Preparing for a new baby: menu planning

A new baby on the way always prompts me to think about the areas that will need re-organising to make life as easy to maintain as possible. A small amount of preparation now goes a long way towards surviving enjoying life with a new baby after the birth! One area that usually gets tweaked is shopping and menu planning.

Menu planning saves me time: I remember to defrost the meat the night before I need it, I can quickly do a little prep towards dinner when I have a spare 10 minutes and I am not flapping around trying to come up with something to cook at the last minute. It also saves me money: I only buy what I need at the shops, I use what I have before it goes rotten and I am not as tempted to go running out to grab take-away at the end of a hard day. We also eat a more interesting and varied diet rather than dishing up the same old standby meals every week.

I have a bunch of lists and planning proformers that I print out and use to do my planning. They are in Word documents so feel free to print them out and alter them for your own personal use. They are not fancy (most are in black only because I don’t want to use up a bunch of coloured ink every time I print them) but they do the job.

Monthly menu plan. The 3 colour strips per day are for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I do not pre-date the planner so that I can use it for any month without having to make changes. I simply add the date in the corner of each day as I fill it in. I do plan all daily meals, however menus are very flexible and meals often do not match the day that I plan them for.

Weekly menu planner.  7 day planner for all meals plus morning and afternoon tea.

Index for menu planning. I have listed all the recipes I regularly use under meal types so when I sit down to plan a weekly or monthly menu I don’t have to search through recipe books.

Fruit and veggies shopping list. I print this out, cut it into strips, punch a hole in each one and hang them from a string inside the pantry door.  We shop for our fruit and veg separately to our regular groceries and when we want a list we rip one off and tick what we need.

Weekly groceries list. Again, I print this out, cut it into strips and quickly tick off what we need before a trip to the shops. I also have a pad on the fridge where we write items that have run out or are about to run out, or new items we need to remember.

Freezer stock-take list. This stays on the front of the freezer. As I add an item, I write the quantity on the stock-take list (adding a “1” to represent a meal amount) and when an item is removed, I cross it off. e.g. mince 1 1 1, chicken breasts 1 1  etc. This allows me to see at a glance what needs to be re-stocked when I am planning my shopping list, without scrabbling around in freezer drawers. It also helps me to use what I have first, rather than double up or buy unnecessary items.

The other thing I am doing is cooking heaps of bulk meals and freezing multiple dinners so that I have a couple of weeks worth of meals for after the baby comes. I have also cooked a heap of foods (meat balls, pizza, scrolls, sausage rolls, quiche etc) that can be plopped out to defrost with some fresh fruit or salad added to make a complete lunch. These are all cut into single serves so I can defrost only what we need for one meal at a time. Morning and afternoon teas are also stocking up. Again, all cakes, slices etc. are cut into small individual serves that can be pulled out and defrosted in a few minutes on the bench.

I don’t necessarily use these frozen items for straight after the baby’s arrival as my husband has holidays then. When he goes back to work for the first time is when I love the stocked freezer.

Advertisements

What’s for lunch Mum?

We’ve all heard it before; get organised and menu plan! Save time and money and get rid of the daily headache of thinking about what we are going to prepare for dinner half an hour before we should be serving it.

I have menu planning systems (weekly, monthly, shopping) and I do use them (most of the time!) but I was finding lunch particularly difficult to wrap my head around. I wanted it to be quick and easy but not just bread, bread and more bread. There were also occasions when I needed to pack lunch boxes and I didn’t want them to be nothing but sandwiches either.

My favourite lunch is what we call a ploughman’s plate. Sounds fancy, but all it means is that I pull out all the fruit, salad, veggies, cheese, left overs, cold meats or anything else I can spot laying about the fridge, cut it into pieces and arrange it on a plate. That works great when the fridge is stocked, the fruit bowls are brimming over and there is plenty of choice, but by the end of the week this is not a good option.

I decided to sit down and make a list of as many lunch ideas as I could come up with, barring leftovers and hot meals. Much of my list came from the excellent resources at Meerilinga plus a few ideas of my own.

I have printed it out, laminated it and taped it to the pantry door for inspiration at the last minute and to use when making up my shopping list for the week. You will find a printable version here.