They say failing to plan is planning to fail. Although the hippy earth child within me desires to disagree on the basis of living with freedom and creativity; I have learnt that FOCUS is creativities best friend, and brings a wealth of fruit into one’s life.
Motherhood has really been a kick up the backside for me in bringing planning and focus into my home. I learnt very quickly that without a strategy, we would never ‘get around’ to washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, doing the laundry, let alone cooking nourishing meals. Without a plan I also found I would make last minute decisions on what I felt like cooking, which brought chaos to my budget. Ironically, my hippy earth child values would also go flying out the window as last minute food purchases resulted in mounting waste in the garbage.
Meal planning once a week has improved my family’s health, helped us to maximise on our food budget and ensures we always have more than enough healthy food to eat for dinners and lunch the next day.
Here are a few tips on how I meal plan and organise a constant stream of beautiful wholefood meals for my family.
1. Know your suppliers.
One of my greatest values and a vital point in our family’s food culture is to know where our food comes from. We believe that the food we buy is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in, so we always choose to support local suppliers of quality food that is kind to the earth and free from chemicals and pesticides that harm our bodies and the land. We also try to avoid supermarkets wherever possible; preferring to support local farmers directly so they can get paid well for the work they are doing. Here’s where we source our food:
Veggies and fruit– We buy through a local community farm in Dapto who use organic farming practices. We pick up from the farm and the stuff is harvested that morning. We pay $30 and get a giant box of seasonal vegetables. We also like to buy chemical free produce from local farmers markets, and as a last resort we will top up on conventional Australian produce from our local fruit Market. We buy organic frozen berries from the supermarket because we can’t find them at a reasonable price elsewhere.
Fish- local fish markets or organic stores sometimes have frozen fish. We always go for wild caught, not farmed fish.
Meats- I buy from a local butcher called Hawthorne’s in Woonona. They aren’t organic but they are passionately 100% grass fed and finished, with no antibiotic usage. They sell me big bags of bones and local free range chicken carcasses for a very reasonable price as well.
Grains, nuts, seeds, flours etc.: I am thankful to have a local food coop (Flame tree Food Coop Thirroul) of which I am a member, so I receive discounts. This is a non for profit coop so you can get great prices on bulk organic products of all kinds.
Organic dairy: I buy organic cheeses, butter, local Pines milk, and organic yogurt from a local fruit and veg store in Thirroul.
Eggs: I adore eggs. We get fresh eggs from friends with chooks that are able to live and peck around in the grass all around the property as they wish. My husband’s work also has chooks on site so we often get eggs from there too. I only like to purchase eggs from people I know. Too many loopholes in “free range”
2. Include a diverse range of meals
When planning my meals for the week I like to think of the big picture. I don’t want to be eating chicken every night of the week, and like to ensure we are getting a range of different proteins and nutrients from different foods. As a general rule I like to include one or two red meat dishes each week (beef or lamb), one or two chicken meals, one fish meal, and for the others I will do vegetarian or egg based meals. It’s nice to flag a few of your favourite blogs or recipe books to draw upon in your planning session. I usually only plan for dinners, and make sure I make enough to give us all dinner and lunch the next day which I bulk out with veg and salad. For breakfasts I always have eggs with lots of seasonal veggies or some kind of fresh grain free muesli which I will ensure I have the regular ingredients for each week. This never changes and keeps things simple.
For snacks, add those in too. We don’t do a lot of snacks; preferring to stick to 3 really good meals a day, but for my son I love to make him spelt and oat cookies for church. So I make sure I have those in mind once a week
3. Use a diary
Pencil in your chosen recipes into your general diary. This way you can see the big picture of your week. You may notice on some weeks you don’t even need to cook dinner because you’ll be at a friend’s house or a wedding or something. Taking this into account means you will only prepare and buy what you need. No wasted $$$
4. Write up a precise shopping list
Once you have finalised your meal choices, scan through each recipe and write down every single item you will need. You’ll need to be meticulous here or you’ll end up doing last minute afternoon trips to the grocery store which are just annoying. In this phase you may discover you are just buying too many weird ingredients that are going to be too expensive. This is where you will need to be flexible and adapt. Try to choose simple meals wherever possible that use ingredients you already have, or that are cheap to buy. Also, don’t be afraid of switching up ingredients. We have to do this all the time because we order a seasonal mixed organic veggie box. Eating seasonally means you can’t be precious about following recipes to the letter. Switch spinach for silver beet or kale, or sweet potato for pumpkin or zucchini. It’s all good, and will make you a better cook!
I also like to take it a step further and plot the ingredients under their individual stores (see point 1), which makes shopping a really swift and hassle free task on the day.
5. Note your prep
If you want to really get the most out of wholefoods eating, and you want it to be a simple part of your life rather than a burden, you should definitely include any prep notes in your diary accordingly. For example if you know you’ll need chicken stock, be sure to make it so it’s ready in time for your cooking session. If you are making nut milks, or soaking and activating nuts seeds and grains for recipes, be sure to put reminders in your diary the night before to get this happening.
Pictured: Prepare a jar of dressing for salads for the week.
Here’s a sample meal plan and shopping list that I might use on any given week:
Monday: Salmon with dill yogurt, and a seasonal salad/roast seasonal veg. (Divide recipe by 3)
Tuesday: Greeny salad with crispy chickpeas & roasted jalapeno dressing, (use apple cider vinegar, and seasonal greens for baby kale) with herbed grilled chicken
Wednesday: 8 hour lamb shanks in the slow cooker with bone broth (make bone broth 24 hours before), seasonal vegetables, chopped garlic, rosemary, 2 tsp rapadura sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 lemon juiced. Served with seasonal salad and sourdough.
Thursday: Spinach & fetta pie with an oat crust (use seasonal greens from box)
Friday: Chicken with caramelised onion and cardamom rice with seasonal salad.
Saturday: Green pancakes with lime butter (use spelt flour with added tsp of baking powder instead of self-raising flour), sautéed seasonal veg in olive oil, fresh herbs.
Sunday: Out for dinner
1 slow cooker full of beef marrow and knuckle bones (for bone broth)
1 kg chicken thigh fillets; skin on bone in.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 lamb shanks
1 kg salmon fillets
25g barberries or currants
300g basmati rice
½ cup oats/ oat flour
1/3 cup ground almond flour
Small amount of raw honey
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried chickpeas (NOTE: will need to soak overnight and cook before making dinner on Tues)
Small amount of maple syrup (could replace with honey?)
Apple cider vinegar
Seasonal veg box- and if there aren’t the following, also buy:
Coriander x 2
2 green chillies
Bunch of spring onions
1 L milk
Organic full fat yogurt
250g frozen spinach (for pancakes)
1 loaf of spelt sourdough
Note: this is an exhaustive shopping list assuming you have none of the spices or pantry ingredients on hand. If you don’t have all these ingredients it is probably a good idea to buy them anyway because you can use them to make these, and other meals again.
This meal plan covers all of your lunches and dinners for a family of two adults and one toddler; of course you may need to double your recipes according to your needs.
Happy meal planning!