I used to get a rising sense of panic every evening at around 5pm: I didn’t know what the family was eating for dinner. It happened almost every week night for ten years of parenting. I was always the one workshopping ideas on the phone with other people about what they were having for dinner, wondering if I could cobble together the same meal with less than an hour to go. My shopping was expensive and I would throw out a lot of veggies into the compost that never got used. That was until I was saved by Jen.
Jen is a chef by training, and the most organised person I know. She always knows what is for dinner way in advance of the day. If it is not a meal she pulls from her freezer just requiring reheating, it is one meal that she is cooking at the same time as the next night’s meal.
Jen could never understand how the mums in her mothers’ group could cope with the stress at the end of the day. ‘I can’t believe people can go through the day not knowing what the family will eat,’ Jen says.
‘My kids are asking from early on “what’s for dinner mum?” and I always have an answer. I find it very stressful to not plan ahead as it either leads to poor food choices or too much takeaway.’
I knew I needed help. But as is always the case, necessity is the mother of all invention. From a discussion around how to plan for family meals, PlanBuyCook was born. It involves an easy planner to help guide your meal choices. Kids can get involved by looking at the pictures and choosing some great meals from the more than 130 everyday, tasty meals on offer. It also helps by planning in days when you are out or having takeaway so you don’t buy food that you end up throwing out. The handy shopping list makes touring the aisles for food a breeze, and leaves you less likely to buy food that won’t be cooked.
The planbuycook.com.au website is also the source of inspiration and handy hints to make your cooking easier and more enjoyable.
I know from experience that I have decreased my stress levels and mental load enormously as a result of doing regular meal planning. The kids have a role in the choices we make, and I balance out the meat and vegetables to try and get a reasonably balanced diet. The food is always in the fridge/freezer or pantry to cook the meals, and I don’t do a last minute shop to the local supermarket three or four times a week with the kids asking for special treats.
Better still, there is a meal on the table between 5.30pm and 6pm every night – rather than edging closer to 7pm when three starving kids are at my heels and eating everything else in sight in the meantime. Often they were already full by the time I served up the meal – which just contributed to my stress levels more.
No more 5 o’clock panic and a happier mum and family as a result.