Our schedules tend to get busier this time of the year and there are parties, holiday meals, and other food-related things to think about.
It can all get pretty overwhelming and have us turn to takeaways even more. There are several ways we can make meal planning simpler and more suited for the busy season.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is the simple act of planning and writing down any of your meals for the week (or month!) ahead of time. Plan for yourself or plan for your family. Plan to eat wholesome meals, and plan a night out or two.
Plan every snack and meal, or simply plan your lunches so you do not spend money on restaurant food during the week. Meal planning can provide numerous benefits for busy families.
By planning in advance, you can:
One of the biggest benefits of meal planning is that it can help you save money on groceries and avoid last-minute junk food or restaurant meals. By planning your meals in advance, you can avoid overbuying and reduce food waste.
You will also be less likely to make impulse buys when grocery shopping.
When you use a meal plan to create shopping lists, you have a plan to efficiently breeze through the grocery store – more on that in a minute. Meal planning also makes it easier to batch cook, which saves you time in the future.
Batch cooking means you cook extra food to have as leftovers or freeze for another meal – that is, cook once and eat twice. Soups, chilli, casseroles, and pasta sauces are easy recipes to double and, when stored correctly, hold up in the freezer for several months.
Once you have several weeks of meal planning accomplished, you can start reusing your meal plans to save even more time.
It encourages family participation
Meal planning can be a fun and creative activity for the whole family. Get the kids involved by asking them to help you pick out recipes or by letting them choose a meal for the week.
This not only helps to promote healthy eating habits, but can also encourage picky eaters to be more open to trying new foods.
Now that you are aware of the benefits of meal planning, here are some food planning tips that will make meals easier this festive season:
Buy some frozen nibbles, just in case
With the shops reducing their opening times, avoid having unexpected guests turn up during the “in-betweeners week” and not being able to offer them any nibbles.
Supermarkets often have some great packs that you can keep in the freezer and simply pop in the oven when needed.
I find sausage rolls, spring rolls and samoosas always go down a treat, so stock up.
Prepare as much food as you can ahead of time
Think like a chef and get all your ingredients washed, chopped, and ready to go. Some dishes may have the same ingredients and you can double up when prepping.
For root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes, you can chop them ahead of time and store them in cold water until you are ready to cook them.
Be friends with cookbooks
Cookbooks are a great way to get ready for the busy weeks ahead and will refresh your cooking with plenty of new ideas.
For every cookbook you try, you will find a few “keeper” recipes that can become part of your weekly meal plans.
So it is worth going through your old cookbooks, buying new ones, or borrowing from friends.
Remember portion control
Portion control will be your best friend throughout the festive season. Eat small snacks during the day, and have three medium meals instead of three extra-large ones.
This will improve your digestion and reduce the amount you are eating, both during mealtimes and overall.
If you are worried about portion control, you can use smaller plates or reduce the number of dishes you serve at each meal.
Share the load in the kitchen
Even if you enjoy cooking and do not mind spending time in the kitchen cooking up a treat, try to share the load so you can enjoy the holiday too.
If you have talented cooks in your midst, allocate chef duties to them one night or delegate small tasks to others to make things easier for yourself.
Cooking can be fun if everyone pitches in, and it is a great time to socialise with friends or bond with the kids as you create a delicious, healthy festive meal.