Having three little ones under four is hard work (I am not going to lie), however I find that when I am disorganised it seems so much harder, my patience is much thinner and I find that I subsequently feel out of control (and I am POSITIVE that the girls feed off that stress). I have noticed that on days when I get all of the essentials out of the way, I am much calmer and the days seem to be more "doable" and B doesn't get the "I'm having an ass of a day" phone call. I was having a laugh today with the girls at PG (Playgroup) about how much of a perfectionist I am and my meal plans etc and I thought that it was the perfect kick off to me "honing" my blog.
For me, as I am sure it is for all of you, feeding the little ones and yourself is really important. I have to be honest I am not the most inventive lunch maker (we are going to work on that)... But one thing that I do have sorted nearly everyday is the dinner. I don't know about you, but to organise dinner any later than 3pm is a nightmare... Miss 3.5 wants snacks all afternoon and bosses her sister around when she is hungry (she's a crank like her mother), Miss 1.75 gets around my feet and becomes needy, she wants cuddles and she grizzles (she does try to play with cranky but that always ends in tears). Master 10wks really is a good baby overall but certainly after 4.30pm is his whinging time.
I have found that I can be as organised as I want of a day but if I haven't planned the meal, got all the ingredients and written it down somewhere, it still turns into chaos. So, to avoid this I meal plan. Now I have seen some pretty impressive meal plans (ie for the month) but I like to stick to my one (and if I am good) two weeks meal plans. This means two things... 1. I can organise my grocery list early and 2. When I am doing my shopping I can buy "specials" because I know that it will get used.
B gets paid on a Thursday but I run my meal plans generally from a Sunday to a Sunday. The reason that I do this is because on a Sunday, I plan a big cook up for the week based on my meal plan (because B is around to help with little people). I can cook food in advance (sometimes in double batches) and freeze the meals.
Once I have decided on the meals I write my list (and decide what I CAN do in double batches to freeze) and I write my grocery list. I want to add here that I LOVE pottering around a supermarket and shopping for food BUT I HATE it with three little ones. Even just with Miss 3.5 and Miss 1.75, I found it really stressful when they threw tantrums for food or the iPad (yes, the used to sit in the trolley with the iPad, watching Peppa Pig). People weren't very understanding about children and were very quick to judge and I found that I was taking it personally. Ok sidetracking!!!! At the moment because of child logistics I have been having my groceries delivered. IT IS FABULOUS! All I do is find the groceries I want, click quantity, check list at end, click which products I am happy for them to substitute (if they need to), select what time I would like the groceries delivered and pay. I can see the merit of such a service for mummies like me and I can also see that for some people (ie working households) having a personal shopper would take the stress out of meals. I have to say though that once my little ones are old enough for me to brave the supermarkets again I will be there armed with my shopping list, (the iPad) and the trolley. :-)
So after all that, how do you effectively meal plan?
Create a meal plan that works for you. Print one of the internet, create one of your own. Make lots of copies of one or laminate and use whiteboard marker on one. Use your diary. For me, I have a calendar on my pantry door and write my list on that. Make sure that whichever way you choose to write your meal plan that you have it in a prominent place (or somewhere you can easily be reminded).
When writing your meal plan think about what you and your family are doing through the week. Do you have a party or BBQ? Will you be out all day? I find that because Sunday is my cook up day! to minimise chaos for me I am best to have a Slow Cooker meal that day which frees up my oven and stove for all my cooking :-)
Quickly check your pantry, fridge and freezer and see if you have anything in it that needs to be used up. That is a great way to reduce any food wastage.
Also check your supermarket of choice or butcher of choice for specials. This can help reduce your bill and sometimes buying whilst on special means that you can cook in bulk (planning ahead).
List your meals on your planner and from that write a grocery list. I find that if you go in with a grocery list you are less likely to impulse buy. This means not only are you creating healthy meals but you are reducing your expenditure and food wastage.
Some of you might feel that meal planning is a waste of time but I can honestly say that it is actually the complete opposite. Obviously I am time poor and being able to spend an hour planning and shopping reduces the hours I used to spend thinking about meals, getting everyone into and out of the car, wandering around the shop and coming home to prepare. Plus best of all... It saves my temper and sanity.
There are some fabulous meal planners out there and some brilliant blogs about it. My next goal is to plan lunches and snacks as well (wish me luck).
Take a look at some of the lovely ideas below that help to get Meal Planning down to a fine art :-)
PHOTO CREDIT: Re-made Just Right
PHOTO CREDIT: Everyday Enchanting
PHOTO CREDIT: Etsy