Meal planning for a family comes with many challenges. But why?
Well, did you know that we make over 250 decisions around food every single day?! No wonder we are all exhausted with deciding what to have for supper! Add on a picky eater, trying to manage IBS, training for a competition, or trying to teach the family healthy food relationships, and mealtimes can become stressful and even frustrating.
As a parent of two little ones, a wife, and a business owner, let me tell you, I totally get it! In my home, we deal with allergies, IBS, and picky eating every single day. Every day. I talk about food all day with clients, and I can still feel overwhelmed by getting supper on the table.
This is the reason why I swear by using a meal plan, even if you only plan for a couple of days at a time. Meal planning does not need to be complicated. Start with a small timeline or a simple goal for your family, rather than diving into the deep end of planning with multiple steps. Keeping things simple will avoid the frustration that can result in decision burn out.
Here's how to Meal Plan in Six Simple Steps for your family:
🍏 CHOOSE YOUR PROTEIN
Eating the same thing over and over again is no fun. Most people like variety at supper, including variety in the proteins of the meal. Before deciding on a particular recipe for supper, start with choosing the protein. Rotate your proteins over the week or few days that you are planning for, and instantly you will have variety in your suppers.
Once your protein is chosen, you can begin to explore recipes and side dishes that complement the meal.
🍏 KEEP WHAT WORKS
Most of my clients looking for meal inspiration are thinking that they need to go back to the drawing board and think of completely new recipes. Doing this can be overwhelming. Before scrapping your old recipes to find new ones, write down all of your family's favourites. Once you have a few gathered, think of ways that you can recreate them. Switch up the protein, modify the spices used, or add in different vegetables. Voila! New recipe!
🍏 AND THEN ADD
Yes, it is good to try new things, but deciding to tackle multiple new recipes every week can add some unnecessary stress. I recommend only adding in one new recipe or new food ingredient that you have never cooked before per week.
🍏 BE FLEXIBLE
Meal planning for every single meal is not needed. There will be days where the thought, or even the possibility, of cooking is tricky. Be flexible with your scheduling and throw in a leftover night or leave a night open for spontaneity! You do not have to be cooking every single night, especially if you have deadlines or other commitments. If you're planning 1 week at a time, I recommend that you only plan for 5 suppers out of 7 to give yourself some flexibility.
🍏 CHECK THE PANTRY
I hear it often enough to know that sometimes things go into hiding in the pantry! I may have even experienced this myself! I have many clients complete a pantry audit that realize:
they have so much food they did not know about
they don't have the right staples in their pantry to make complete meals.
When in a pinch, my go-to for quick and easy recipes is to create a meal from my pantry. Without the essential pantry items, putting together last-minute meals is nearly impossible.
👉🏼 Download our Pantry Checklist!
🍏 EAT WHAT YOU WANT!
From one parent to another parent, I give you permission to eat food that you enjoy! It can seem as though once we have kids, our adult preferences go out the window, but you do get a say too. We can have our favourites while still being considerate of our children. Continue to eat foods that you like, and also choose one food to serve family style that everyone enjoys. I call this 'safe' food. These are things like buttered bread, pickles, cheese, fresh veggies or fruit, yogurt, or milk. Allow your kids to have as much or as little of this food as they would like.
Do something that your future self will thank you for. Taking some time at the beginning of each week to meal plan is time you will never regret spending. In fact, in the middle of the week when your schedule has imploded, you'll be thankful you have your family's meals planned out so you don't have to answer the old "What's for dinner" question.