Are you a busy mum? Do you have 101 things going on at once? Do you feel like some days you run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off yet feel like you haven’t actually achieved anything, let alone put a healthy, nutritious meal on the table? And any thoughts of background jazz and candlelight are well beyond reach.

You’re not alone. The modern day Australian family is busy and although most people agree that housework and food preparation should be shared between the sexes the truth is that the majority of the work conducted around the home, with the kids and in the kitchen is still done by women. And with more mums entering the workforce after having children, plus still ensuring that the household stays together in one piece, we can find putting a wholesome, nutritious, good tasting meal that the kids will eat and the husband enjoys somewhat of a challenge.

If you value family meal times and like the idea of regularly serving up healthy meals then please read on. Meal planning really does save the day!

When I’m helping clients with weight loss, managing allergies, intolerances or other nutritional issues, teaching them how to create a practical, detailed meal plan that encompasses the whole family is one of the first things I cover. Good organisation is the key to successfully and consistently eating healthy food.

You can download a free meal planner template from my website and if you’d like specific help, I offer a meal planning service where I help you plan your meals, write out your shopping list and reduce you’re shopping budget, all online!

Meal planning helps to minimise stress

Did you know that over 55% of evening meals in Australia are planned on the day they are to be served? Is this you? Do you only think about what you’re going to whip up for dinner at 4pm, only to find you don’t have any of the ingredients or the vegetables you bought a couple of days ago are now wilted…

A meal planner, stuck on your fridge or pantry with each of the meals outlined for each day of the week means that you no longer need to wonder “what am I going to make for dinner”. You’ve already done the thinking and know in advance. And because you’ve written your shopping list from your meal plan you have the right ingredients available No more popping out to the shops to collect more ingredients. No more overspending because you buy everything on a whim at the supermarket. No more ‘chef’s block’ at 4pm because you have no idea what you can cook the family to eat. It’s all been organised and planned and all you have to do is cook and serve.

Meal planning helps you serve healthier meals

The times when my family get’s takeaway or some sort of convenience food are the times when I’m disorganised and there’s no planner on the fridge telling me what to do. After a long day chasing after toddlers, picking up toys, blogging, picking up toys, running, picking up toys, doing the washing, picking up toys, seeing clients, picking up toys… (you get the picture) – I’m usually too exhausted to think up something flashy and get it on the table. A meal plan gives me the tools I need to serve healthy meals to my family every night no matter how busy I am. Each of the meals that I plan have had plenty of thought to ensure they’re healthy and nutritious, the ingredients are ready and waiting for me and dinner is ready in no time at all.

Did you know it actually takes longer to get in the car, drive to a fast food outlet, order and pay for your food and bring it home to eat? You could steam some vegetables and grill some lean fish fillets in less than 15 minutes! But this is only possible if you’ve planned to have this ready and bought the ingredients in advance.

Meal planning helps you stick to a budget

Meal planning saves me so much money, it really does. When I create my meal plan I always check my fridge and pantry for leftover ingredients particularly fresh produce and dairy to ensure that it’s eaten before it’s use-by-date and nothing goes to waste. Then I will either double or triple recipes and make it last over 2 or 3 dinners and/or lunches so I only have to buy 2 or 3 sets of ingredients rather than make a completely different meal every single night. If I make something that has an expensive core ingredient, such as a bunch of fresh coriander, I make sure that I use the whole bunch of coriander that week by picking other recipes that use coriander as well. That way it all get’s used up and I don’t spend $3 on coriander just for one meal.

A meal plan also helps you write a comprehensive shopping list and if you estimate correctly you should only have to go to the supermarket once a week. The more visits you make to the supermarket the more money you will spend. Supermarkets are set up in such a way to make you buy more stuff when you’re in there. Without a list you’ll fall victim to the advertisement, marketing and promotions. Bread, milk and other staple items are kept at the back of the shop so you have to walk through confectionary, promotion stalls and advertisement to get there, in the hope that you’ll spend more money. Supermarkets make a bigger profit on processed and packaged food than they do on fresh food such as dairy, bread, fruit and vegetables. Only buy what you need and see how much you save!

Meal planning takes a little time but it’s worth the investment.

Writing a comprehensive, detailed meal plan that successfully feeds your family and helps you shop smart on a budget doesn’t take 5 minutes to create and I rarely get it done in half an hour. Organisation does take a fair amount of time in planning and preparation but during the week when you’re really busy playing the role of taxi driver, hair stylist, cleaner and chef it’ll repay you in dividends of time when it counts the most. So set aside a good hour on the weekends to go through some recipe books, have a good rummage through your pantry and fridge and write out a meal plan and shopping list that will empower you to put healthy, nutritious meals in front of your family every night of the week, even amongst the chaos. The good news is, the more you do it, the faster it becomes, the less stressed you’ll feel and the more money you’ll save each week!

Do you have any tips for meal planning that work a treat?

This article written exclusively for Mouths of Mums by Kate Freeman from www.katefreemannutrition.com.au

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • Would not be without a menu plan its is a life saver in this house

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  • I plan to plan but sometimes unfort that’s as far as it goes :)

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  • We find meal planning helps a lot in reducing the cost of a weekly shop and making sure I have all the ingredients for the week.

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  • It is a lifesaver. Plan your weekly menu, buy what you need, no waste of money at the supermarket and no waste of food at home

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  • I have a blackboard in my pantry that outlines the week’s meals. That way, everyone is clear on what to expect. Works well for us!

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  • Sitting down and planning the meals for the week allows me to save time, money and be more organised which in turn reduces my stress

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  • I love meal planning for the week – helps me also keep my pantry, fridge and freezer up to date – knowing what i can use

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  • Meal planning is the best! Saves time and money

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  • I’ve never made the time to meal plan but a few weeks ago my colleague was telling me that she meal plans and she went into more detail about it and it just clicked with me that it would be a great way to reduce waste because you’re only buying ingredients that you know you’re going to use that week and obviously that reduces your costs too. The big winner for me is that I may be working an extra day a week soon, taking it to 4 full days and being organised with meals would be a huge help and alleviate a lot of stress and give me time with my family. Thanks for a great article!

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  • great article thanks for sharing

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  • it can really work but I find that also having some ready meals in the freezer is a good help too. when i cook a favourite I usually make double so that I can freeze it as ready meals for the days when we don’t fell like what has been planned.

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  • Great info, I need to start doing this

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  • I always say I’m going to plan but, never do!

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  • I agree with all your points, it is amazing how much you can save when you know exactly what to buy, and not just buy random items and try and make meals from there

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  • I like to plan sometimes the day before for dinner the next night

    Reply

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