Thursday, April 18, 2013

Easy Meals for Busy Moms: 5 Tips for Meal Planning

When it comes to meal plans it is a good practice to get us, the busy moms, organized and ready with very little time needed to wreck our brains on what to cook for the day. I've found it to be useful to work out a plan (even a roughly written note would suffice) because it potentially saved me a lot of time especially when it comes to grocery shopping. Which in the past, before I work out the meal plans, I had to go to and fro the supermart or wet market at least 3 - 4 times a week because I am always short of something. 

There were many-a-time where I love that impromptu decision to satisfy a craving but that is not the norm usually, so stick to a plan while you can still work in your cravings into the plan for the week. 

Of course there's no one way nor right way to plan your meals; we should all do whatever that works for us. It's just a tool to help us be more effective in managing our time, money and minimize wastage. The point is the meal and of course the special people who will enjoy the good food we prepare.

The ideas shared here is for getting more organized and helping yourself think ahead. Hopefully it'll help you get inspired to dream up meals you'd love to eat.

For Inspiration - prior to each week's of meal plan, dig through the stash of cookbooks or food mags you have, flag those recipes you wish to try with a sticky note. Browse blogs and websites for recipes that look delicious and appeal to you. I've found that Pinterest is a great place to visually browse what I've saved or was inspired to try previously. You may also ask your family for their favourites or use recipes passed down from your family or friends.

Getting started with the plan - Start a calendar of what you'd like to cook over the next few days or weeks. It can be written on a hard copy yearly organizer or it can be in digital format such as these online organizers (Food on the Table or Evernote or Springpad) to help you store your plans. Best of all these online organizers are FREE of charge! The crucial thing about this step is to have your plan recorded somewhere so that as the week pass by you can refer to it as a source of reference for future planning if you ran out of ideas or even if you enjoyed a particular dish and would want to prepare it again.

Creating variety with themes - It can be useful to assign a theme to each of the day of meals (theme ingredient or theme staple) eg. Monday is noodles, Tuesday is chicken, Wednesday is roast. Through which you narrow further on the specific way the meals are to be prepared either it's a stir-fry noodle or noodle with soup for Monday, Hainanese chicken rice or grilled chicken for Tuesday and so forth. While making plans do ensure that each meal is well balanced in protein, fibre and carbohydrates. I am not one who is particular in calories counting but each meal would definitely comprise of vegetable, meat and a staple.

Prep your ingredients - here's where you can plan ahead and think about batch cooking & freezing. As you work out your meal plan bear in mind of time saving factor where ingredients such as soup stock or sauces that can be prep before hand at one go. Soup stock or sauces could be made into 2-3 portions and stored in separate plastic zip bags and be frozen. It can be used over a few days' worth of meals/dishes.

Make a shopping list - Once the meal plan is done, you can work out the shopping list from the first week of your meal plan. Stick to what you've planned as you go grocery shopping as it does get tempting to want to grab that extra bag of chicken wings or even something you fancy at that point in time while shopping. Place the week's meal plan on a prominent area in your kitchen or home so that you can have a quick glance at it in the morning and make a mental note of what you need to prepare for the evening's dinner eg. taking something out from the freezer. 

As promised, here's a sample of a meal plan (click on the image to get a clearer view) I've worked out previously to serve as a reference to you. You will notice I have only planned for 1 vegetable dish and 1 meat dish for all of the days of the week that's because we have a small family of 2 adults and 2 young children so big meals with multiple dishes is not required since 2 dishes would have sufficiently covered us for fibre, protein and staple. On days that I have a wee bit more time and energy, I'll prepare a pot of soup (which is rare). But don't let that stop you, this meal plan below is just a sample, as I've said earlier, what works for us might not work for you so adjust the meal plans according to your needs/preference.

Have fun in your meal planning and enjoy the process of meal preparation!

Next week, I'll share on ways of using those utensils and equipments in your home that will help you save time on preparing meals and cleaning up after each meal. So stay tuned!

Do leave me a comment or even write to me if you have any suggestions or let me know what you would like to be covered in this series. Thank you!


mayabudhi said...

Thanks for sharing. I think that when you find yourself conflicted between the stressfullness of cooking and wanting to get heatllthier food in your picky eaters, planning does help.

Mamabliss said...

you are welcome Mayabudhi :) hope my sharing has been helpful. I remember one saying that goes "when you fail to plan, you plan to fail" haha I find it rather true.