I have been planning my family’s meals (well, dinner at least…) for the past few years, and it has made life so much easier! Meal planning limits wastage of fresh produce, limits stress at dinner time (“What am I going to make tonight?!”) and limits excess spending at the supermarket.
Here’s how I do it:
- I plan 7 meals – I used to plan 5-6 meals and have 1-2 nights for takeaway/baked beans on toast/something random so there was flexibility. Do whatever suits you and your family! I get my meal ideas from previous weeks (we went through a phase of homemade pizza night every Friday night, that made things a bit simpler in terms of meal planning) and sometimes I try new recipes I find on Pinterest, or I dig into my small collection of vegan recipe books. It also helps if you plan your week’s meals with similar ingredients, ie. this week I made cauliflower soup and cauliflower risotto, so that used up a whole cauliflower.
- I also have a Word document I created with a list of meals that I commonly make, categorized into rice, pasta, chickpeas, beans, lentils, bread/pastry, soups/stews (plus salads & vegetable dishes – these are side dishes). I like to have variety so I aim to pick something from each of those 7 categories, plus salad/vegetable dishes as necessary.
- From those 7 meals, I create my shopping list. I also make sure to add anything that we have run out of during the week (I start my shopping list pretty much a week before we go grocery shopping, otherwise I will forget what I need). I make my shopping list using the Notes app on my iPhone, so it is always accessible (yes, I will admit my phone goes with me absolutely everywhere…).
- I write up the week’s meals onto my meal planner on the fridge so the list is easily accessible and I always know the answer to “What’s for dinner, Mum?” ;)
One of this week’s meals was something I just kind of made up on the spot…that doesn’t happen very often and when it does, it either turns out epic…or an epic fail. But the Cauliflower Risotto was definitely EPIC! Both the fussy toddler and fussy 5 year old enjoyed it and ate ALL of it (plus seconds for the 5 year old!), so that definitely equals success!
Also, I cooked this risotto in a frying pan. My mother shared this tip with me when she was last visiting – she said it heats the risotto more even so it cooks faster. I was skeptical at first but her risotto turned out fine, and was a bit faster to cook than in a saucepan, so I decided to try it for myself!
The cauliflower is chopped finely and fried with some spices before adding the onion and garlic. The spices are kid friendly and make things a bit tastier for the adults – this recipe is really family friendly!
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala
2 whole cloves
2 cardamon pods
1 tsp grated ginger
1 cup arborio rice
About 6 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop the cauliflower finely.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the cauliflower and fry for a few minutes.
Add the spices (cumin, cinnamon, garam masala, cloves, cardamon and ginger) and cook for another minute.
Finely chop the onion and garlic and add these to the frying pan also. Cook for a further few minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the arborio rice and stir through.
Gradually add the stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently (at the start, stirring once every 1-2 minutes is fine), continuing to cook over a medium-low heat.
By the time you have added all the stock, the rice should be well cooked and the cauliflower should be soft – if not, you may need to add more stock or water until the rice and cauliflower are soft.
Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
How do you plan your meals? I know some people plan their meals monthly, but I just can’t get that organised yet!