This post isn’t about how to meal plan successfully, it’s about how to meal plan successfully during the school holidays.
There’s a difference!
Meal planning under normal circumstances is just a case of planning your meals, shopping for them and finally cooking them. Meal planning in the school holidays is a whole new ball game, or at least it is in our house….
I need to consider the fact that some nights I’ll have extra for tea at very short notice and some nights I’ll have one of more children staying out for tea with little or no notice. I need to think about the fact that sometimes we’ll be out for the day and I won’t feel like cooking at the end of the day and also take into account that the kids are at home all day and are highly likely to eat a crucial ingredient of that day’s tea without even thinking about it!
So what do I do to avoid meal planning chaos?
Deal with snacking
Make it clear what the kids are allowed for snacks by allocating them a drawer or a shelf in the fridge for their snacks. My two know they can have one thing from the snack drawer a day along with unlimited fruit without asking me. If they fancy anything else they check with me first to make sure I don’t already have plans for it. They also have a drawer in the freezer which is filled with ice lollies and ice pops that they can share with their friends and a big drinks dispenser so they can all get a drink anytime.
Be Flexible with mealtimes
Don’t stress over sticking to meal times because it really isn’t worth it over the Summer. If eating together is important to you to catch up on your day, try having a family breakfast instead.
Try and plan meals that can be re-heated easily
If last Summer is anything to go by, the kids will more often than not be too busy having fun to want to come in for tea when I tell them it’s tea time. They’ll come home when their tummy tells them it needs food but until then they don’t want to be in so I have quite flexible meal times over the Summer. Bolognaise for example is a great example as I can reheat a portion and cook the pasta quickly at the same time.
Be prepared for extra guests
Over the Summer, we often seem to have extra guests for tea with little or no notice. I don’t mind at all as I love a full house and ultimately, I’d rather the kids were at my house than anywhere else. In the past I’ve made spag bol go that bit further by cooking some garlic bread to go with it so smaller portions are less noticeable and I’ve made chilli go further by mixing it with rice (not too much that it makes it taste bland) and serving it in wraps with curly fries to go with it. I also make sure that I have frozen pizza in the garage freezer (bought reduced usually) because when all else fails, most kids love pizza. I also have hot dog buns that I buy from Iceland for about a pound for 12 in the freezer and a couple of tins of hot dogs.
Be prepared for leftovers
Just as I often have extras for tea, I sometimes have less as one child or both stay at a friends for tea. This means that I’ll have leftovers which I will either freeze for another day or put in the fridge for lunch the next day. Once a week we have a leftovers tea to use up the leftovers.
Use your slow cooker
I use my slow cooker for all sorts – everything from bolognaise to risotto and casseroles to jacket potatoes so use it as much as you can. A meal cooking in the slow cooker is less effort for you and people can help themselves when they’re ready if you use the keep warm function.
Let the kids do some of the cooking
My two love a good kitchen takeover so consider letting them plan and cook tea once or twice a week over the Summer.
Don’t spend ages in the kitchen cooking when you could be having fun with the kids! Take as many shortcuts as you can – I’m all for packet sauces and frozen chopped onions and veg, especially in the Summer. It’s lovely to cook completely from scratch but sometimes there’s better things that you could be doing.
A BBQ doesn’t have to be a lavish affair with all sorts of burgers and meat on offer. Last weekend we just did some waffles on the BBQ with some sausages and burgers – all from the freezer. I do look out for BBQ food in the reduced section too so I can pop that in the freezer read for the next BBQ but we’re happy just with a few burgers to be honest. It just tastes nicer if we’re cooking and eating outside!
Don’t worry about what you serve up
We all know kids need certain nutrients and that we should be serving veg with each meal and making sure they get their five a day but the odd day here and there isn’t going to harm them in my opinion. Cheese toasties or dippy egg and soldiers for tea is sometimes just the thing.
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Image credit : Carolyn Franks, Shutterstock