MEAL PLANNING IS SEXY!
Fed up of Groundhog Day mealtimes? Need a bit more organisation around weeknight meals for the family? Meal Planning is one way to make Monday to Friday more manageable.

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It’s Saturday night, I’m a few glasses down and we have funky childfree London friends over for the weekend.

“SH*T!”, I blurt “the food shop!”

I make my excuses, bury my head in my ‘phone and proceed to plan our family meals according to the week ahead.

The Saturday night deadline might be a ballache, but I need that deadline. I’m an epic procrastinator, so the deadline forces me to spend 45 mins selecting and ordering the ingredients for 4 or 5 meals, carefully chosen to fit in with our stop-start family schedule during the week ahead.

And really, if I know what’s good for me, I should sit down on a quiet Thursday evening and get it done ahead of the weekend so our otherwise happy family Saturdays aren’t tainted by my constant reminders “Ooo, I MUST NOT Forget the food shop”. But, of course, I don’t. Because I’m distracted by a million other midweek jobs that I can’t tear myself away from. Needless to say, my Thursday night meal planning sessions have been squeezed out since I started Feed the Brood!

By the way, this so-called ‘forced’ deadline is real. I have a ‘RESERVED’ slot for our food delivery every Sunday night, which means the cut off time for ordering is late on Saturday night. At the start of the week, a robot automatically builds my shopping in order to check-out and reserve the slot, so, if I’m not careful, I may well have a delivery of 20 limes and 8 bags of Doritos (the robot has happy memories of my Mexican themed birthday party c.2013, it seems). For many years now, our Sunday night delivery dictates that we spend the last half hour of our weekend putting the shopping away. Groan…

Now, I may not be selling the #mealplanningissexy part yet, but bear with me, I’m not done. The really sexy bit is coming. And in my humble opinion, it’s bloody brilliant.

Once the plan is made, written up on the wall, the food shopping is put away and I’m nestled in my bed on a Sunday night, I can sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge that the fridge, cupboards, bathrooms, nappy baskets etc are all fully stocked ready for the week ahead. The kickback here is that from Monday to Friday, I don’t have to spend a single other minute thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner. I don’t have to drag the children to the shops for last minute ingredients (and a magazine each to terminate tantrums, AND the Tupperware I simply can’t live my life without). When I open the fridge to make packed lunch and snack pots, I know I have enough of everything. Sometimes, I’m ultra smug, because I’ve even purchased end-of-term thank you chocs for the swimming teacher…

Meal planning means I can glide through the week in a nice predictable way. Many people hate predictable, and that’s ok, each to their own. But my clients are parents. Usually working parents with lots of children and they’re facing the weeknight juggle in such a way that ‘predictable’ is a comfort word for them. As a mum of three children aged 5 and below, I’m yet to understand how complicated life will become once they’re all in school, yet still, meal planning is a life saver for me. And I get to enjoy cooking. I can involve the kids in chopping and stirring because I have time. I love introducing them to new foods without there being a tonne of pressure attached. And on the whole, my meals are ready for 5pm, so we can cut down on moody toddler tantrums and stressy under-cooked-massively-burned disasters too. This ‘predictability’, as it turns out, is beneficial to us all in so many ways.

Don’t get me wrong, I also love spontaneity – that’s where the weekends come in. We down tools on a Friday night, and our Saturdays and Sundays offer us a world of possibilities to throw caution to the wind. We love to eat out, chuck a frozen pizza in the oven, order a curry, have a last minute roast or make Fridge Pie (create something edible from the fridge randoms – this is Mr T’s area of expertise) and generally live off plan. That wouldn’t suit us in the week, as the children have bath and bed routines that mean we can all get a good night’s sleep and function properly at school, preschool, work and life, but it’s all cool at the weekend.

THIS IS A LIST
The over arching gain with meal planning is that stress levels are reduced, but there are a shed load of other reasons why meal planning can make your life better:

– reduce wastage – fewer limp leeks in the crisper drawer
– spend less – cut down on incidental midweek purchases at the shops, and invest time online looking for cheap deals
– reduce effort – plan to cook double and freeze leftovers on days you have time, so that you can plan to use a freezer meal on your busiest afternoons
– eat healthier – there’s actual proper science to prove that meal planning helps you make healthier choices, add a greater variety of healthy foods in your life, eat fewer snacks or processed foods and therefore enjoy loads of health benefits
– tackle fussy eating – with a carefully planned set of meals, you can ensure that you’re taking a considered approach to fussy eating including variety and ‘safe’ foods (other help available on this from me in other blogs) and you’ll also be calmer, making you better at dealing with the fussiness
– if you’re weaning a baby (especially alongside a toddler), having a detailed plan really helps when you’re facing frazzled-sleep-deprived-unpredictable afternoons

If that awesome list wasn’t convincing enough, and you’re the kind of person who’ll close this article and put the idea of Meal Planning on your mental to-do list, probably to be reconsidered when you have enough headspace, which is never, then perhaps attempting a temporary trial might be the way forward. These days, they say to takes two months to embed a routine, so why not try it out for two months? What have you got to lose?

Here’s how to do it:
1. Book a reserved slot with your preferred online food delivery service and download the app on your phone so that you have quick access. Select the time and day of the week that makes the most sense to you
2. Grab a piece of paper – you don’t need anything fancy – and draw a line down the centre. Write the days of the week according to what day your food is being delivered.
3. Look at your diary or calendar and on the left of the page, write down everything on the plan that will influence what you cook for dinner.
4. Now you need to select 4 or 5 meals suitable for the length of time you have to cook. Here are some great places to go online for inspiration and recipes:
– www.bbcgoodfood.com
– www.feedtheneed.com/mealplanning
NEED MORE EXAMPLES HERE
If you’re using online recipes, keep them open in individual tabs in your browser so that they’re easy to refer back to when you’re ordering or cooking.
5. Keep the shopping app open and order the ingredients as you go.
6. Don’t forget to order other things you need in the house e.g. cat food, bubble bath, booze, etc.
7. Write the plan up neatly somewhere in the kitchen so that its visible to everyone.

Once you’ve done that for a few weeks, you can keep a list of your top 20-30 meals, so that it’s just a matter of selecting a meal. I keep a special notebook with a list inside it, it’s fun to try out new meals and decide if they’re allowed on the list of favourites or not!

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How, you may be asking, is any of this sexy? Well, my friends, I’ll tell you.

Having a fridge full of food and a savvy plan in place to create manageable, healthy and nutritious meals, is a recipe for success. All the benefits will get you glowing with health and wellness, and oozing calm and confidence.

Surely that’s the most potent cocktail for ‘sexy’ any day of the week?