With a new baby coming (about a month, depending on when he/she decides to arrive!), I need to get a bit more organised, and meal planning was one of the first things I needed to tackle.
For far too long, I was in the habit of staring into the fridge or cupboards at 4pm, panicking about what to make. It was very stressful for me, and a bit monotonous because all I could think of were pasta-based dishes!
We aren't strict vegetarians, but I prefer to cook without meat most days. This requires a bit more planning, I find, because most of our protein in the form of beans is all dried -- as in, you need to soak it the night before and boil for an hour at least.
But recently, I got myself organised and created a 4-week meal plan. Each week has seven recipes, and a shopping list with every ingredient in each recipe. I photocopied the shopping list, so all I have to do each week is highlight what we actually need from the list, add the other stuff (like breakfast and lunch foods, snacks, etc) and away we go.
We are currently in the middle of Week Three and things are going really, really well. I am so much calmer at dinner time, and am enjoying the novelty of actually having all my necessary ingredients on hand and ready to be used! Since I always have the recipe in front of me, I can plan ahead better and prepare food earlier in the day if I need to.
I'm sure many, many people already do something like this, but for me it has been a revolutionary way of handling meals. I've only been a stay at home mother for 10 years now, you'd think I would have had a handle on this sooner! I am a slow learner at times.
Another aspect about this rotation system that I like is that we have 28 days in a row (in theory) without any repeated meals. This means that the stuff they LOVE takes on an almost epic quality and they genuinely look forward to eating it, and the stuff they really don't like much at all is choked down a bit better because they know they won't have to see it again for a long while. We are eating the same meals only 13 times a year, which is reasonable. It's better than spaghetti twice a week (or more!), like before I started doing this meal plan....
So! I've decided to share all my efforts with you all and post the recipes and shopping list on my blog. Hopefully I've taken a bit of leg work out of this meal planning malarkey for you and it helps to kick-start you into meal planning if you don't do it.
I have to admit, reading about this kind of thing on other people's blogs (or talking to people about it face-to-face, which occasionally happens, too!) can sometimes overwhelm me. They make it seem so easy and simple, when it's actually a massive amount of work behind the scenes. This meal plan took me several weeks to write up, and I researched for recipes online, at the library, and scoured my own shelves for inspiration.
Unfortunately, some of the recipes are a bit sparse (no quantities given, assumption of basic cooking skills needed), and I don't have references to where I found them. None of them were devised by me; I'm just using this opportunity to share with anyone who needs them!
Week One starts on Monday!