How to meal plan for your family
You’ll prepare about 28,000 meals for each of your children!
That’s a lot of meals and this increases depending on how many kids you decide to add to your brood!
While there is lots of evidence to support the importance of family meals that doesn’t mean it’s an easy task to put dinner on the table every night especially when you’re juggling work, after-school activities, homework and maybe a small baby too.
Boring but true!
It might be boring, but as the saying goes, fail to prepare, and prepare to fail! Planning for your family’s weekly meals will help you to:
- Ensure that you’re offering a balance of foods throughout the week
- Realistically plan dinners around your commitments
- Make one meal for the whole family rather than making multiple options
- Stay within your budget
- End mealtime battles!
- Save your time for spending with (and away from!) your family.
Ten Steps To Simple Family Meal Plans
While there are lots of fancy apps and paper planners out there, meal planning is not that difficult! Try not to overthink it!
- Grab our FREE planner, back of an envelope, your phone…..write out the days of the week! You can plan for the whole seven days or just five days ahead depending on how often you like to shop.
- Realistically think about your commitments for the week ahead and plan accordingly. No point planning the ‘perfect’ dinner for the night you’ll be rushing home from work and then out to swimming lessons!
- Choose a protein food; this could be meat, chicken, fish (white or oily), lentils, tofu, beans, egg or cheese. If you’re not a veggie then plan for a mix of protein foods during the week, at least one veggie night, at least two fish nights (with at least one oily fish) and the rest could be meat or chicken. If you’re a veggie or vegan, then take care to plan a good variety of veggie proteins throughout the week.
- Add a starchy side. Preferably whole grain but it’s okay to have ‘white’ varieties too. Think potatoes (any way you like them), rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa or just plain old bread. That’s always a reliable one for me!
- Add at least one veggie side: this could be cooked fresh veggies, tinned or frozen veggies or salad. Keep this as simple as you like, just chopping up some cucumber or opening a tin of beans will do the job. Just make sure to vary this every day. Remember, we want to serve the rainbow!
- Add at least one fruity dessert: Rather than finish with fruit, I offer fruit alongside the other foods. It doesn’t matter to me if the kids eat the strawberries before the chicken! Again, this doesn’t need to be elaborate, open a tin of fruit in its juice, slice up some apples and serve with a yoghurt dip (in our house, we love Greek Yogurt mixed with some almond butter), or if you have the time make a simple crumble with some frozen fruit.
- Make sure that there is at least one food on the table that you know each child can eat. If you’re confident that they’ll eat the meat then serve with a veggie they’re not keen on, another day you may be serving their favourite pasta, if so pair it with the fish they’re not loving yet. Get the drift?! On some days, they may only eat the starchy food and the fruit, but hey it’s only one meal out of 5 in the day. It’s not realistic for everyone to like every food on the table. Read more here about family style service.
- Get the family involved- ask them for suggestions too. You don’t have to take all their ideas on board that week, but you can tell them when you will put it on the menu. Every time I ask my kids what they’d like, they either say pizza from our local takeaway or macaroni cheese. Much as I adore both of these dishes, I don’t want to serve, cook or eat these every week but I do include them from time to time.
- Don’t aim for perfection! Not every meal needs to be insta-worthy to be healthy! We regularly have frozen fish, frozen peas and yes frozen oven chips served alongside some fresh fruit and some milk. Even this meal ticks off the main food groups, and it’s we don’t eat this every night, so I’m okay with that!
- You don’t have to fakeaway; you can also take away! It’s okay to want a break from cooking so don’t feel guilty for the occasional takeaway or meal out. It’s great to make your own ‘chipper meal’ or curry, but it’s also lovely not to have to wash and clear up!
If you need some mealtime inspiration, then follow Solid Start on Instagram, so see my family’s weekly meal plans!
Adapting For Your Weaning Baby
Weaning is about getting your baby to learn to like foods your family enjoy and not special baby
products and baby recipes! You can adapt most recipes to make them suitable for babies under one.
- Once cooked, most family meals can be pureed, mashed, finely chopped or served as finger foods.
- Avoid adding salt (this includes regular stock cubes, soya sauce, fish sauce and gravy) to foods until you’ve taken out your baby’s portion. Also, watch out for foods and commercial foods which are high in salt.
- Read more about salt and your baby
- Avoid foods with added free sugars; this includes added table sugar, maple syrup, agave, coconut
sugar, fruit puree, fruit concentrates and fruit juices. Read more about sugar and your baby
- Herbs and spices are fine, but be careful with hot spices like chilli. Use it in small amounts and
gradually build up the heat over time
- Soup recipes, especially those containing lentils, beans, make great dishes for babies. Use low salt stock and add less liquid, and they make a great puree or mash. Your baby can then eat this off a spoon or thin with milk and serve from an open cup
- Dishes cooked slowly, either in the oven or in a slow cooker are a great way to include meat in your baby’s diet as the meat becomes very tender after a long slow cook
You can use a mixture of whole grain and non-wholegrain foods like bread, pasta, cereals. If you fill
your baby up with too much fibre, they may not get the calories they need to grow.
Learn more about how to adapt family meals for your baby at a Solid Start Baby Weaning Class