Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Meal Planning and Batching - Simple Strategies to Embracing Home Cooking Without The Stress!

I hear it time and time again. With the best intentions you want to get back into the kitchen cooking your family's meals from scratch. You know food is important and you know that you are spending a fortune on takeaways and processed foods. Monday begins with you cooking up a storm like a domestic goddess, proudly watching your other half tuck into your beautifully prepared fare, basking in Nigella-esque prowless. Tuesday you get caught in traffic and stumble in the door with big plans to cook a wholesome Paleo Shepard's pie only to discover you forgot the sweet potatoes. You resort to frozen burgers for the second time in a week. By Wednesday you have forgotten to defrost the meat so succumb to defeat and order pizza. Next week will be better. 

We have all been there. Busy days, unforeseen setbacks, panic and the inevitable "Mam I'm STAAARVING" floating in from the living room. Sound familiar? It is. However, dare I say it, most of it could probably be prevented if we were a little more organised. 

Here are my Top tips to making life easier in the kitchen and embracing your inner Delia. 

5. Meal Plan For the Week Ahead

Do you find you have nothing to cook a meal with despite having just done the grocery shopping? Do you buy all the fresh ingredients on shopping day but throw it in the compost a fortnight later because you forgot to use it? 

Meal planning would help.

I recommend sitting down on a Saturday (or just before grocery shopping) and doing a meal plan of what you and your family intend to eat for the week. Literally sit down with your list and plan it. I like to provide clients with a simple template to work of with days of the week, meals (Breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner) and shopping list next to it. 

Decide what your breakfast foods will be first as these tend to be easy - in my house this might be things like scrambled eggs, omelettes etc. After this write down the ingredients you need to buy eg eggs, veggies like spinach, peppers, onions, sauerkraut, coconut milk, butter.  

Then move to snack options eg nuts, fresh fruit etc. 

Lastly do your dinners. These tend to be the most expensive components of the shop but also the ones which tend to cause the most waste due to poor planning. First decide on the main component of the meal eg Cottage Pie. Write down minced beef, followed by other ingredients required. Remember to check your store cupboard for items that you may already have - no need to pick up items you don't require (how many of us have 6 tins of coconut milk in the pantry?!) Then focus on starches and greens. 

Making a plan really helps to reduce the waste and stress and will really help cut down on the dreaded waste of throwing away food. Not to mention the fact that you wont need to buy last minute takeaways any more either!

Get into the habit of giving your plan a quick skim at night and ensuring you have taken out the required meat from the freezer if necessary. Nothing worse than forgetting! 

4. Choose a Cooking Day

If you work full time or are just super busy with school runs, extra curricular activities and laundry, meal times can become a bit of a chore during the week. I recommend taking a little time on a Sunday afternoon to prepare for the week ahead and ensure you hit the ground running. Even making a batch of soup or curry and freezing it or having it ready for a midweek dinner can really help. Get some vegetables prepared too by chopping up carrots, onions, courgettes and peppers and leaving them in a tray ready to pop into the oven with some chicken thighs or fish. Easy dinner sorted for Monday.

Make up a batch of savoury muffins, make a big salad and have it in the fridge as a side or fast lunch and voila! You're half way there to a wholesome delicious dinner the next day!

I find that an hour or two on a Sunday really helps and is the equivalent of hours on a week day!

3. Batch Cook 

Following on from the previous post, batch cooking is a wonderful way to make life a lot easier during the busyness of the working week.  There are a few meal types which lend themselves especially well to batch cooking. Things like curries, casseroles, stews and soups are fantastic foods to have on reserve for those busy days when you haven't a second to cook anything from scratch or are seconds away from dialling your local takeaway. They're easy to make extras of to ensure you have plenty and lend themselves well to reheating. Once cooled fully decant into Tupperware containers or if worried about using plastics use glass (I like to save passata bottles and freeze in them. Just remember to leave expansion room) 

Why not get together with a couple of friends, open a bottle of wine and batch cook a few meals and swap them? This means you have lots of different meal options in your freezer to whack on with less time spent prepping!

Know you will have a busy day? Just take out one of your frozen stash,  reheat, stick on some veggies and relax. Its sorted. 

2. Make Extras
Making extras is a great way to reduce time spent in the kitchen. Make enough so that you can either have some for lunch the next day or even better, get a day off the dinner cooking. This is real smug territory! Cooking? Nah, I plan on putting my feet up and eating yesterday's dinner. And minimal washing. Bliss.

1. Invest in a Slow Cooker! 

This is single handedly the most important piece of advice on here for busy people! Slow cookers are SO useful in these circumstances. Yes they take a little bit of forward thinking (you can't decide you want to cook a chicken in it 2 hours before dinner) but it is very useful to have your food popped into in the morning and to have it ready when you get home! NOTHING makes me feel as virtuous (and hey, a little smug!) as knowing I already have dinner ready at 10am! Want to be even more organised? You could even get all your ingredients ready for a few slow cooker meals and freeze in ziplock bags (think chopped veggies, meat and sauce ingredients all pre prepared) and just throw the bag in in the morning, switch on and voilĂ . Hows that for organisation!? 

Wondering what slow cooker to buy? They are so accessible at the moment and are available everywhere from Tesco to Currys. Look for a large one if you are feeding a family. At least 5 litres. I also recommend buying one with a timer so it switches off automatically should you be delayed coming home from work. Here is the one I have >>> Click (Affiliate link)  

Hope you enjoyed my tips to making healthy eating and getting back in the kitchen a little easier!
If you are ready to embrace health through nutrition but need meal plan and recipe ideas along with lots of support, why not join my up and coming 60 day program which starts next Tuesday 7th June?

Details here: Healthy in 60

Sign up today and get 10% off!

Sign up here:

If you wish to speak to me in person about changing your diet phone 0877184523 or email theirishpaleo@gmail.com 

1 comment:

  1. Wow these are definitely very helpful trips especially meal planning, half my time is spent on thinking about what to cook or what I want to eat so thanks this was pretty good.