FOOD

Tuesday Tips: Meal planning

meal planning Bethie

Esther and I were talking the other day about dinnertime and how neither of us are very good at planning the week’s meals out in advance. Esther has always impressed me with her spur-of-the-moment, find-something-in-the-cupboards type of cooking, which she’s very good at doing. I thankfully have a husband who is good at that, which means that as a result I’ve become a bit lazy about planning and shopping for meals in advance. The problem in our house is that we end up returning to the same trusty meals we’ve made over and over again and we rarely try new recipes or get very creative in the kitchen. It can be so easy to get stuck in a cooking rut, and I’m definitely guilty of it.

Esther has already shared a Tuesday Tips post about encouraging kids to eat healthily and how important it is to introduce new foods so children grow to be adventurous eaters, so we thought it might be good to share some tips for how to cook adventurously and how to plan ahead so you avoid the cooking rut.

We decided to ask our ShopUp event manager, Bethie, to share some tips. Bethie is one of the most organised meal planners and mama cooks we know, and I’m excited to share her tips with you:

Bethie in the Kitchen

charlotte in kitchen

I try to make meal planning as easy as possible. For me, this means using my smart phone to help me plan and organise. There are three apps I use to help me prepare our nightly meals: Pinterest, iPhone “notes” and my grocery app. I use Pinterest to inspire me to try new recipes (though flipping through favourite cookbooks also works!), my iPhone “notes” to make a list of dinners for the week (with links to online recipes), and my grocery app to make sure I have all the groceries I need for the week in advance (I prefer using my local green grocer for fresh produce).

When I browse Pinterest during the week I keep an eye out for easy, weeknight meals. Pictures can be deceiving, so I always read the recipe to make sure there isn’t anything too involved. If I find something that looks yummy, relatively healthy, and easy to make (or easy to adapt), I’ll pin it to my weeknight dinner board. Then, once I try and like a recipe, I pin it to my “Recipes I Love” board so I can find it again easily! I also follow some fun and inspirational Instagram accounts such as @smittenkitchen, @sproutedkitchen, @hostthetoast, and @biddiekitchen (a new favourite!). These also serve as great inspiration to help me add new recipes into the mix.

Once a week, usually on Saturday, my daughter (Charlotte) and I sit down to meal plan together. We start by looking at the calendar. What does our week look like? Are there any nights where we won’t be in for dinner? Will we have guests? Any nights where we need a really quick meal? From there I go to my “notes” app where I have an ongoing list of our weeknight meals. (I started this a few years ago and now have a big list to browse if I’m stuck for ideas!) Depending on what our week looks like, I choose a few meals to cook from scratch and a few quick meals. Charlotte likes to help me choose meals which is helpful to make her feel a part of the process. She is less likely to complain at mealtimes this way! I try to choose things she can help with, and any given week could look like this:

Monday: sweet potato and kale quinoa fritters
Tuesday: pre-made falafel with hummus, spinach and pita
Wednesday: one pot salmon pasta
Thursday: lentil soup (we like to add spinach to this so it is a one-pot meal)
Friday: homemade pizzas (we purchase the dough)

Tuesday’s pre-made falafel and Friday’s pizza are the quick meals for the week. They can be prepped and cooked in under 30 minutes. The other three meals are also prepped in under 20 minutes or so, but take additional time to cook.

On a side note, we aren’t vegetarians, but we eat primarily vegetarian meals during the week. Vegetarian meals often cost less and take less time to cook which is helpful. I also like that my kids can help with the meal prep more with vegetarian meals (mashing potatoes, adding ingredients, stirring, etc.) where I would worry about helping as much when raw meat is involved.

Once I have a plan for the week, I order everything from my grocery app to arrive Sunday evening. (We don’t have a car, so ordering online is much easier for us!) This way I have no excuses when dinnertime rolls around. We also receive a weekly seasonal box of veggies from Abel & Cole, and this inspires me to try to plan meals around what foods are in season (and be more creative with foods I might not buy otherwise).

There you have it! This is what works for me and my family, but I would love to hear what works for you! Please share your favourite weeknight meals or meal planning tips below or share them on Instagram with the hashtag #babyccinomeals.

(All photos above are from Bethie’s Instagram feed. Thank you, Bethie, for sharing with us!) 


SHARE

Comments (29)

Emilie in Paris
August 25, 2015

NO JOKE! You are sooo organized, Bethie!! I am so the opposite, I normally pick random things up at the grocery store on the way back from work…


August 25, 2015

Ha, Emily! I’m so impressed that you can do that! We would end up eating the same thing every week if I didn’t plan ahead!


Esther in Amsterdam
August 26, 2015

I also am such a last-minute style cook. I look in my fridge and come up with something! I really think it has to do with what sort of cook you are. I love your ideas though! Will try! 🙂 xxx


Michelle
August 25, 2015

Yes, meal planning is brilliant. When I have planned my weeks meal in advance I find dinnert prep less stressful and there is less waste because I have already planned to incorporate leftovers into the next nights meal. Also, I don’t end up over spending on fruit and veg that doesn’t get used. However, having said all that, I always end up falling off the meal plan wagon and reverting back to my old, disorganised ways!!


August 25, 2015

We used to have a cookbook that outlined weekly meals where you use leftovers from one meal to make dinner for the next. It was brilliant! I don’t manage to do too much of that week to week (it takes too much thought! Ha!), but we still manage to waste very little.
I hope you’re back on the wagon again soon! xx


Sam Patrick
August 25, 2015

Hey,
These Tuesday Tips posts have been a lifesaver on more than one occasion! Thank you for sharing the advice!

Check out the Pepperplate app as well. It’s a useful place to store, plan and organise all in one place.
x


August 25, 2015

Thanks for the tip! I’ve not heard of that, but I’ll check it out! xx


Susan M.
August 25, 2015

Could you please share the one-pot salmon pasta recipe? Sounds wonderful!


August 25, 2015

It is a fun easy recipe and is so so delicious! Esther made it recently as well and can also vouch for it!

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/58406126393490214/


Emilie in Paris
August 25, 2015

I am currently obsessed with one pot pastas. If you have any other links that would be top!


Kcb
August 25, 2015

great post, thank you! on the one pot pasta wonders: http://www.readingmytealeaves.com/2015/08/one-pot-pasta.html


August 25, 2015

This is the only one I have tried recently, but apparently there are loads of one pot recipes on Pinterest! I’ll try adding some more into my meal planning and will let you know which ones are keepers! xx


Allison
August 25, 2015

I’m a big fan of meal rituals. We always make pizza Friday night (pre-made crusts) and just change up the toppings. I love knowing what’s for dinner on Friday. I’d probably get bored if we had the same things for each day, but doing so a couple times a week is fun. I often do baked fish and roast veggies one night and toss the leftovers with pasta the next night. Leftovers are the best for interesting pasta salads.


August 25, 2015

Using leftovers in pasta is a great idea! My brother has chickens and will add any type of leftovers to his eggs in the morning!


SHOW ALL COMMENTS
August 26, 2015

This post on Cup of Jo really inspired me to try something similar:

http://cupofjo.com/2015/03/motherhood-mondays-a-twist-on-family-dinners/

So now I usually try this every week: soup night, pizza night, pasta night, vegetarian night, and a stir fry night. Given those basic parameters, there’s enough structure to keep things easy week to week – with lots of wiggle room to try new variations! Breakfast for dinner on Sunday nights is fav too.

I’m going to try one of those one pot pasta recipes – looks great!


August 27, 2015

So clever! We often get into a regular schedule for Fridays. We often do pizza or fish and chips. During Lent we do creamed tuna over toast which sounds horrible, but really isn’t too bad. We still look forward to it because it is part of our family tradition!


August 26, 2015

What a great post, thank you for sharing Bethie. In our house we follow a loose weekly menu and I’ve found this the least stressful way to go about dinner prep. For the most part we alternate meat and vegetarian days. So if we have chicken on Monday, Tuesday will be something vegetarian (normally pasta, an egg dish, vegetable soup, beans), and so on. The good thing about this is that it’s flexible enough to allow for seasonal stuff or stuff that caught my eye at the market to work its way into the rotation.


August 27, 2015

Even just a loose plan makes it much easier, doesn’t it?


Anna
August 27, 2015

Thank you so much for sharing those super helpful and doable tips. We actually plan a lot like you in advance and the structure has worked well for us. Has someone tried the EVERNOTE FOOD app yet? It could be a great alternative to Pinterest… Also Bethie – Your Monday recipe “” sounds like something we would cook. Could you share the link for the recipe? Thanks so much


August 27, 2015

I’ve heard of that app, but haven’t tried it yet! I’ll take a look at it. The link for the quinoa patties is now active above. We LOVE this recipe! My daughter often requests it specifically. I particularly love it because you can throw anything into the mix! Veggies, fresh herbs, kale, spinach, any variety of cheese, olives, etc., and it will all taste good! xx


August 31, 2015

I found this really interesting Bethie thank you. I think Abel and Cole’s kids box sounds lovely. I’m not amazingly organised and am rubbish at using the freezer but with a baby and a preschooler I try to always have one or two meals that just need heating, which i usually make one morning (or evening if mega organised) a week. Usually this means a pot of soup (at the mo mainly cream if tomato or courgette and pea soup) so that’s good to go with a cheese toastie. Then always have a jar of homemade tomato sauce for pasta or with rice, roast red peppers (sometimes from a jar) and a fried egg, my daughters fave 10 min meal, and then something salady good to go in the fridge (puy lentils or roast butternut squash or staple roast veg – roast a tray once a week, lovely with cous cous, hot or cold). Frittatas or soups and stir fries are good ways of using up leftovers. Right now both my kids both love stir fried noodles with any combo protein/veg cooked with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, orange juice, ginger/garlic (the baby is sooo messy, he has a mix of more purée style meals and feeding himself!! Argh I should just feed him in the bath!)

I’m a bit obsessed with trying to make sure my kids have good meat and fish a couple times a week, with protein from eggs or cheese or pulses the other days and we do pretty much have pasta every day ha! Big pasta fans here. And avocado fans!

Then we usually bake a treat together once a week. Often the smitten kitchen brownies I found out about from babyccino (thanks!… I think!!!! Eat too many of these!!!), or a crumble, or recently the most amazing lemon/almond rainbow cake!!! Recipe was by France’s Quinn in the Sunday Times!! Highly recommend with kids, the rainbow is made with fruit and no nasty colourings or additives and its delicious!

Sorry for my lengthy comment, I could go on and on about food. I’d love to hear more about what each of your weekly meal staples are, breakfast lunch and dinner. Or a typical day or week. It’s so fascinating hearing different families meals, especially in different countries. In Spain where I’m from breakfast is like a non meal and lunch super important, in England it’s almost the opposite! Finally I really like your YouTube videos! I hope there are many more on the way! Thanks again for this post.


Bethie Hungerford
October 5, 2015

Thanks for all of this, Phillipa! I also find food to be quite fascinating. Perhaps my most favourite part of traveling is getting to try new foods and learn about different meal traditions around the world! I also think a post about weekly staples would be fun!


Linda reece
September 20, 2015

And for lunch? I live in a country where lunch is very important and a sandwich will not suffice xx


Linda reece
September 20, 2015

Sorry message cut off before I sent, I meant to ask do you also cook lunch or do they eat at school etc….my problem is that I have to cook two full meals per day so run out of ideas quickly. I live in Barcelona, Spain x


Bethie Hungerford
October 5, 2015

My daughter is fed lunch at school, and my son generally eats leftovers at home, so dinner is generally the only meal I cook in a given day. I don’t think I could manage two from-scratch meals a day! I wouldn’t get anything else done! Haha!


Heather
October 5, 2015

Thanks Bethie!

We are vegetarians and trying our hand at meal planning these days as well. One website we have found helpful is ohmyveggies.com. They provide meal plans each week for five days, along with a grocery list, so it can be a nice option if some week you have less time to search for recipes:

http://ohmyveggies.com/category/meal-plans/

All the best,
Heather


Bethie Hungerford
October 5, 2015

Thanks for the tip, Heather! I’ll check that out! x


October 23, 2015

[…] have to say Bethie’s post a few weeks ago did inspire me! I am not at all the kind of person that plans ahead, it just does […]


October 23, 2015

I like your approach towards meal planning and zero food waste! Being mobile means you bring everything you need with you and thus you can always check and change things! I think I’m going mobile as well!


Leave a Comment