Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families
When you’ve got a family to feed, dinner times can get a little chaotic! In any busy family, healthy, budget-friendly meals that are quick to make and super tasty are the key to getting everyone gathered around the dinner table. Having a meal plan and sticking to it is the easiest way to make sure this happens, although between work, school and social activities, it’s all too easy for your weekly meal plan to go out the window.
To help you out, we’ve pulled together our top tips on how to stay ahead of meal times and dish up crowd-pleasing dinners the whole family will love!
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Your planner is your best friend
Stop, sit down with a cuppa and think about the meals you’ll be preparing in the coming week. While you’re writing up your shopping list, prioritise mixing batch cook recipes you’ll be glad to have in the freezer with quick meal options – they’ll help you the most when time is tight!
Our Family Meal Planner is the perfect companion for getting organised, with three months’ worth of weekly planning space and cut-out shopping lists so you’ll never forget an ingredient. From Breakfast Quesadillas to Apple Cinnamon Swirl Pudding, our planner has 26 exclusive family-friendly recipes inside too, so you’ll always have inspiration while you’re planning.
It’s out on the 23rd of June and you can pre-order it now!
Pick a weekly batch cooking slot
Whether your quietest time is a Sunday afternoon or a midweek morning, setting aside a time slot for batch cooking that suits your weekly routine will always be a huge help.
Our Cheesy Fajita Orzotto is a surefire crowd-pleaser you’ll never regret making by the batch load. This spicy one-pot dish has all your favourite fajita flavours without the typical calories. Loaded with cheese, tasty spices and generous helpings of comfort, this indulgent dish never gets boring, even if it’s served up time and time again.
If you get bored of eating leftovers, plan to cook dishes that can be served up in a whole host of different ways. If you can serve with lots of sides, you’ll never feel like you’re eating the same thing twice. Our Beef Stroganoff tastes just as good whether it’s plated up with chips, rice, mashed potatoes or pasta, so it’s a batch cooker’s dream!
Bear in mind that freezing guidelines vary between recipes, so it’s best to double-check before you label up your tupperware. Ideally you don’t want to leave anything waiting longer than 3 months – frozen foods can lose flavour over time, and NHS guidelines recommend not eating anything from the freezer that’s been stored for over 6 months.
Our latest planner comes armed with a freezer tracker, so you’ll always know what’s next in line to be used up. This’ll help you avoid creating food waste too – winner!
Reduce preparation time
With a steady supply of trusted recipes you can stock the freezer with, you’ll only ever be minutes away from serving a tasty, family-friendly meal at short notice. It’s easy to focus on dinners while you’re meal planning, but our food planner encourages you to take note of breakfasts, lunches and desserts too. (Psst! It’s out on the 23rd of June, you can pre-order it now.)
There’s nothing worse than faffing around in the kitchen on a busy morning, so we like to cut down on prep time by making a batch of Breakfast Muffins for the week. These fluffy yet filling eggy bites will see you through to lunchtime for only 256 calories per serving, and you can keep them fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days – simply grab, bite and go!
Chopping, slicing and dicing can be time-consuming depending on the number of ingredients you’re dealing with, so it’s a good idea to prep and freeze your veggies on a quieter day until you’re ready for them.
Next time you’re cooking up a veggie-filled recipe like our Bolognese Risotto, why not try chopping up a little more veg than you need? With pre-prepared diced courgette, carrot, onion and chopped mushrooms at your disposal, you’ll be ready to bulk out another slimming-friendly lunch or dinner in a flash.
You can also cut out the hassle of using fresh ingredients altogether and buy pre-chopped veggies or fruit to go straight in your freezer. Just as nutritious and flavoursome as fresh versions, frozen chopped fruit and veg is often even more affordable and longer lasting – so it’s a no-brainer, really!
Having a bag of frozen cauliflower handy in the freezer makes rustling up our Sneaky Mac and Cheese even easier. Without chopping florets to worry about, you can focus on cooking this cheesy one-pan wonder in less than 20 minutes!
30 minutes or less
When you’re as low on energy as you are on time, being able to cook a meal that’s ready in 30 minutes or less is a lifesaver. Planning your meals around store cupboard ingredients you can cook up quickly, like pasta or rice, is one way to do this. Our Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Chicken Pasta is so rich with tomatoey goodness, you’re going to want to eat it again! Ready in just 22 minutes, you can make this dish even more fuss-free by saving up a few extra portions of the sauce for next time – that way, you’ll have nothing left to do but cook off your chicken, boil your pasta and stir!
If you have time-saving kitchen gadgets like an air fryer or pressure cooker to hand, you’ll be able to build your meal plan around even quicker cooking times. How does cooking up a full English breakfast with barely any washing up sound? With our clever Air Fryer Full English recipe, you can skip the stress of dirty dishes and focus on family time.
This family-sized Ninja Foodi MAX Health Grill has the perfect basket size for all of our brekkie ingredients (bear in mind that cooking times may vary if your air fryer is on the smaller side).
Take a look here for more time-saving, slimming-friendly air fryer recipes.
Planning ahead doesn’t always have to mean speeding away in the fast lane. Thanks to their low and slow cooking process, slow cookers are a hugely convenient kitchen tool that’ll do the time-consuming work for you.
Leave a trusty one-pot recipe like our Slow Cooker Beef Stew to simmer for up to 7 hours while you run your day-to-day errands and come home to a dinner that’s ready to serve. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
The size of the slow cooker you’ll need will vary from family to family, so we’ve put together a guide to help you choose.
Take note of family favourites
The more you pay attention to which foods the whole family loves, the more likely you are to put out a crowd-pleasing spread time and time again. Taking home ingredients for family favourites that are bound to get used up works so much better than shopping on a whim. That’s why we’ve made sure our latest planner encourages you to note down any big winners at the dinner table.
When you’ve got a show-stopping dish that consistently leaves plates wiped clean, like our Spaghetti Bolognese Lasagne, it’s always a good idea to make more than you need. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough mince! Give those stray veggies in the fridge a new purpose and throw them into the pot. Chopped nicely and stirred well into the tomato sauce among the other ingredients, even fussy eaters won’t be able to spot them. It’s an easy, budget-friendly way to bulk out your dish and line your freezer with time-saving tupperware treats to fall back on.
With our Family Meal Planner, you’ll be able to build up a meal plan of go-to family favourites that makes the most of your time and budget week-by-week.
It’s out on the 23rd of June and you can pre-order it now!
What are your top meal planning tips?
Share them with us over in our Facebook group, where we have almost 1 million members waiting to support you on your slimming journey!
Did you know that you can now share your hints, tips, quotes and photos in our PON Gallery too? We’d highly recommend going for a scroll through the submissions we’ve had so far if you’re looking for some inspiration…