SELF CARE FOR PARENTS
Time Savers for Healthy Meals
While the health benefits of creating a healthy repeating menu are more obvious, the changes had significant unexpected roll on effects for our finances as well.
One wet day when our plans were cancelled I did some serious planning and turned things around for us. That day I created a fortnightly repeating menu (which I later expanded to cover a month because it worked so well.)
Hopefully you may find some of the following Time Savers useful.
Making Family Life Easy 1
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How do you easily prepare healthy meals within minutes of walking through the door everyday?
I don't know what it's like for you but at times I struggled with keeping healthy meals and snacks available for us day after day... week after week... year after year.
Sometimes the repetition was tedious and other times a bit overwhelming.
Some days I would walk in after soccer practice, the kids were starving and the thought of turning around and making a healthy meal was the last thing I wanted to do. I was already exhausted.
And all I felt like doing was sitting down, mooching on the couch with a glass of red.
Out of everything I did towards organizing the running of our household the following strategies achieved astounding results over years. And I've been asked for them again and again.
Do you ever come home late and feel like you're already tired but you've got to start all over again, in your most important job... as a parent.
At times it was all a bit too hard and I admit I chose takeaway just to get food on the table fast, especially after soccer practice or Touch Footy when we walked in really late. But over time, I found with organization in place, providing healthy meals, on a daily basis, was not only easy but it became easier than takeaway... Seriously.
You will know your routine better than anyone else and which days will need to be quick and easy.
When I planned my menu I put the most challenging days in first. If I knew I got home earlier on a particular day of the week that would be the day that I would put on say a baked dinner, or a stew that I knew would take longer to cook; although needed little attention once it was on.
Alternatively I could also have put it in a slow cooker so it was ready to eat as soon as the accompanying pasta, rice or fresh steamed vegies was cooked.
THE VALUE OF CREATING A REPEATING MENU
If you're creating a menu of healthy meals that works over time, thinking about your working week is a great place to start.
You may have some working days that are longer, children may have sport after school, you may have appointments after work or you may have to go shopping. And your children can often hardly wait to be fed.
On the days when I knew that I would walk in the door late I planned for my quickest and easiest meals. Or I used a curry or spaghetti bolognese that I'd made previously, stored in the freezer and put into the fridge in the morning before I left for work.
I went through the newly created menu and worked out the quantities of food that I allowed for each person.
And while this may seem an arduous task you're already doing it on at least some scale if you are preparing healthy meals. All I did differently, was do it properly once, instead of over and over again... over years.
Then I extended what I did, so I wasted less time planning, and got to spend more time on what I wanted to do.
WORKING OUT AMOUNTS
To follow what I did you will first need to work out what you want to eat and how much you need of each item for each meal.
These are the amounts I allowed, based on a family of 4 healthy eaters, two of whom were teenage boys who liked to eat meat at meal times. If you want to use this as is you will need to adjust to what is more appropriate to you.
Meat serves: For a serve of meat I allowed: 500 grams of minced beef (or a pound) for four people, 2-3 thin sausages per person, 2 small BBQ chops per adult person, (1 BBQ chop per child or some women who eat less,) one and a half forequarter chops per person (for stews and the like,) 1 small leg of lamb for 4 people (I usually buy a large one unless slow cooking it and use it for leftovers), one half of a piece of chuck steak per person, 1-2 lamb shanks per person, etc.]
Chicken serves: For a serve of chicken I allowed 1-2 chicken thigh fillets per person, 4 chicken wings per person, 2-3 drumsticks per person, 2 kebabs per person, etc...
Carbohydrate serves: Per person I generally allow: one potato, one eighth of a butternut pumpkin, one quarter of a sweet potato, one quarter of a bag of pasta or ½ cup of uncooked rice person as a serve of carbohydrates. You can determine how many serves of each you will need.
Vegetable serves: For a family of 4 serve of vegetables I allow: 1-2 carrots, 2 ears of corn, one fifth of a large bag of beans, 1-2 zucchini, one half to one floret of broccoli, one fifth to one quarter of a cauliflower, one fifth to a sixth of a bag of snow peas. (The bags I am describing are the plastic bags provided by the supermarkets to put your vegetables in, not carry bags.)
I highlighted the items that were non-perishable so I knew which non-perishable items I also had to purchase for the fortnight.
I took both children with me and sometimes used two trolleys (as the children got older and ate more food,) especially when I did my big monthly shop for non-perishables.
And as they got older I trained them to be more involved in locating items from shelves or reading from the shopping list. Even as young teenagers it worked really well because, they loved to eat.
And as a testimonial both of our adult sons currently use the same system I created and refined and have done for years.
Salad serves: For a serve of salad I allow one pre-packaged bag of salad for a meal for four people. If it is for my salad for lunch I allow one bag for three days to provide a healthy light meal for lunch.
I went through my menu and ticked off the items I was going to use over the next week.
I ticked the items off as I went through. You will notice there were some things missing from my list that were needed on the non-perishable part of the shopping list.
If this article is useful to you, your friends might find it useful too.
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