Meal planning is a sanity saver especially when it comes to children with fussy eating and feeding difficulties. I often help families with meal planning (so that they can include both food that they eat and food that their kids will eat on the family table) and I thought I was pretty organised with my own family dinner meals. But then I heard about my fellow Speech Pathologist Elisha Cooper who is the organisational QUEEN! So of course I had to get her tips with sanity saving meal planning.
Here is what Elisha said..
Hello! I am sure your kids are the same… They are CONSTANTLY.ASKING.FOR.FOOD! All day, every day!! And they are starving and demanding dinner when we walk in after a busy day at work, school, then soccer training and karate! Its never ending! So I have written down some tips on how I survive long days (I leave at 630am, get home at 6pm) and still have food on the table and enough time and energy left to do home readers, spelling lists, cuddle, and hear about my kids days!
Here is what I do..
I typically plan meals for at least 2 weeks in advance, often up to a month in advance! Always happy to be flexible if someone has a special request, but otherwise I stick very closely to it! Over the last few years I have saved so much money (as I have a list, I stick to it at Aldi!), I’ve seen the health benefits (its largely all prepared by me, no pre-packaged/preservative laden foods, and as I plan right down to the snacks- no reaching for naughty snacks at 3pm!)
But the biggest win of all is that I saved my sanity by having dinner on the table at 6.08 when we walk in at 6.00! I rarely cook on weeknights, just throw together the parts of what I’ve prepared earlier and heat in the microwave or stove while the kids jump in for a quick shower!
My top 8 tips!
TIP 1 Meal plan- breakfasts, lunch, snacks and dinners! I have easy, regular during the week, and keep the ‘recipe’ dinners for weekends. I regularly have leftovers as lunch the next day. I set aside a few hours (usually a Sunday afternoon) to prepare what I can- including boiling rice/pasta, I chop all the veges into the sizes they need to be (one container for the stir fries/curries, one for vege sticks for school lunches etc), make the sauces (eg satay, pesto) and freeze into ice cube trays.
TIP 2 Be organised with containers, ice cube trays, zip lock bags to pack your food and store it safely (I have 1 main, and a small second freezer (the beer fridge’s freezer!))
TIP 3 Write and plan your meals out – I write meal ideas in “Notes” on my phone- Dinner Week one (April), week two (April) etc; the ideas come from the meals we all ate without whinging (hurrah!), were easy or cheap, or if I’ve seen it on my Instagram feed ?.. you know those websites (Taste.com, Goodfood.com etc that share articles like ’50 freezer friendly dinner recipes’; ‘the top 10 winter slow cooker meals’- I always have a quick browse and write down one or two and save the link! I’m never without ideas of what to cook!
TIP 4 – Turn on your appliances/stovetop/oven going at once to be more efficient. I usually run out of pans and clean spoons etc! I roast a full tray (or two) of veges each week for lunches, salads, dinners. I make up work or school snack bags/containers (e.g. popcorn, rice crackers, cut up fruit or vege, cheese and biscuits) in brown paper bags, small containers depending on who they are for and what’s in them. Its grab and go before school, or afternoon tea is done when you’re walking in and out in 5mins between school and soccer training.
TIP 5 – Be clever about how you use your ingredients– For dinners, I try to get some main ingredients and work around that so I minimise waste, save money and time. For example, I get mushrooms and cut them all into quarters; I make beef stroganoff and a mushroom soup that week; I buy a piece of beef/lamb (whatever is on special) and slow cook on a Sunday afternoon, and then plan the meals around that- pulled beef burgers, shepherds pie, pesto beef pizzas; make a batch of Mexican mince/lentils (loaded with vegetables of course!)- I use this for burritos, as a pizza topping, Mexican lasagne. I usually make up one or two things for that week and freeze the third, so I am usually 1-2 meals ahead (in the freezer) for the following week.
TIP 6 – Double your batches especially with kid friendly meals that freeze well (spag bol, lasagne, pesto pasta bake)
TIP 7 – School lunches are always pre-made and frozen as well. I make the sandwiches and freeze- I buy one loaf of bread, make up sandwiches from the whole loaf (ham and cheese, vegemite and cheese etc) and then pack it back into the bag with a slice of baking paper between each sandwich and freeze; I make up a big batch of school snacks monthly too- I get the kids to pick out what they want- bliss balls, muffins, zucchini brownies, etc and we make them together and I double the recipe and freeze!
TIP 8 – Label and store flat to save freezer space. I freeze whole meals into ziplock bags in the freezer so they store flat and give me more room. I label them with the content, how many serves, date made and anything I need to add (eg Curry lamb, serves 4, add rice and beans). Wash up the bags when you’re done to help the environment ?
Elisha’s famous Overnight Oats for breakfast:
For the base add: ½ cup oats, ½ cup milk (coconut or almond here!), ½ cup natural yoghurt, 1 Tbsp chia seeds. Stir all together and store in fridge. In the morning grab it out, heat if you wish, and add in some toppings. My favourite additions are raspberries, acai, stewed peaches, almonds or coconut.
Other ideas: cinnamon, vanilla bean, chopped berries, cacao, pepitas. Recipes that are amazing are stewed apples and cinnamon, vanilla and raspberry, or vanilla/lime zest/cream (its like a breakfast cocktail!)
These store in the fridge for 4-5 days. I usually make 6 individual portions in one go, and depending on how many get eaten make an additional lot mid-week
Thank you Elisha, what amazing tips – I love that she pre-chops everything and labels it all – definitely a Speech Pathologist! Thank you again for sharing and I hope all of you learned a few new things, I know I definitely did.
Wishing you happy and connected mealtimes with your child
Paediatric Feeding Speech Pathologist @ Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology
This website and information on this blog post is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant or intended to replace Speech Pathology assessment and management nor medical or nutritional care for a child. It is recommended that you discuss any concerns or questions you might have with your Speech Pathologist and managing Doctor and develop an individualised team plan specifically for your child.
About the author of this blog post
Valerie Gent is an Australian based Speech Pathologist with 15 years experience in Paediatric Feeding. She has opened a private practice called ‘Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology’ in 2013 for Newcastle based babies and children with feeding difficulties. Valerie is passionate about working in the area of paediatric feeding and special needs and has been involved in the teaching and training of Australian Speech Pathology University students and allied health professionals. Prior to starting her private practice, she worked in acute paediatric hospitals in neonatal intensive care units, feeding clinics and clinics for children with special needs for 10 years. You can find out more about Valerie Gent and ‘Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology’ via her website www.letseatspeech.com.au and Facebook page www.facebook.com/LetsEatPaediatric SpeechPathology or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org