Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Organised Home Challenge: Meal Planning

It's been a little while since I wrote my last 'organised home challenge' post- just over a year actually! The last one was just before I had Jack and there has not been much organised home stuff going on since then that's for sure. But with Jack now nearly 1 and my eldest starting school I am hoping to make my life a little more organised again. I was inspired to start some meal planning after reading this post on the blog Modern Parents Messy Kids.  I was also reading Annabel Langbein's cook book Free Range in the City and she mentions meal planning and having a weekly plan eg: chicken on tuesdays, slow cooker wed night etc which really appealed to me. The other reasons I want to get into meal planning are
  • we cook the same meals a lot and forget about all the other meals we can also cook
  • it was taking me ages to choose meals for the week when I did the grocery shopping
  • wanting to be more organised so we have all the ingredients we need for dinner and it is at least prepared during the day (if not cooked)
  • want to do more cooking of double meals so every 2nd week we don't have to do actually do a lot of cooking
  • trying new recipes
  • giving the kids a wide variety of meals so they get used to different ingredients and food from different places - I love the idea of having themed dinner nights eg: Mexican night-eat nacho's, listen to mexican music (thank you YouTube!), look on a map to see where Mexico is, have little flags, learn some Spanish words eg: please, thank you, make up a menu etc.
So first off I made a big list of all the meals we already cook or want to cook and sorted them into
Mince, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Fish, Pasta, Pizza, Eggs, Salads, Vegetarian and Soups. I used some of our recipe books, my recipe file and searched online for recipes too. 

Then I made up a blank table with a weekly plan (This might not work out every week but at least its a start!)
Mon- Lamb or Pasta
Tues- Mince
Wed- Chicken
Thurs- Beef or soup 
Fri- Fish, Pork or Sausages
Sat- try new recipe or cook a treat meal eg: steak
Sun- easy meal- eggs, soup etc
You can download my (very simple) blank weekly meal plan here- I've also got spaces for trying a new desert each week (really need to learn some more desert recipes as apple crumble is pretty much my only one!)  and baking for the week.

So I thought I'd share my list with you- you could copy and paste it and modify to suit your family if you want.  Some meals in my list have links to a recipe online and as I share/find more recipes I will link to them here. 
I found lots of recipes on the websites below plus a few more like Masterchef, other TV cooking shows and celebrity chef websites too like Jaime Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Annabel Langbein. 

  •  Crumbed or pan fried fish, french fries and peas or salad
  • Homemade Pizza’s
  • Bacon and egg pie
  • Breakfast dinner- eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, breakfast sausages
  • Omelette
  • Boiled/poached/scrambled eggs
  • Cheese, bacon and spaghetti pie
  • Eggie Surprise (poached egg on toast with spaghetti on top)
Easy kids meals
  • Picky-tea- boiled eggs, sausages, cheese, carrot and gherkin sticks, sausage rolls?
  • Sushi

The other thing I've finally done is set up a master list for my grocery shopping- I shop online with Countdown.  I was re-inventing the wheel every week adding the same stuff and the same amounts to my basket so now I can just add all of that straight away and then add any other extras we need plus the ingredients for dinners. Can't wait to see how much quicker it is next week having that done!
Have you been doing any organising lately or have any organising you want to do? Or do you have  a favourite dinner or desert recipe on your blog that you'd like to share? Or just some more ideas for meals or categogories?  Leave a comment and you'll be in to win this cute tea towel set :)
Thanks for reading and happy organising!


Lauren said...

Hi Megan, I've just started thinking about a meal plan and grocery list and have been looking into lots of freezer meals or freezer prepared meals for crockpot that can be brought out and thrown on. I'm having a baby in August so figured it would be a good way to go for those days I don't feel like preparing anything. Love your list and figure I'll use it to inspire something appropriate for me. Thanks

Notchka said...

I've been wondering about your organised home challenges. I have a list - a huge list, enough to keep me busy this year and next I think. I have started with a little de cluttering and reorganising with plastic tubs and wire baskets from the $2 shop and labelling everything with my P-touch. My recipes file is huge and unorganised, so I know what you mean about forgetting to try recipes. I shall download your planner and give that a go. Also - love the idea of theme nights!

Mrs Knight said...

loved this thankyou

Anonymous said...

I cant tell you what good timing this post is!!! I have started organising my home, slowly and as funds allow and have been thinking of meal planning for oh I dunno a month or more lol. I just wasnt really sure how I wanted to go about it, so this is a timely reminder to get my bootie into gear...especially seeing grocery shopping is this week :) Great post. I LOVE the idea of a themed dinner thats awesome. I was also thinking of having a night where the kids pick whats for dinner, maybe get them thinking about food and what tasts good with what.

Jane said...

Hi Megan - you know how you pull recipes out of mags or print them off thinking, I'll get around to that....evenutually....well I have them in a clear file (2 actually one for baking and one for mains) and each week try one of each. by adding it into the menu plan I'm changing it up a bit along with the tried and true. If it's a winner I write in my recipe journal...sometimes things get re named "Amelia's favourite pasta" or "Yeeha Casserole"....gives the kids ownership of our meals too!

Kimberley said...

Love this! Something I have been thinking about but I have bloody fussy eaters ( one WILLNOT eat dinner no matter what you dish up!) but it has given me lots of ideas of what to make and will sit down with said child and go thru books and get him helping/ cooking what he wants to eat. His solution is to cook himself an omlette every night of which I willnot help with at all! We have struggled with food for years and years for a child with aspergers too. HUGE HuGE battle! Now with another child I am beginning to hate food and all cooking! Your inspiration is great timing!

Cal said...

I do meal planning most weeks and I find it helps a lot. When I shopped online I would make a list of about 5 recipes, cull the ingredients and add them to that week's list, together with the basics. I found that way I could get away with weekly grocery buys instead of popping into the store every couple of days. It does streamline the cooking/buying food process. Now I do not shop online, we moved, but use market day to buy what we need for the week, and the same process of weekly meal planning. I like to try new recipes, and have fun selecting them for the week, as well as finding new favorite. We normally have a pork day, a beef day, a fish day and them vegetarian or vegetable based meals. A great tip is to cook according to the seasons, so I look up for seasonal recipes. Enjoy your planning!

Max said...

I read this with interest. we started meal planning at the beginning of the year, to save money and get out of an eating the same things all the time rut. Whilst we don't seem to be saving any money, our diet has improved heaps. I've found writing the new recipes I've enjoyed into a small alphabet card index really good for finding the recipes easily again, and we have a master list of meals we really like now, and we try something new at least twice a week. we plan around how busy we are rather than around a meat etc; ie wed are always full on so we get a meal in the slow cooker before we leave in the morning, mondays is always something new/complicated as we have the afternoon at home.

Unknown said...

I have done meal planning for a few years now, its a great way to budget for your meals I also found it great for stopping buying food I then didn't use, I use the free download menu planner from the simple savings site. I wish I could use online shopping but we are out of delivery zone, I used to make a rule that I would only go down isles I needed at the supermarket or try to stick to the outside four walls! I have just been reading about making up lots of meals for the crockpot and then freezing them all ready, anyone tried this? Great stuff.

Miriam said...

I'm a menu planner but lately I've been thinking I need to write down all my recipes again with the new ones I've added. I like to have it up somewhere I can see it when I write my shopping list. I think the thought of having a theme/guide for each night is great. You so often make the ordinary good idea into a great idea! I love that.

Unknown said...

This is awesome - I've been meaning to get into meal planning for a bit and this is just the kick up the butt I need. I'm going to 'pin' this so I can go back and see all your helpful links and ideas. Thanks so much! :)

Rebecca said...

Wow Megan you really are organised! I am impressed. I tend to cook the same things each week, but in the past year I have chosen to cook a recipe from a favourite cook book (I adore Jamie O, Anabel L and Donna H!). I have to admit when I was working full-time my master list at countdown was a real life saver! Have a great week cooking hon. Becks xxx

kiwirach said...

what a great post, i love that the photo of cookbooks feature kiwi cooks!!(cept jamie!).
I've been working on a monthly meal plan, and was using it for a while, and once i move next month, i intend to get back into it. it makes a huge difference planning in advance, cos sometimes i would come home, dont know what to cook and end up with a rubbish meal cos i cant be bothered!. i also look for meals that can freeze, so that like you, i have some meals already on hand and they only need to be heated up.
i also made a master shopping list that i print off, and cross out what i dont need and write in the extras for that month...i do one big monthly shop as well, and then only need to top up perisables during the month.
i'll be back after work to look at all your links....had forgotten about food in a minute!!.

Caitlin said...

Oh I just started a master list for groceries online - your post was great timing! I'm trying to meal plan and have scoured your list for ideas - thanks!!
I'm working on being organised, I find if I can get my veggies cut up in the morning while my kids are napping it makes the rest of the cooking later in the day go much smoother!

Penny Power said...

Hi Megan,

I'm Penny from Little Housewife on the North Shore in Auckland and I am your newest follower. I came across your blog this afternoon and saw your latest post on Menu Planning. I am a HUGE advocate on Meal Planning and wrote a similar post a few months ago http://www.thelittlehousewife.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/tips-tricks-meal-planning.html

You might enjoy some of the free printables I have linked on there which would look pretty on the fridge :)

I love your blog - I feel very at home here and can't believe how like minded some of our posts are :)

Hope to hear from you.

Penny xxx

Housewife said...

What a great read this blog is. What to feed the family is always on my mind, and lately I've been scouring school galas in our area with their White Elephant sections - amazing deals on fabulous cookbooks at just giveaway prices. I've gone "seasonal" this year, which I'm enjoying, but just one or two weeks in to Autumn this will fade. Love the theme idea. Thanks for all the links + hints.
Bon apetit!

Craftysquirrel said...

Really like the theme idea - might try this for Friday or sat nights. I get a bit stuck in a rut with meals, have made half hearted attempt at menu planning about a month ago but need new recipes- your post perfect timing.

Lily said...

Hi Megan, we are trying to cut as much meat and fish out of our diet as possible (for campassionate reasons) and so I am trying to build a repertoire of healthy tasty alternatives. I trawl books and the internet, print the recipes off and give them a test. If we like them, they get added to the 'repertoire' and if not they get binned! I also make big batches of food such as Indian dhals, lentil and bean chillis etc. and freeze them. Before I did this I used to spend too much time every day on cooking and it would impact our day disproportionately.
Good luck with the new plan! Lily. xxx

southseaislandhome said...

Hi Megan,
You might just have got me motivated to do this. I did weekly menus for years and years, and it's so great because it saves time and money and the stress of 'what are we going to have for dinner tonight?' But since we moved and with everything going on I'd gotten out of the habit of it, and I've been trying to get myself back into the swing of things.

Jodi said...

I have read so many blog posts lately about meal planning and shopping with awareness. Have you ever read the book "Frugavore"? - it offers fabulous tips on how to be frugal with your food - use it all, don't waste a slither. It's incredibly inspiring! x

Dee said...

you are a total sanity saver!! (categorising meal bases like that) thank you!!

Julie R said...

Thanks for sharing your very practical list! I find a lot of mental inspiration regarding meals on blogs, but not as many simple suggestions that are more up my alley!
Cheers from the British Virgin Islands

Hootnz said...

It's lovely to see another of these posts, they are always inspirational.... this is something that we started a couple of years ago... but the last few months I have let it slide. It really is a great way to keep things fresh in the kitchen aswell as keep to a budget :)

Saskia said...

Hey Megan! Thanks for this post. I will try incorporate some ideas into our meals..im sure my gingerman will appreciate it if Im more organized with his filling his tummy:)

Lesley said...

Always a good topic! I did lots of meal planning when my kids were very small. It was a life saver, for all the reasons you mention. On my weekly planner I would leave a night for leftovers - we do a "leftover medley" with all the bits heated up and served buffet-style on the table. I don't shop online as I have an enormous Pak n' Save nearby - but I did create a master grocery list - just a simple document with 3 columns and every conceivable item I would ever buy at the supermarket (and spaces to write in too) - I wrote the list in the order of Pak n' Save (yes, I have been so many times in the last 10 years that I know what's in every aisle). This meant less to-ing and fro-ing with the small fry in tow. I would just highlight the things I needed that week according to the meal plan. These days I don't use it all the time (out of the trenches with kids much older now) but it really laid a strong foundation for managing family food and cooking. My big challenge now is mixing it up with some new recipes more often!

lillabea said...

Megan!! You read my mind! I have been thinking of doing one, forever! I have printed out your meal ideas and have tacked them on our pin-board! I just Love your blog! x

Unknown said...

Great post! I've starting using the Pepper Plate app. You can use it for meal planning etc but the feature I love the best is that it creates a shopping list (editable) based on the recipes you have in your meal planner....game changer for me. Makes shopping (organises it all by sections) or even online shopping so easy. I'm so not tech savy but I love that I can use it on both my laptop (easy to type ingredient list for meals/ recipes) and phone.

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