Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Menu planning and shopping lists

Menu planning and the way that it works in our house changes each year depending on whether I am working and how much I am working (part time/full time etc). Because I am returning to work full time this year Tim and I sat down and worked out what changes needed to take place in our family for the coming year. After explaining my concerns (read: I had a meltdown) about continuing to do the washing/lunch boxes/cleaning as well as the daycare and school drop offs on top of working every day like he does - we came to an AMAZING compromise which I am hoping will work well. Tim has offered for us to alternate doing the groceries, lunch boxes and dinners weekly. (Yes, I know I'm very lucky!)

One week I will do the groceries, the lunch boxes and the weeks dinners and the next week Tim will do them. I can't tell you how excited I am about the weeks that I don't have to do lunch boxes or dinners. I try to do as much as possible around here myself (and I'm often guilty of taking too much on) but we work as a team in this house and I speak up when I feel I need help. The deal with the new arrangement was this - I did the groceries, lunch boxes and dinners the way I wanted to when it was my week and Tim gets to do the meals and lunches the way he wants to. The truth is we are very different when it comes to meal planning and meals.

I over think everything. I take forever to decide on what we will eat for the upcoming week, I then fill out my menu planner, do the online grocery list and then order the groceries to arrive early on a Saturday morning. I then spend 3 or 4 hours in the kitchen baking for the week ahead. Dinners are done in the slow cooker and I prepare them (according to my menu planner on the fridge) each morning before I leave for work. In summary, I'm pretty much a nutcase.

Tim does things very differently. No grocery list. No planner. He heads to the grocery store and decides on what he will purchase once he gets there. Meals consist of meat/fish and salads/veg. He doesn't get stressed about making meals and can whip amazing things up with no recipe at all. This man is super talented in the kitchen. From a young age his mum taught him how to cook and he has always surprised me with what he can make.

Our only compromise has been lunch boxes - I went to the shops on Saturday morning and found all the lunchbox snacks I would be happy for Tim to purchase (instead of make) for Cruz's lunchbox. I am particularly fussy about what the boys eat, which is why I normally make everything myself. I was surprised that I was able to find 6 or 7 snacks that I would be more than happy to include in Cruz's lunchbox (I'll share more about them in a future post) and Tim will purchase these on the weeks he is doing lunches.

Anyway - here is how I will be menu planning on the weeks I am responsible for meals.

Breakfast: You can find a week of breakfast ideas here. During the school term we try and keep it fairly simple. Homemade gluten free bread (which we toast) and vege spread is the winner at the moment. Porridge is also nice and easy for us because the Thermomix can make it while we are getting ready in the morning. Smoothies are great too!

Lunch boxes: I try and include one main (ie gluten free sausage rolls/ mini pizza/ quiche etc) with 2 fruits, 2 veg (carrot sticks or the like), a savoury muffin, slice and something extra like banana bread. Everything is made and prepped on a Saturday and then I make another batch mid week.

Everyone in our family has the same food packed for lunch. We stick to one menu for the week and then change it the following week. This saves us wastage and I'm able to predict how much we need to purchase and make for the week ahead. We normally don't revert back to the goodies included in lunches for about 4 weeks so that no one gets sick of having the same food over and over.

Dinner: Slow cooker meals are a life saver while I am full time. You can read more about how we do dinner in the slow cooker here.

Once I have decided what we will eating for the week I put the menu plan onto the fridge and then follow it during the week. I purchase groceries specifically for the week's meals and find that we don't have as much wastage. I also love that I don't have to think about what we are eating each night because it is pre-planned.

I have four weeks worth of meal plans in a folder with recipes ready to go. On busy weeks I choose one of the existing meal plans and run with it. Doing this means that I don't have to think of new meals for the week ahead and I know that all meals on the plan are tried and tested. I have also saved the ingredients needed for those 4 weeks worth of meal plans as individual week's shopping lists on Woolworths online shopping. It takes me 5 minutes to choose the week I want and order that weeks worth of groceries. So quick and easy! I'm hoping to add more meal plans to this system as the year goes on (and I'll share more about this down the track).


  1. I have been intending to search out some meal planning articles this week, and then your post appeared in my FB newsfeed like magic! Very inspiring, thank you - I now feel motivated to sort mine out :)

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