I love cooking, I really do. I’m a feeder and I enjoy feeding people, searching through my piles of cook books and online for dinner ideas for friends and family. BUT, when it comes to feeding the family week in week out it is hard work. I mean really bloody hard work. It’s a whole different ball game and if I don’t meal plan for the week then it all goes t!ts up! Basically the entire week is full of crap dinners, several trips to the supermarket (ARGH) and takeaways which ultimately leaves me feeling unhealthy, stressed (because who wants to take two mini savages to the supermarket?) and poorer too. I meal plan for the week starting on a Monday and plan all the way through to Sunday, taking into consideration if we have any social plans for the week. I try to plan for the week ahead on a Thursday or Friday so I have time to do an online food shop because taking the kids shopping is asking for trouble and is a serious wine time earner!
The hardest part of planning is actually deciding what to cook. I don’t think I’m alone in that I get so bored cooking the same things every week and when cooking becomes boring that’s when it feels like a chore. I try not to cook the same things each week as I like us to try new things, I also believe the kids are more likely to want to try new things if it is something we all do together as a family. I’m lucky in that most nights Mr G is usually home by 5:30 so we all sit down for dinner together which means only having to cook the one dinner. As we eat with the children throughout the week I will sometimes plan a meal for just me and my husband on a Friday or Saturday night so we get one night off from ducking out of the way of spaghetti flinging or drink spills (sitting down as a family each night for dinner is not as idyllic as it sounds)!
One of the first places I head for ideas is Pinterest. I find that because Pinterest is obviously more visual than some of the other specific recipe websites I spend less time searching because the meal suggestions jump out at me more rather than looking through a list of recipe names.
I will quite often grab a cook book too that I haven’t opened in a while and choose a couple of things out of it for the week. My current favourite cookbooks are Deliciously Ella Everyday and Jamie Oliver Super Foods. Other great places to look for family meal inspiration are Jamile Oliver’s website and the BBC Good Food page. I always like to pick up the free magazines in the supermarkets too as it’s always good to have a reminder about what’s in season and they will quite often include a plan for the week. When the kids were smaller I used the Annabel Karmel app quite a bit too.
Right now I’m trying to reduce the amount of meat we are eating and so am trying to do two meat free dinners a week and one fish. Mr G is a huuugggeee meat eater so isn’t all that happy about this. I tried to sell it to him by saying that if we are saving money on meat during the week then it means I will be able to spend more money on better quality meat for the rest of the week. I’m not sure he’s all that convinced… This doesn’t happen every week but if I use this as a rough guide it can help because it forces me to find new meals.
Whilst looking for meal inspiration I like to keep a few things in mind:
- Is it healthy (ish)? For obvious reasons. If I eat crap, I will feel crap. Plus I want the kids to eat a varied diet and grow up with an understanding of healthy eating.
- Will the kids eat it? This means nothing to spicy (sob! Although I’ve got quite used to throwing chili seeds on top of my food when I’m dishing up if I fancy some heat)
- Can it be cooked in under an hour but only about 20 mins prep? Master B is hard work (understatement) around dinner time so the least time I spend in the kitchen the better. The slow cooker is my friend.
If I can say yes to all of the above then when it comes to the day of cooking I’m more likely to stick to my meal plan and not give in to the call of the fish fingers coming from the freezer. I always like to have something in the week’s meal list that is in the freezer or a store cupboard staple. That way if the week doesn’t go to plan we can jiggle our list around and fresh food doesn’t get wasted. Something like a chili (with frozen mince) or pizza can work well for this type of meal.
It would be great to hear where everyone else looks for inspiration so I can change my routine up a little. Are there any great sources out there that I’m missing? I’d love to hear about them.