Feeding a family of five, sometimes six, along with fussiness, allergies and trying to be healthy whilst sticking to a budget, can feel nothing short of impossible some weeks. I mean how do those organised people do it? My mission for back to school in September is to have it all in place ready to go. A whole host of meal planning and time saving tips to hopefully make my life a little easier.
So what am I going to do?
Make storage space
The first thing we have done is replace our old fridge freezer with a new Samsung American Fridge Freezer thanks to AO. We’ve needed more space for a long time and this one is perfect with its 553 litre capacity, that’s 29 bags of shopping! The layout means I will be able to see exactly what we do and don’t have without having to rummage. Things won’t get shoved to the back of a drawer and forgotten about before we have the chance to eat them, which hopefully means we will be saving money too.
The biggest plus for me is that we now have room in the freezer for cooking extra portions and then being able to freeze them. I think this is going to be a game changer for those busy nights full of clubs, especially when James is away. I might not end up collapsing on the sofa after nine to eat a microwave meal for one.
The fridge freezer also looks rather nice in our kitchen and I’m probably a little bit happier about having it than I should be! We have space for bottles of wine!
If getting a larger fridge isn’t currently possible, you could look into having one in the garage instead. Or even a chest freezer.
I’ve also gone through all the cupboards, getting rid of out of date tins, reorganising and making sure I know where everything is.
Create a bank of meal ideas
We seem to have a lot of the same meals on repeat. So I am spending some time going through recipe cards we have tried, books and the internet for recipe ideas. I’ve gone to the pound shop and bought some cards and then on separate cards I have written the meal and ingredients + the source of the method if I will need it.
For little miss fussy I have a special colour for the meals she can and will eat.
Use a planner
Whatever works for you, on your phone, a spreadsheet or a notebook. I’ve also seen these magnetic boards which are fab and mean that everyone knows what the plan is. On a Sunday I will make some time to look at who we have at home the coming week. This will then form the basis of our weekly plan. Sometimes we will have 2, 3 and 4 kids depending on the days James’ little boy is here, when the boys visit their dad every other weekend and then James works away a lot too, so no two weeks are the same.
I will then plan out the meals for the week, asking people if there is anything they would like. I try and keep quick and easy meals for busy nights. Plus plan in meals I can easily cook extra to freeze for nights I’m busy and on my own. Or for extra portions for Ava if the boys are having something different, so that I don’t end up cooking so many different meals.
The boys are also going to be having packed lunches from September and Ava will be 2 days a week at preschool, so lunches will be planned. Which should also help me, as working from home now I either don’t get anything, or grab something unhealthy.
Make a shopping list
This is the point that I am rubbish at. I usually go with a plan of meals in my head and then get sidetracked, forget specific items, or buy things we already have. So I will be checking what we need and making a list to stick to at the shop. No getting sidetracked in the specials isle or shopping when I am hungry either!
I try and use the cheaper shops like Aldi, but occasionally I will do an online shop to stock up on some of our favourites that aren’t available in there. I’m also going to try and stop the mid weekly, which has turned into almost daily, topping up at the village Co-op. Instead I will be planning a mid week top up of fresh fruit and bread etc but hopefully I won’t need to top up forgotten items if I shop smarter.
And there you have it. I would love to know if you have any more tips!
* We were Kindly sent a Samsung American Fridge Freezer from AO.