Truly… meal planning has changed my life. I know I am late to the party because so many of you already do this, but if you don’t then today hopefully I’ll inspire you to get cracking on that task! I always found meal times tedious, stressful and I actually HATE to cook. It’s just not my thing. I’d rather clean toilets. 😉
I am lucky because my husband does like to cook. He’s much better at it than me… I’d be happy to eat (and cook) the same thing every day and never tire of it. Variety in food has never worried me. BUT he likes to eat decent food, and we have 3 boys, so cooking large amounts of food every night is necessary for survival haha! As the years have gone on, he’s stepped up and started helping with meal times. It wasn’t always like this – it used to be just my task! But sometimes he’s home before I am (because of kids sport) so we’ve started meal planning and he can start the dinner before I’m home. The biggest benefit of meal planning is that everyone in the house knows what’s for dinner and someone can start it if they’re home.
Anyway, let me share a couple of things I do to make dinner times easier…
1. Pick a shopping day
For us, this is a Sunday morning. My husband does come with me. He didn’t always! He’s just started coming along because when I was unwell I needed a hand. It seems to have stuck and it works so well. We can get in and out of there in about 20 minutes! We do the big shop every Sunday and then I do head back to the supermarket once during the week for a top up.
2. Plan your meals
We plan for at least 5 meals we can make that week. The 6th night will usually be leftovers, and the 7th night will be eggs, toast, cereal, sausage sandwiches or whatever you want from what we might have in the freezer (the 6th and 7th night isn’t a Saturday and Sunday – it’s any night we feel like depending on how busy we are). We don’t eat takeaway. Like hardly ever. Maybe twice a year. We just don’t love takeaway and it’s such a waste of money.
3. Slow cooker meals are the best
If you don’t own a slow cooker then get yourself one pronto! Kmart have them for $20 (which I have). More on slow cooker meals later on…
4. Only buy what you will eat that week
Do not buy 4 tins of tomato soup or corn or whatever if it’s not going in to your meals this week. I try not to waste any food at all. I don’t buy back-up food. I only buy what we need and what we will eat in that 7 days. Always check your fridge or cupboard before you head to the shops and use what you have instead of buying another something just in case.
5. You will save money
Like above, only buy what you will eat and I promise you will save money. If you break it down, a meal to feed a family of 5 can cost say $25? Cheaper some nights. And if you’re cooking 5 meals a week, 6 being a leftover night and 7 being a whatever night, you will be guaranteed to spend less each week!
What do I actually spend at the supermarket each week?
This is who lives in my house – we’re a family of 5. My husband and I and 3 boys. 2 are teenagers and 1 is turning 12. They play a lot of sport, they eat a lot, but I don’t let them eat willy nilly. They eat what we have.
I spend roughly $220 each Sunday at ALDI. That’s my BIG shop. I have been doing this Sunday shop for over a year now and because I stick to a similar food plan I know I can spend anywhere from $190-$230 there each week. And that is a FULL trolley too.
I will then spend roughly $50-80 again in a mid-week top up. That will be for additional fruit, snacks, bread, coffee, milk. This will be at Woolies or Coles (because there are some things you just can’t get at ALDI).
Total = $300 absolute max each week. No more than this! That might be excessive to some people, but for us this is the best I can do, and I’m comfortable with that amount for our family. That includes dog food, cleaning and laundry products (not to mention the deodorants my boys love….ALDI is the best for this!).
So, what do we eat?
Here are the 5 go-to meals and some variations on that. I write in my phone before we head to the supermarket which dishes we’re having and specifically only buy those ingredients. I always check my fridge/freezer too to see if we already have enough veggies or whatever we need to eat first. We don’t eat huge amounts of steak or expensive meat. We’ve found that the boys will complain about it being too tough, tastes funny, or someone doesn’t like it. So we don’t buy it anymore. Maybe occasionally just for my hubby (because I don’t eat huge amounts of red meat).
1. Slow cooker
Life saver. We always have left overs (for our left over night!). We do use packet stuff for flavour. We aren’t “clean eaters”, we just eat a balanced diet and we are ok with that. Each dish has veggies and rice.
- Satay chicken
- Farmhouse chicken
- Beef stroganoff
- Curried chicken
- Curried sausages
- Fruity lamb curry (using this)
2. Mince dish
Again, this could also give us more leftovers.
- Spag bol
- Meatballs (these are my fave!)
3. Roast something
Usually pork because it’s cheaper. Lamb when it’s on special. This is a weekend thing. My husband does it on a weber with veggies. Usually we have leftovers for lunch.
4. Chicken breast
A variation of a chicken breast with veggies or salad. Sometimes crumbed, sometimes chopped up and warm thrown in a salad. Sometimes we stuff it with cheese and broccoli. There are thousands of recipes online for using chicken breasts! ALDI sell them quite cheap. Like $9 for a tray which feeds my whole family. Or sometimes we do chicken wings/drumettes instead of breasts. Fish sometimes gets swapped in to here.
5. Wraps or pizza
- My boys love Lebanese wraps. I buy what I call “chicken on a stick” (kebabs) and a big marinated steak. Cook and chop it all up and use in wraps with salad.
- Pizza – we buy a base and make our own. Or sometimes we buy these and add a few extras on top. No one likes takeaway pizza anyway, and it’s much cheaper to make your own! We always have left over for lunch the next day too.
There you go! We organise 5 meals out of that each week. Our left over night (or nothing much night) is generally during the week because we’re too busy to cook properly. Weekends we always have the roast/slow cooker because we have more time.
What do my boys eat for snacks?
I really HATE snack times. I can’t stand constant grazing. I am always yelling “eat everything you need right now and then stop!” But they are boys and growing so they love their food. Afternoon tea is THE WORST time of the day. They don’t take enough to school because they are too busy, so when they get home they like to destroy the kitchen. Here’s a list of things I do buy as a part of my weekly grocery shop…
- Fruit, fruit and more fruit. They can graze on these as much as they like. Always have huge amounts of apples, oranges and bananas.
- Yoghurt in a big tubs.
- Frozen fruit packets (like mixed berries) because they often blend smoothies with the yoghurt.
- Milo (big tin!).
- Cereal (we have boxes of it). I love cereal myself as a snack – always have!
- Cheese and bacon rolls, muffins, raisin toast or any bakery product.
- Tin spaghetti, 2 min noodles, cup of soup.
- Popcorn (so much popcorn!)
It may sound like a lot of work, but it isn’t when you get in to the routine. I am no expert at this and what works for me might not work for you! I just think if you do a little food planning for the week you’ll eliminate stress, and save money. That’s called winning! I also think that food has to be a shared responsibility. Everyone eats more than me, so why should it only be my job to gather and prepare the food? Uh uh, no way. Everyone can help with this job in my house 😉
I’d love to know what works for you? What are your meal planning tips? What do your kids eat?
*nothing in this post is sponsored.