This post is sponsored by Coles
From next week I will be continuing to publish my weekly meal plans. This is where I share with you what our family eats for dinner for the week, plus what I have baked up for the freezer. I don’t feel our weekly meal plan is too fancy, there is always a regular occurrence of eggs on toast for those mid-week nights that I don’t feel like cooking!
Before I share our weekly meal plans I want to refresh you on how and why I meal plan. You can read in full detail here the benefits of meal planning, however in a nutshell meal planning:
- Saves you time
- Saves you money
- Eliminates waste
- Balance your meal choices
- Lowers your frustrations
I know if I didn’t meal plan each week I would waste far too much money on groceries buying food that I don’t necessarily need and go a little crazy at 5 o’clock dinner preparation time with wondering what I can cook. Ultimately by planning ahead I can create healthy meals, stay within our grocery budget, eliminate the ‘let’s just get takeaway’ mood and by knowing ahead of time what I am cooking gives me a good indication of what time I need to start dinner.
Steps to help you meal plan
Normally I meal plan each week, however this year I am trying something a little different, instead of planning each week I am going to do it fortnightly in the hope that I can do one big grocery shop each fortnight and a little one to buy fresh meat, fruit and vegetables in between, I’ll let you know how it goes.
To start meal planning I sit down on a Saturday or Sunday morning before the rest of the family wake up sip my coffee and browse through the specials and magazines to get some inspiration. Below a variety of ways to find meal inspiration.
My kids love dishes like spaghetti bolognese or Mexican. So I make sure that I rotate each week with something we all really enjoy.
Recipe books or magazines
If you are wanting to make something new or creative, look through a recipe book or your collection of pages you have ripped from magazines. I have a file filled with all the recipes I want to cook from magazines I have read over the years, read more here.
The Coles magazine can be found in store, online or on the iPad app… all free! Plus I’ve just realised you can find all past Coles Magazine recipes here.
This would have to be one of my favourite tools to meal plan, I browse through the Coles catalogue to see what’s on special and base my meals on these items. This also helps to lower the grocery budget! So if mince is on special I’ll plan spaghetti Bolognese or homemade rissoles. Coles specials run every Wednesday – Tuesday.
There are various websites you can find loads of family friendly meal ideas, but here are a few:
- My blog – of course!! I share loads of recipes my family have enjoyed. View all my recipes here.
- Taste.com.au – over 40,000+ recipes.
Theme your meals
I have particular days of the week that I like to cook certain meals, this is heavily based around the kids after school commitments, so I can prepare particular meals before taking them to sport and then pop it in the oven when we get home. I’m still yet to secure all the kids after school commitments for this year, but this is an idea of how I based our meals last year:
- Monday – casserole/oven bakes
- Tuesday – stir-fry
- Wednesday – easy meal, left overs or slow cooker
- Thursday – meat and 3 veg
- Friday – something that can be eaten with fingers ie. pizza
- Saturday – anything goes
- Sunday – easy meal or roast
I like to write all my meal plans down, in particular for point 4 shared below. I’ve made this new printable meal planner for my fortnightly plans to also include lunches for myself and room to write in the weeknight theme idea.
Don’t make it too fancy
Easy dinners are OK, dinner time doesn’t have to be a fancy gourmet meal every night. Meat and 3 vegetables or salad is acceptable and a healthy option and as I mentioned above we often have something simply like eggs on toast on those particularly busy afternoons.
Make enough for left overs
Make double meals so you don’t have to cook the following night, or you could place a meal in the freezer for a busy night the following week. Make a double batch of potato mash so you can use it for meat and 3 veg night, and the left overs on the shepherd’s pie the following night… save yourself time, this is the beauty of meal planning!
Look in your pantry/freezer
Look through your pantry/freezer, particular at the back and create meals based on products that have been sitting there for a while or nearly out of date. Open up websites like taste.com.au and type in the ingredient you need to use beans for example into the search bar and it will come up with loads of different ways for you to use them.
After you have finished meal planning
Grocery shopping tips
If shopping instore:
- Don’t shop while hungry otherwise you will buy all kinds of food you really don’t need
- Always take snacks for toddlers, even if they have eaten before hand as they will always want something to eat
- Skip the isles you don’t need to prevent you from purchasing more than what is on your list. ie. chocolate isle.
- Give the kids their own grocery list to help occupy them while instore
- Stick to your list, don’t buy extra items as you will soon go over budget
If shopping online:
- As mentioned above you can ‘click to order’ directly from the recipes in Taste.com.au to Coles, love this feature, ticking only the items you need from each recipe.
- Your online order can be delivered to your door or collect directly from Coles
- Ordering online limits impulse buying
- Coles deliver FREE every Wednesday, helps with the grocery budget!
- Ordering online allows you to keep track of your total bill, allowing you to remove items if you have overspent
- Coles online have fabulous lists that you can refer back to. ‘My usuals list’ will show every item you have purchased in the past 12 months, makes it easy to find products the family really enjoyed a few months ago.
- One of my favourite features would be ‘My lists’, every household would typically buy the same grocery items each week, in our family it would be bread, ham, milk, yoghurt etc. Create a list of all your weekly essentials, then with just one click you can add all your essentials easily into your shopping cart.
- Check your qty’s when ordering online, once I wanted 8 potatoes, I ended up ordering 8 bags of potatoes LOL.
Display your meal plan
Place your meal plan on the fridge or as I have done in the past in a beautiful frame. Having it displayed benefits in the following ways:
- You can get an idea in the morning what time you will need to start dinner to have it on the table at a particular time
- You can get an idea in the morning if you need to prep anything early, or start the slow cooker
- Stops the rest of the family harassing you asking ‘what’s for dinner’ (this drives me crazy)
- If your busy having the meal plan on display allows your partner to easily see what is for dinner and with all hope they will make it for you
Family Meal Ideas
I’ve created a sample weekly meal plan for you below to inspire you to start creating your own plans. Remembering to keep balance of meals in mind, starting with a casserole, the next day a dish planned with vegetables, easy mid week stir fry, pasta bake that can be made ahead when busy with school activities in the afternoon, then at the end of the week some simple but tasty meals, ending with a family roast night.
I’ve popped a few Taste.com.au recipes in there so you can try the click and collect feature if you shop online. I’d love to hear what you think, I think it saves so much time.
MONDAY – Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms & Carrots, see recipe here
TUESADY – Chicken & Coconut Curry Meatballs with Vegetables, see recipe here.
WEDNESDAY – Thai Green Beef Curry with extra vegetables and rice, see recipe here
THURSDAY – Chorizo Pasta Bake, see recipe here.
FRIDAY – Tuna Burritos, see recipe here
SATURDAY – Crumbed lamb cutlets with pumpkin salad & pesto, see recipe here
SUNDAY – Roast Pork with caramelised apples & onion, see recipe here
So I’d love it if you don’t meal plan to give it a go this week and let me know how you go!