My number one goal for 2018 is to pursue a clean, refreshed, stress & clutter free life. It’s a big goal and don’t know if it’s even possible. As difficult as it may be though, it’s a goal which I believe is to some extent achievable.
Now when I say ‘clean, refreshed, stress & clutter free life’ I do mean, first & foremost, de-cluttering my mind of negative energy & getting organised in my head. That my friends may take some time, so bare with me…I’ll have to come back to that topic!
When I feel most stressed, though, what I find is an easy first step towards de-stressing is starting with my physical environment. When I look around my home I want it to feel like the ultimate place of relaxation, not a field of anarchy or a reminder of a growing ‘to-do’ list. I know some of you reading this may not think this a priority, but I really believe that a neat, organised & clutter free home makes it easier to get through the day. Well, I know for me personally, I feel like I can function more competently when everything is in it’s place.
So in the name of ‘Getting organised in 2018’, I’ve decided to share with you the steps that I have been taking in an attempt to reach that ultimate, perhaps utopian, goal.
I’ll talk more about organising the home in another blog.
In this blog, of a series, I really want to tell you how meal planning is a great first step and can be a real game changer for anyone (probably all of us!) who find making dinner decisions so damn frustrating.
I tell you there were real times when deciding what to cook every night stressed me out & without even realising I’d find myself in a rut, cooking the same dishes on rotation every week.
And then there’s the whole “what’s for dinner?”
That dreaded question!
If only we had a dollar for every time we’ve been asked, right!
Over the years I’ve tried so hard to make this ‘dinner-making’ process both quick and easy. I haven’t always been successful and often ask myself, “Do these kids of mine really need to eat daily?”
Although you may never suspect it from looking at my consciously curated social media feeds, some days I get so stuck for ideas or have left it too late that I tell my kids dinner is simply a toasted cheese sandwich.
“That’s dinner!” I say and then zone out to all types of complaining. I think I did this more than once last week. It’s just been so hot in Sydney plus the drain you feel as you crawl through the last few days of school holidays — I just couldn’t be bothered! All the Mums out there will know what I mean.
My girls are old enough for me to get away with that now and I know for certain they WILL NOT starve to death.
Generally, however, not having dinner in my household isn’t a regular occurrence. On my better, more organised days and weeks I now do a weekly meal plan and have been doing this regularly over the last year. And let me tell you, it makes my life So. Much. Easier.
H E R E ‘ S why?
Reduces stress of dinner decsions
Every weekend, usually a Saturday morning, I sit down and plan for the week ahead. I make note of what I will cook that week and from there I do a grocery shop for the whole week. I have found this dramatically takes the stress out of day-to-day dinner prep or deciding what to cook because I have already planned, prepared and shopped ahead of time. Therefore everything I need for a recipe should be right there in my kitchen.
Less time & less money spent at the supermarket
Doing one big shop for the week, with a list, results in a lot less trips to the supermarket. This really helps with budgeting too. How many times have you gone into the supermarket or grocery store for just one thing and instead walk out with a basket or trolley full of items that you didn’t really need! And at least $100 poorer! Me, often!
With my meal planning I have a list, I know exactly what I need and with some discipline I’m more likely to stick to that list.
Reduces food waste
Something else that meal planning helps with is the reduction of food waste. This is something that I have been conscious of a lot lately.
Food waste is such a huge problem, especially in developed parts of the world where affordability has now resulted in over consumption.
Did you know? Australians, as one example, throw out up to 20% of the food they purchase. And “globally, one third of all food produced does not get eaten; that’s 1.3 billion tonnes of perfectly edible food wasted. And yet one in nine people do not have enough food to eat.”
Isn’t that thought seriously crazy!
Meal planning means I’m buying what I need to serve meals for the week and hopefully nothing gets forgotten at the back of the fridge.
H E R E ‘ S how?
- Start on a Saturday or Sunday morning, find a quiet spot, make a cup of coffee and sit down to plan for the whole week ahead.
- Begin with a draft. I use pen & paper, ’cause I’m old school like that but you can of course use an app or use ‘notes’ on your phone. If you like to write things down, like me, feel free to download my meal plan template at link here… TLP_Meal Planner
- Check your freezer for any meat / poultry items and pantry for dry goods. I find this a useful starting point that helps me come up with ideas using what I already have and again I’m reducing food waste by using those items first.
- Including your families favourite recipes is another good starting point. You could of course ask your family for suggestions which is a great way to get the kids interested as well as have them look forward to meals they enjoy eating.
- Use different days of the week as a reminder to cook a certain type of dish. For example, I often plan a vegetarian dish for #meatfreemondays. Or fish on Fridays. This reminds me to include these types of dishes/ingredients in our meals hence decreasing the amount of meat & poultry we consume.
- When meal planning I always dedicate a night for leftovers. I intentionally choose a dish that I can easily cook in a larger quantity or one that I can refresh and turn into another dish the next day. Check your calendar & plan this ‘leftovers day’ on one of your busier days. And you know what, I don’t think you need to have a busy day…just plan for it anyway. It’s the best break from cooking without having to buy take out! Time-saving & budget friendly!
- As well as ‘leftover days’, plan days for no cooking at all. We usually do this on a Friday because this is also the day we have dinner at my in-laws but I also plan for a no cooking day on either Saturday or Sunday just because we all need the break from the kitchen.
- Lastly, use a notepad, chalkboard or a letterboard (like the one I use above, purchased from Kmart) in the kitchen to write down the week’s meals. This works as a quick reminder for me & stops the kids from the constant ‘what’s for dinner?’ It’s up on the board for everyone to see.
I get that meal planning may not be for everyone but I’d still highly recommend you give it a go. Even the best of cooks and those who know their way around a kitchen really benefit from this planning ahead process. In my experience, it’s reduce the constant stress of daily dinner decision making, something that for years I found was the most chaotic & stressful part of my day.
So there you go, start meal planning with me and move one step closer to ‘getting organised in 2018!’
P.S. Would love to know if you have a similar or different meal planning system. And please tag me on Instagram so I can see all your weekly meal plans!
 Stats via OzHarvest