepared for dinner and you don’t need to waste time looking for something to cook that matches what you have in the fridge freezer and cupboards! This takes me about 10 minutes each Sunday to do and feels really good to know what meals I’m going to be cooking all week! It also means each family member also knows what’s coming up in the week and makes meal planning so much easier!
List family favourites
I have a spreadsheet that I made a couple of years ago with our favourite recipes on and meals I know are ‘winners’ in our house. This means that whenever I’m stuck for ideas, I can just open it up and I have a ready-made list! I also have a list of what types of meals we should be having each week, for example, a red meat, a white meat, veggie, pasta dish, and fish.
I decided that the only way to get more meal variety was to spend some time making a note of all of our favourite meals to eat, along with the book/site the recipe comes from and the page number (obviously so I can find them easily!). This did take a long while to put together, but it is WELL worth it! Then all I do each week is pick the next 7 meals on the list and make those. Each week we have 2 chicken meals, 2 red meat meals, a fish meal and 2 veggie meals so we get as much variety as possible. Just remember to move them to the bottom of the list once you’ve cooked them!
I have added a free downloadable spreadsheet for you to get you started which you can fill in for your family. I would love to know how you get on!
Ditch the separate meals
It’s hard when 1 child eats peas, 1 child doesn’t, 1 child is happy to have veggie pasta and 1 child doesn’t want veg at all! But let’s face it, I bet your parents didn’t give you the choice at meal times?! Mine certainly didn’t! Don’t make separate meals for different people, adapt dishes but don’t cook more than 1 each evening. Your children will either learn to eat what they aren’t keen on or just don’t make a fuss about it and tell them to leave bits they don’t want. They will eat eventually!
Buy what you need
When out food shopping, make a list, stick to it and only buy what you actually need! This cuts the amount of time spent wandering around the shop itself but also stops food wastage when you end up not being able to use an impulse purchase. It also means food shops will probably be cheaper as you won’t be popping everything you ‘fancy’ into the trolley! Also don’t shop when you are hungry! Cantwells Cabin has some great tips on how to save money on your meals so make sure you go and take a look over there too!
It can be hard to find inspiration for different meals sometimes but take a look online and see if there is anything you fancy there. I pop my weekly meal plan up on Instagram each Monday morning and its nothing fancy! It doesn’t have to be all home-made and take you hours each week to prepare. But it can help you feel more organised. You will find yourself saving money, time, and effort which lets face it, is the main thing when you’re a busy parent!
Have you got any family favourite batch cooking recipes that you use when meal planning?