By Nutritionist and mother Lisa Baker
A little planning goes a long way, especially when it comes to getting the family fed. Family meal planning also goes a long way to save money and time, reduce stress, reduce waste, improve nutrition and improve variety, aka, reduce complaints about the same meal from fusspot kids. Okay, let’s get practical, here are 3 tips for designing and executing a winning meal plan for you and your family.
1. Familiarise yourself with the week ahead
Look at the week ahead and know which nights you and your family may be a little stressed for time, and which nights you have a bit more time. On days where there isn't much time, plan meals that are quick and easy to assemble, or better yet, plan large meals for the day before so you know there will be plenty of leftovers.
2. Choosing meals
Get inspired (but not too inspired if you know what we mean) when choosing meals for your family. Choosing meals is a great opportunity to branch out and try something new, but don’t make life difficult by planning 7 different gourmet dinners in one week. Start with one new recipe, if it’s a winner, it can join your regular rotation, if it’s not, then forget about it and move on.
A great meal contains a mixture of complex carbohydrates, high-quality protein, healthy fats and fibre. So to design any balanced meal, it’s as simple as choosing a base (e.g rice, pasta, potatoes or even toast), a protein (e.g meat, eggs, fish, tofu) and then adding colourful fruits and vegetables.
If you have kids over the age of 12 months, you can usually make the same meal for everyone. If you have fussy eaters, make sure each meal contains a mixture of foods that they will usually accept, as well as foods that require a bit more coaxing (or food you know will just straight-up get refused). This is the best way to ensure that they will eat some of their dinner but also build familiarity with the foods that they are struggling with; start with a simple base from your own meal, like potatoes or toast, and sneak veggies in with the likes of Veggie Hero.
3. Share the load and include the family
Chances are, if you’re the one reading this blog, you're also the one who does most of the shopping and food prep at your house right? You must also be painfully aware then, that it’s not just as simple as going to the shops once a week and then spending 45 minutes in the kitchen at the end of the day. Being the main shopper and food maker comes with a massive mental load. You now need to be aware of all food in your house at all times, know what everyone is eating every day, know when things expire, know what to do with everything before it expires, have food prepped and packed before it’s needed and answer 1000 questions per day about what snacks are available. It’s a full-time logistics role and when you do it well, no one notices because things are just running smoothly, but my goodness if you run out of chippies before the next shop then your darling family will be sure to inform you that your performance isn’t up to scratch. Meal planning will ease that mental load. Create the plan with your family and let everyone contribute ideas. Most importantly, let everyone see how many things need to be considered and done. Delegate some meals to other members of the family (if they are a bit slow to volunteer themselves). Share the shopping or get groceries delivered. Make sure everyone is onboard with both helping and contributing.
We have a huge recipe bank of easy, nutritious, family-friendly meals, as well as meals for the fussiest of kids designed to sneak nutrition into kids so parents can worry about one less thing with nutrition covered.