Family Meal Planning

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Whether your family’s large or small, a little time spent planning the meals for the week ahead will go a long way.

Parents with young children will know all too well that mealtimes aren’t just about presenting a healthy homemade dish that everybody gobbles up then greedily asks for seconds. Young babies’ bottle or breastfeeding times need to be structured in and around the dining table, older babies place many demands of their own with the messy challenge of weaning, while toddlers and older children begin to dictate the menu with their own tastes and preferences ג€“ heaven forbid! Here are a few suggestions to help you manage the daily stress of feeding those little mouthsג€¦ and your own.

ג€¢ Plan ahead. Every weekend, physically sit down with a pen and paper (or an app if you’re a high-tech mum) and plot out the following week’s breakfasts, lunches and dinners for your brood. Make a meal plan, shop accordingly then hang it on the fridge and stick to it. This will help prevent food wastage and headaches when the cupboards are bare.

ג€¢ Do your research. Even if you’ve never read anything about nutrition before having children, now’s the time to educate yourself and give your child the best start in life. There are plenty of brilliant websites and books out there to help, and health visitors are always able to guide you on your child’s changing nutritional needs at the different stages of their development. For further reading, try Healthy Packed Lunches for Mini Munchers.

ג€¢ Be clever with your cooking. As well as the obvious solution, which is to make double the meal then freeze half down, why not boil three times as many potatoes as you need, eat one portion, then mash the rest. Half of the mash can be used to accompany sausages and peas tomorrow; the other half can be frozen down for a quick and easy topping for a fish pie next week! For more ideas on how to think ahead and save future time, read our blog Secrets of Organised Families.

ג€¢ Think about timings. What works for you and your partner is unlikely to work for your two-year-old all of the time. Young children typically need to eat little and often, so you shouldn’t keep their tummies waiting too long to suit adult appetites, otherwise all hell will break looseג€¦ However it is important to sit down as a family unit at least a few times each week, so that you can spend some proper time together and your child can watch and mimic your behaviour, working on her table manners! Social eating is usually easiest to fit in at weekends due to hectic schedules.

ג€¢ Where possible, try to discourage your children from being fussy eaters. This is, of course, easier said than done, but it’s key to establishing a smooth dining experience, where you aren’t obliged to cook more than one version of a dinner at a time. Try to always present a meal where everybody likes at least two components of the dish. It’s acceptable for children to leave certain foods, but not to the detriment of their diets and overall health. Practise what you preach by demonstrating how you eat your meal without fuss or complaint.

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