Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Menu planning - Week 1

Tuesday night's Mince & Macaroni, with vegetables.
 I recently purchased Nicole Avery's book, 'Planning With Kids'. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that it has changed my life. Nicole also has a blog by the same name - here's the link.

I have been feeling a bit out of control lately. My house is a mess (no surprise there, for those who know me!); it was getting to 5 o'clock every afternoon and I would dread having to think of something for dinner, going from the fridge to the pantry and back again on the hunt for ingredients to throw together, invariably cooking up a quick pasta dish. Again.

The constant state of disarray was doing my head in. I was becoming one very grumpy mummy.

Enter 'Planning With Kids'. The release of this book couldn't have been more perfect. It came out just as I was throwing my hands in the air and crying "something has got to give!!". The purchase was done online. The delivery was the very next day. The day after that, I'd finished reading it. I felt hope. An enormous amount of hope. Here was a plan that I could use. I wasn't being preached at and told I was a horrible person for being out of control, I was being shown how planning certain aspects of my day - such as meals and housework and all those other repetitive tasks - would leave me with more time and energy to focus on the fun parts of being a mum.

As my first step, I put together a menu plan. You can find a template on Nicole's blog, here. I took certain aspects of Nicole's plan and added my own little things - I have included the regular activities for each day, plus extra activities that might be on, as well as my husband's roster (he does shift work). I decided it would be no good planning a roast if we were out all day and a night shift was on the cards. I needed it all out in front of me, so I could then plan that night's meal. I ended up doing a plan for 4 weeks - both my daughter (nearly 4) and my bub (8 months) fell asleep while I was working on the spreadsheet for week 1, so I figured I may as well keep going! In future, I will do 2 weeks at a time - I was running out of ideas by the end of the 4th week.

Once my menu plan was printed (each week a different colour, just to look snazzy) and stuck up on the pantry door, it was time to go grocery shopping. I was absolutely amazed at how little I came home with. I didn't have to grab 6 packets of pasta to allow for that last minute cooking frenzy each night. I didn't need any 'just in case' purchases. For once, I really did only need what was on my list. I bought a lot more fruit and vegetables than usual, knowing they would be used and not end up as alien life-forms in my refrigerator.

And the results? Well....there have been a few hiccoughs. For example:
  • Night one's peanut chicken apparently burnt my daughter's mouth, so she decided not to eat it. We also had complaints about having it with rice instead of pasta. It seems some habits are hard to break.
  • Night two's mince and macaroni, which I assumed would be a huge hit, was met with outrage after I dared to serve it with vegetables.
  • Night three's pumpkin soup was enjoyed by all. Well, my daughter loved it at lunch time. Just not at dinner time, when she decided she hated pumpkin soup.
  • Night four's meatloaf with vegetables was actually eaten and enjoyed by all. Hooray!!
  • Night five was a night off - I went out with my sister and the 2 big kids had a sleep-over at their Nanna and Grandad's. Hubby bought himself Chinese takeaway.
  • Night six was leftovers - the 2 big kids had the meatloaf and hubby and I had pumpkin soup.
  • Night seven's corned beef with vegetables started off shakily, with claims of it not being liked, but ended with every plate empty and every tummy full.
We're already up to night 3 of week 2. I'm loving the feeling of knowing what is expected for that night. My hubby is loving not having a stressed out wife - and avoiding that same conversation every evening of "what do you want for tea? I don't know, what do you want?". Ending in pasta. Again. There is a reason I have planned only one night during the week for pasta.

My next change will be a housework plan. I'll let you know how we go.


  1. Please do - I'm struggling in the caravan at the moment and DO NOT want this to translate to the shed...after getting rid of a lot of crap I don't want to wallow in more crap here! Good work on the menu - must look into this, with all this venison, lamb and beef I've stocked up on and one child who can't eat tomatoes (rash ensues) so the bolognese fall back is now out!

  2. I didn't want to admit this openly on facebook but as well as menu planning for each week, I also have different 'types' of dinners for each night of the week. Mon=meat with veg dish, Tues=pasta, Weds=vegetarian, Thurs=stir fry, Frid=meat with veg dish, Sat=easy dinner (some sort of homemade burger or pizza, tacos, etc) and Sunday=soup. I even have an excel list set up with all the different dinners we like in it and have labelled them into different days. Now I shall go back and hide in my hole lol!

  3. Lirio Jaguar, I hear you! 'Stuff' just seems to accumulate. Let me know how you go with a menu plan :-)

    Megan, I had to see the funny side, or I would have cried! I was determined to make this work, despite children with taste buds that seem to crave pasta for every meal.

    Narelle, me too!! Mon=rice dish, Tues=pasta, Wed=vegetarian/soup (I had to add 'soup' after dire warnings of tofu dishes and hippiness at the 'v' word), Thurs=meat & vegies, Fri=slow cooker meal, Sat=leftovers, Sun=meat & vegies. I think it makes it easier to narrow it down to a certain category, rather than going through every recipe every night. I love the list of dinners in their own category! I might pinch that :-)

  4. Thanks for such a great post Kate! Family life is full of hiccoughs and I find having things like a menu plan, helps me get through them without so much stress.

    One thing I wish I had emphasized a bit more in the book, is that it does take time to make changes. I think for a first week, you did so well to stick to the plan and through repetition it should get easier - here's hoping!

    (While helping another reader of the book I came across this post on how long it takes to create a habit which you might like!)

    Thanks again for the lovely words about the book.

  5. Thank you for reading, Planning Queen! And that link is very interesting, I didn't realise that the pathways are there forever - and I'm hoping it takes less than 66 days to get everyone used to eating a more varied diet lol.


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