The kids have their pens and calculators sorted, but parents – how school ready are you? Going back to school means parents need to have three meals and snacks a day shopped for and organised. Jen from Plan Buy Cook says meal planning is vital to a stress-free school term for parents.
Feeding a family is quite a shock It turns out they need to eat three times a day (or more) for the best part of 20+ years. Who knew? Most skipped meals, last-minute takeaway or poor food choices come from not having the ingredients at home.
Beating the 5 o’clock panic
Trying to work out a meal plan every week around long days at work and after school activities can be daunting. So we have the formula to make meal planning a breeze. We call it 4 + 2+1 = Dinner done.
It means you only have to think about 4 meals each week. We want you to cook 2 Double-Up meals, where you double the ingredients and eat half of each meal this week and freeze the rest. We also want you to make 2 meals each week that are Fast & Fresh, under 1 hour.
The rest of the week includes 2 meals taken from the freezer from previously foodbanked meals with some speedy sides, and the last meal is Super Simple: leftovers, takeaway, or something quick like toasted sandwiches or eggs.
It will only take 10 minutes a week to plan out all your meals using the formula. It is good to involve your kids in the process, then do a big shop weekly so that you have all the food at hand when you need it.
If you look at your week and see which nights are busy and which nights are less so, you can cook Double-Up meals when you have a little more time, Fast & Fresh meals when you have less than an hour to cook and keep frozen Foodbanked meals for when you don’t get home until close to dinner time.
We have taken the stress out of finding recipes for weeknight dinners by dividing our cookbook into Double-Up meals that are freezable and Fast & Fresh meals. We also have some Speedy Sides, BBQ Salads and Super Simple meal ideas. You may also have your own recipes that are freezable or can be made in under one hour.
Another trick to saving time in the kitchen is to use the freezer for more than just storing frozen vegetables, ice, and meat. Marinate some of your meat when you get home from shopping and then freeze it so when you need it you are defrosting already marinated meat – doubling-up the amounts will give you two meals in a flash.
On the day you want to eat it, defrost the marinated meat and you can simply put it on the barbeque that night and do some salad and you have a home-cooked, tasty meal in minutes.
School lunches are often a big headache of the school week. Offering a variety of food that is both nutritious and appealing can be a challenge for 40 weeks a year.
Sandwiches are always great, but you can also work on incorporating a little variety into the lunchbox, such as using up leftover quesadillas or tuna and corn patties.
Lunch is also a great time to incorporate a few serves of vegetables into your children’s day, so choose ones that are easy to handle and not too messy such as carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes or cucumber rounds.
I also like to have week’s worth of homemade snacks frozen ready for popping into the lunchbox first thing in the morning.
This may include some homemade muffins or muesli bars, and savoury scrolls with different fillings. On a Sunday, you can bake a week’s worth of lunchbox snacks, or even outsource the cooking of them to your kids.
SIX TIPS FOR A STRESS-FREE SCHOOL WEEK
- Plan your meals using our 4+2+1 formula around your busy nights and less busy nights.
- Do one big shop so you have all the food you need for the week in the house.
- Incorporate a few serves of vegetables into the lunchbox.
- Bake some lunchbox fillers in bulk and freeze them. Muffins, muesli bars,and savoury scrolls work well.
- Double-up freezable meals for extra meals a fortnight down the track.
- Marinate some meat when you get home from shopping rather than freezing it uncooked straight away.
Banish the 5 o’clock panic with The Plan Buy Cook Book, available at all good bookstores, Kmart, Target and Big W, or online at Booktopia or Amazon. Got to planbuycook.com.au for handy planners and ideas on getting meal planning.