Developing a meal plan the whole family will love
Get the family on board when it comes to planning meals and you’ll be rewarded by healthier, happier, and hopefully, calmer family meal times.
Developing a family meal plan might seem like a daunting task, but like anything related to organisation, with time, not only will it become easier to pull together, but you’ll also wonder how you ever coped without it.
There are lots of ideas out there for how best to meal plan, however the most important underlying factor is to find a method that works for you and your family.
The benefits of meal planning
Not only does regular meal planning let you maximise time, save money and simplify your grocery shopping, it also helps you sit down and enjoy what should be an important and special part of the day – sharing a meal together as a family.
There is no shortage of research that demonstrates the positive links between family meals and the development of good eating habits in young children. Family meals times are an opportunity for parents to role model a range of positive behaviours, including good table manners, effective communication, and how to make healthy food choices.
Meal planning also helps you avoid those last minute fast food dinners and unhealthy snack options, giving you the opportunity to ensure your children are eating a well balanced diet.
Getting your kids involved in the planning and cooking process also helps set the habit of regular meal planning and seeking out new recipes, encouraging your family to try a wide variety of healthy meals.
Here, Monica Meldrum, founder of Whole Kids shares her top tips for successful family meal planning.
1. Commit to making a meal plan. Make the time to sit down each week and create the plan. Get the family involved as well. Ask which dishes or ingredients everyone would like to see on the menu, then discuss which commitments everyone has on for the week, so you can tailor your evening meals accordingly.
2. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Plan five or six meals at a time, go through your fridge and pantry to check what you need and create your shopping list based on that.
3. Focus on family favourites. We all have regular meals that our families love, so keep them in mind for when you need a simple dish to cook together. Create a regular dish for the week like ‘Pasta Mondays’ to help make planning and shopping easier.
4. Keep it simple. Don’t be afraid to have things like roast veggies or chicken and salad wraps on the list. The key is to be organised and think nutrition – not feasts with hard to find ingredients!
5. Include snacks and drinks on your meal plan. These are opportunities to ensure all the food groups are in your family’s diet. Planning snacks in advance also helps ensure that healthy options like organic popcorn, low-sugar fruit bars and wholegrain rice crackers are also included on the shopping list.
6. Don’t forget breakfast and lunch! Planning these meals is just as important as planning the evening meal. Variety can be easily achieved at breakfast time with cereals, eggs, fruit and yoghurt, and lunches can be made up of wraps, soups, corn fritters, frittatas, bruschetta, or home-made patties. The list goes on, so get creative!
7. Make a double batch of your favourite meals. One can be eaten straight away and the other can go in the freezer for those nights when a last minute option is needed.
8. You can reuse a meal plan. If you write them down on paper or prepare them on your computer, save the plan and shopping list of ingredients for another week. You could put your meal plans on a bi-monthly rotation or create a file and grab a new one each week, as you need it.
9. Keep the basics well stocked. There is nothing worse than getting ready to cook, then realising you are out of something. You will start to recognise the items you use all the time, whether it’s tinned tomatoes, olive oil or brown rice, so it’s always wise to keep your pantry essentials well stocked.
10. Stick with it. Just like starting a new hobby or going to the gym, you may start out enthusiastic and then find the commitment slowly fizzles out. Try getting the whole family involved to keep the enthusiasm going.
Brought to you by Whole Kids
Written by Monica Meldrum
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