An important aspect of successful meal planning is timing. When you draw up your meal plan one of the main components you need to keep in mind is your daily routine and how much time you have to make that particular meal.
A couple of weeks ago I made a new recipe for the first time, Beef Wellington. I planned it for a Wednesday night. This was not a well thought out idea. The reason I chose Wednesday is that I work half day, so I knew I would have the time to make this meal and there would be no rush. The only clever timing choice about the Wednesday was that it did take me 3 hours to make the Wellingtons. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/my-month-with-gordon/
My timing was a little off. I needed liver pate, being strictly kosher, I can only get this from one or two sources and they only make this for Friday as a Sabbath treat! I was two days too early.
Timing for your menu makes your life easier. If you have a lot of extra murals, you don’t want to plan a meal that is going to take an hour if you will only be home at 7pm.
For moms with children doing extra murals (especially in winter) my suggestion is to use a slow cooker. I love the convenience of chucking everything into one pot in the morning, turning it on low and leaving the house. By 5pm the house smells wonderful and dinner is ready. The other convenience is everyone can help themselves (if they are old enough) according to their times.
Another consideration for timing is finger food. If you are going to be running around during the children’s dinner time, why not plan to make wraps? These can also be made ahead, wrapped and kept in the fridge, for everyone to eat later in the car. Wraps are a healthier alternative to take out and cheaper too.
Give meal planning a try and see how much easier it makes your life.
You like winging it in your kitchen. You want to meal plan but you hate recipes! No problem.
Meal planning with no recipe
Meal planning is about more than recipes, it is about a lifestyle change. Simplifying your life and making time for you to spend doing what you prefer. It also saves you money.
In a previous blog post we looked at themed meal plans and that is where not following a recipe will fit in. Dinner Theme Meal Planning
Your meal plan template allows you to go to the store and use your imagination for ingredients.
Using a template
If you step into a store with the idea in mind that your main meal ingredient is chicken, you then can decide while in the store or in your pantry what other ingredients you will be adding to make this into a healthy balanced meal.
You don’t need to only plan your main ingredient; you can even plan your cuisine. An example of this is Mexican + Meat. Now you can go to the store knowing you want to buy meat and spicy/tomato ingredients.
This method allows you to make use of specials, as well as not buying too much and having it sit in your kitchen and go to waste.
While this is a method I do not think I could use successfully in my home I do think that it would be very successful for single people, college/varsity students and possibly stay at home moms (as an excuse to get out of the house possibly?).
For single people meal planning can be a little tedious and most have a fairly fluid social life.
This means if you meal plan for more than a week in advance you will likely have food going to waste. Just having your template can work not only for meal planning, but also for your social life.
For example if you have Fish on your template for a certain night, then you can use this to help decide on a restaurant if you are going out for dinner. It can also be used to decide whether it is canned tuna or perfectly seared tuna steaks, whichever you have time for.
For college/varsity students living either in an apartment with other students or on campus where you only have limited way to prepare foods, then this method will also help with budgeting and saving money.
Having a template and being able to use that to decide on your ingredients will be a big part of your life. Students living in res will usually only have a kettle and microwave and this can to a certain extent limit your options, go online and search for ideas to help you.
Going online to look for microwave recipes will help. Instant noodles are very versatile as a base for some great meals. These can definitely be bought in advance and then dressed up, with ingredients bought fresh on the day.
Choose your flavor of noodle and then add. For example choose a fish flavoured instant noodle meal and add some salmon off cuts and a tablespoon of cream cheese for a delicious supper.
For those sharing, it will definitely help you with your food budgets.
Stay at home moms
Staying at home to raise your children is an amazing thing to be able to do. If you are the type of mom who wants to stay at home, and if your finances allow you this option.
There does come a time, however, when even the most dedicated moms need to get out. Going to the mall and buying your groceries can fulfill this need two fold. The first is retail therapy without feeling guilty for spending money; the second is feeding your family nourishing meals.
Shopping without a recipe can allow you to choose ingredients that are versatile in terms of the ages of each family member.
I love hearing how people go about deciding what’s for dinner, so why not let me know how you decided and what methods work best for you?
How often can you answer the question “what’s for dinner?” when you haven’t even started? If you are a meal planner, this should not be a problem at all.
Meal planning is not going to stop the question, it is just going to give you the ability to answer.
Planning for dinner
I have been meal planning for a while now and I even write the weekly plan on the board in the kitchen and, yet, invariably I still get asked ‘what’s for dinner?’ by at least on family member on an almost daily basis.
Meal planning boards
My family know that I update the board every Sunday and that it not only has what’s for dinner but also, what the school lunches are for the week and what the lunch when they get home is going to be and yet they still ask.
In the past the answer was usually, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it yet’ or ‘it depends on what we have in the cupboard/fridge/freezer’. Life is so much easier on all of us now that we know what will be served.
It is not always so easy though as with a family of 6 there are times where at least one or more is not happy with the option of what’s for dinner.
It’s a family decision
Since I included my family in the meal planning decision when I first started and got them to tell me what they would really like to eat, I often try new recipes which the family then votes to decide if we have this again or not. This way everyone gets to eat at least on meal a week that they really like.
I do have some standard meals that I have every week and month, such as spaghetti bolognaise, spaghetti and meatballs, tuna/vegetable lasagne, cottage pie, tacos, sloppy Joe’s, chicken stir fry and every now and then I cave in and add probably the easiest recipe ever – spaghetti, tomato sauce, cheese and tuna. This is one of my children’s favourite meals.
I also us a template to help with the meal planning. this tells me what types of meals I am making on a particular day i.e. fish, meat, chicken, mince, vegan/vegetarian.
Do you know what’s for dinner in your home this week?
I need help! When I started my blog “Kashering Your Life”, I did not really expect the response that it received worldwide. The simple blog with which I started has grown into a company and it is now as far as it can go in this configuration.
In order for it to grow and prosper the blog needs a complete makeover. Everything from the name to the colours, logo and possibly, even the tag line needs to change.
This is where all of you come in. First we need a new name; the name must obviously reflect what this new company is all about. We will be running a competition for the name.
When you post your name suggestions, either in the comments of the blog, or on the FB page, you will go into a draw.
I will count the top three name suggestions according to the ‘likes’ they receive and the people whose names receive the most ‘likes’ will receive a prize of a magnetic weekly menu planner board.
The person who suggests the winning name will receive a planning package, which includes a magnetic weekly menu board, a laminated comprehensive shopping list, a laminated monthly planner and a set of 60 printed budget envelopes. Remember to also look through other people’s suggestions. http://www.facebook.com/kasheringyourlife
Our mission is this:
We want to help busy people make living life easier by providing education and workshops on meal planning.
We want to promote health by providing two services.
The I-plan service, which means we plan your meals for the month, supply the shopping list and the recipes where needed.
The second service is the I-cook service, where we supply ready cooked, healthy diabetic friendly meals to people who are too busy to cook but would like to eat nutritious meals without the hassle. (Starting soon in the Johannesburg area only)
This competition is open to all new and old followers. COMPETITION ENDS 15 November 2016
Meal planning for couples and singles is possible!
It won’t work for me
I often hear people say that they don’t think meal planning is going to work for them. They are only cooking for themselves, or it’s just the two of them, so it’s not worth it.
I actually think meal planning would work better for them in some ways, than for a large family.
Not only would it save money! It would also be very easy to have nights where you won’t have to cook at all and are still able to eat a good healthy meal.
Bulk cooking for 2
Bulk cooking for couples and single people is very easy. Most recipes are enough for four people, which means you always have left overs. If you cook every night for 5 nights then you will have enough meals for 2 people for the next week or for one person for 2 weeks!
A suggestion of mine would be to cook only the main ingredients, like mince, for instance. Cook up 500 g and then portion it up and put the labelled portions into the freezer. That way you can make pasta or mash potato, a portion of frozen vegetables and just add a portion of cooked mince.
I remember the days before I got married when I was working 12 hour shifts as a nurse and the last thing I wanted was to come home and still have to cook! I ate a lot of unhealthy meals at the time.
Here are 6 steps to make it work
- Find recipes that feed 4 or more people. Each recipe then is enough for 2 or 4 meals.
- Know which foods freeze well and which don’t. Starchy vegetables like potato and butternut need to be partly cooked before freezing.
- If you are feeling energetic, why not make most of the meals on a weekend and then you are free after work for the rest of the week. Just reheat and eat.
- Take the food out of the freezer the night before and put it in the fridge to defrost. This is important as you would like your food properly defrosted. Leaving it out to defrost on a counter the morning before work, to eat that night, could be dangerous as bacteria can grow and give you food poisoning. If you have a microwave, you can defrost and heat all at once, so you can decide that night what you want to eat. Having a variety of frozen meals gives you choices.
- Buy disposable but reusable containers in different sizes, these containers stack well in small freezer spaces and cost less than more expensive food storage systems.
- Always label the food and the date before you put it in the freezer so that you can see what you have stored away.
Meal planning allows you to save time and money. It gives you the opportunity to eat healthily and follow eating plans on practically any diet you want.
Why not give it a try?
I have written about this before, but I feel it is an important part of meal planning, as this is the meal most people are likely to plan for.
Up until 15 months ago, we had no template and my domestic worker made a variation of a pasta dish almost every night for dinner. The kids at that stage were 10, 12, 16 & 17, and were served supper at 5 pm and I ate, if I was hungry, at whatever time I got home, usually after 7:30, my husband would eat sometimes even later.
We weren’t eating very healthily at all. My husband and I both changed jobs and our lives changed with it. I introduced the family to dinner at 7 pm and started doing the cooking (which I actually enjoy). This has allowed me to experiment with different recipes.
I still work a full day but it is office hours (mostly) and not nursing hours and no night duty. I found it was still a struggle to work out what to make each night.
I got my family to write down their favourite meals and three of these came up as popular with everybody; macaroni and cheese, tuna lasagne as well as mince of any sort. For a while I had been hearing of the concept of the Meat free Mondays, so I went with that for Monday. I also wanted an opportunity to play in the kitchen, so I introduced an experimental night where I get to try out a new recipe and this became Tuesday night. Wednesday proved a slight challenge as I teach a jewellery class from 7:30, so whatever we were going to have for dinner had to be easy and quick to make and eat. I make foods that can be prepped, cooked and on the table in less than 30 minutes. Thursday nights are mince nights and I vary the type of mince recipe each week. Friday being the start of Sabbath is always a more elaborate meal. Saturday night there are usually leftovers from Friday night and Saturday lunch. Sunday night the kids cook, so it is usually eggs and toast.
Meat free Monday is often an opportunity for me to get some fish into the non-fish lovers. If you are not a big fish lover and don’t like cooking it, there is a simple cheat to this, take a ‘cream of ……’ soup, make it with about 100 ml less water than the instructions. Put your frozen fish into an oven proof dish, mix the soup and pour it over the fish, cover the dish and pop it in the oven at 200 for about 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Tuesday is the day I try new recipes. I have been following Jamie Oliver for a while, although I only signed up for the Food Revolution recently. I have been experimenting with different ways of cooking with new and healthier ingredients and I discovered that my kids actually quite like eggplant.
Wednesday’s is fun as I have a book of 30 minute recipes, so I am getting to try a few each month.
Thursday is mince night and my entire family eat mince in whatever form it comes, so I rotate the recipes: bolognaise, cottage pie, mince pie, taco’s, ragout (stew), meatballs, patties etc. I have also learnt to make the meat stretch a little, by adding Oat Bran and Sugar Beans.
Friday night we have soup as a starter and there is either a roast or chicken dish for mains plus dessert, which we don’t have during the week.
Saturday and Sunday are my days off.
I found that having the templates have made a big difference to my attitude in the kitchen and towards food. I am sure it is more difficult if you have fussy eaters but getting the family to give suggestions ensures that each night someone gets what they enjoy.
If you have a template of fun ideas for menu’s let us know. Enjoy your meals.
One of my life saving tools for planning my menus is my template. I always mention this when I talk about drawing up your menu plan.
To me this is the first step; it has helped me in numerous ways as I do meal plans for four families, all with different likes and dislikes, allergies and age differences.
How do you go about drawing up your template? The first thing you need to consider is what meals your template has to cover. For me it is school lunches and dinner. Today I am discussing how I came up with my school lunch template.
Why a template for school?
The reason for a school lunch template is that my girls all eat different things. However, it started with the previous school where they were in, as it had rules about what foods you were allowed to send to school.
School lunch is now a little easier as there are no restrictions and they finish reasonably early. My oldest daughter is home before 2pm and the two younger ones are home before 3pm where they previously only finished school at 3pm.
Other things you need to take into consideration are what kind of day they are having at school. Is there physical training during school, do they have after school sports, do they have a sports match, do they come home between extra murals? All these things must play a part in creating your template. For example, on days where they have sports matches, you want to try and give them healthy carbohydrates which will turn to energy not sugar. I am personally against energy drinks for young children but I know kids like them especially with the bright colours they come in.
On days when there is going to be sport, foods with legumes such as chickpeas (this is humus, when not in whole kernel form) should be added as well as dairy and whole grain pastas. Wholegrain bread, like rye bread, should be used for sandwiches. If the physical training during school is on different days for different children, you can see why a template would be necessary.
Options for school lunches vary:
Monday – I usually have vegetarian sausages, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and snap peas with a dipping sauce such as 1000 Island dressing, curried mayonnaise. I add pretzels as their snack, plus a fruit.
Tuesday – One has cream cheese on rye, one has peanut butter on a seed bagel and one has chocolate spread on brown bread, fruit and a very small salad.
Wednesday – Pasta salad, I send with fruit and usually a small chocolate or biscuit
Thursday – cold meat sandwiches or cold meat and salad, with popcorn and fruit bites (either nuggets or Safari)
Friday – Cheese and tomato sandwiches, as they do a little sport on Friday’s.
It is sometimes difficult to find a good balance as not all the children eat the same fruit and one of my daughters pretty much only eats grapes and strawberries! One only eats green apples and the other only pink apples!
Having a template definitely helps as this way they will have a say in what they get for school. My husband gets the same lunch as the kids, but he is much easier as he eats anything you put in front of him!
Do you have a plan for school lunches? Who packs the lunches? Do the lunch boxes have a well balanced meal every day? Do your kids get tuck shop/ cafeteria food instead of a lunch box and what are they eating from the tuck shop/cafeteria? I would love to hear from you.
We are coming up to Pesach, and what would Pesach be without Kneidlach/ Matzo balls? Jewish or not this is a great meal, when served with the traditional chicken soup or even with a thick tomato or butternut soup.
Here is a quick and easy way to make the perfect soup accompaniment. This recipe is fast, easy and practically fail proof.
30 mls of oil or schmaltz (chicken fat)
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of cinnamon (1/8 tsp)
3/4 cup matzo meal
In a bowl, lightly beat your eggs, oil, seasoning and cinnamon together. Add the matzo meal and mix well, it should form a soft dough, that you can roll into balls.
Take a teaspoonful of dough and roll into a small ball, remember the balls will double in size as they cook.
Add to rapidly boiling salt water or a large pot of soup and allow to cook for a minimum of 20 minutes, the longer they cook to softer they are.
It is very important that the soup or salt water that you will be cooking your kneidlach in, is actively boiling when you put your balls in otherwise, they break apart. Matzo balls should be soft and fluffy, and cut easily with your soup spoon.
I don’t know how I did it? Oh, wait I didn’t! In March 2015 I started making menu and meal plans for the month and not only did my grocery bill drop but so did my weight! In the past if I cooked, it was whatever I could stick in an oven because I was too tired, so it usually was fairly unhealthy food with all the nutrition processed out of it.
The last 2 weeks I haven’t had a menu plan and I don’t know how I lived so many years without one. I stand in front of my cupboards each evening and stare at the stuff inside and I don’t know what to make! This is also costing money as I have had to go to the shop more often and I am impulse buying!
The first week I thought it would be easy not to have a plan as there were only 3 of us at home How hard can it be? I’ll tell you what it was a Disaster that is what it was!
This past week I more or less had an idea of what I wanted to cook, so it went better However, this week I am once again sitting down and drawing up my plan! I think I will do January at the same time and get it over with.
I know a lot of people find planning 1 week at a time enough but I have found it better for me to do the whole month.
Here’s how last week’s semi plan went.
Monday is meat free, I found a fish recipe that sounded good but needed a few changes to suit my family. I also had a box of frozen hake in the freezer and the rest of the ingredients in the cupboard so there was no need to shop.
Italian inspired fish stew! Stew is usually a winter dish but in my opinion fish is not as filling, or heavy, as meat and therefore makes a nice light stew that is perfect for summer. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/recipes/italian-style-fish-stew/
Tuesday, which is mince night, we went out for supper. My youngest has been begging for us to go to ‘Open Flame’, which is the meat restaurant where my eldest daughter works parttime. It is usually a bit over our budget but we decided, with only 3 of us, we could do it. The steaks were cooked to perfection and the ribs were outstanding but it was the desert which stood out the most I was simple and delicious. Dairy free Vanilla ice cream served with dark chocolate spring rolls. The spring rolls were light and crispy and the chocolate filling was yum.
Wednesday night was the public holiday and I re heated porcupine meatballs that I had frozen. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/recipes/porcupine-meatballs/
Thursday we had fish fingers and oven chips with peas.
Friday night I made an old favourite of mine, a chicken stew in the slow cooker.
Saturday night was nachos with avocado dip
Sunday night was a pizza. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/recipes/easy-pizza-base/
This week I have to have a meal plan! I am in holiday mode, so if I don’t do a plan we are going to be eating really badly and my budget is going to suffer severely. All the kids will be back from summer camp soon and are sure to be starving, even though I know they get 3 full meals a day and there is a tuck shop for in between! Can’t wait to have the family all back together again!
Time to wind down November! Menu planning for December is going to be interesting as 3 of my 4 children will be away on holiday. Child #1 will be away for the entire month and children #2 and #3 will be away for 3 weeks and these are my biggest eaters!
This past week was not too bad as plans go.
Thursday nights are my new recipe night. I use a country, or culture, to inspire what I will make and this time it was India. Now, my girls do not like very spicy food and Indian fish curries are notoriously strong curries,. so I played around with some spices and came up with a sweet curried fish, served with basmati rice and Jeera poppadums’ (caraway seeded). My family are not big fish eaters but this time there were no leftovers! The vote was to make it again. Yay, success for me! http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/recipes/sweet-fish-curry/
Sabbath (Shabbat) dinner was gazpacho soup, which I make often in summer as it is a huge family favourite. Main course was a slow cooked bolo roast with a lemon and herb sauce, served with vegetables, white rice and a garden salad. As it was my birthday, my mom made me a chocolate cake with mocha icing and my eldest daughter surprised me with a chocolate, oat and fruit bake. it was a birthday surprise so it isn’t in the picture and, by the time Shabbat was over, there was nothing left to photograph!
Saturday night was the usual toast and fish paste for me.
Sunday we had lunch at my parent’s and for dinner the kids made themselves supper and my husband took me out to dinner.
Monday’s plan called for macaroni and cheese. Now I don’t do ordinary macaroni and cheese and this recipe calls for a little extra shopping as it is made with 3 types of cheese and cream for the sauce.
Tuesday was meant to be tomatoes stuffed with mince but that idea got vetoed by the family in favour of taco night. The mince for the tacos is mince fried with some garlic and Bisto. No fancy recipe! If you want a spicy mince, just add some chilli while frying. I keep kosher so adding cheese is not allowed but I found some tofu ‘cheese’ slices which I keep in the freezer and I simply cut up 2 slices to put on the tacos.
Wednesday night was hot beef on rye, served with picalilli (pickle relish) and potato salad on the side.
Thursday night is my night for International inspired food and I chose Italy, so of course I made pizza! http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/recipes/easy-pizza-base/
Meat, as always for Friday night, we had butternut soup even though it is hot, my family will eat soup anytime. The main meal consisted of a green salad, what I call lazy moms slow cooked bolo roast, which is basically my bolo roast put into the slow cooker and a bottle of something poured over it, this time I used All Joy meat flavour spaghetti sauce and served it with white rice and gem squash (spaghetti squash for the Americans), we ended with fruit salad. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/recipes/easy-curried-butternut-soup/
Happy cooking and happy eating!