The Secret to Family Meals; Night after Night.
The Secret to Family Meals; Night after Night.
I have been cooking for a few years now. With a Thermomix. Without a Thermomix as well as teaching classes and answering any number of cooking questions across all my social media channels.
Guess what I am asked most often?
What to cook for dinner, night after night, year after year. Those damn kids insist on dinner every night. Poor mum. Or dad for that matter.
My answer to this is usually something along the lines of you know where to find my recipes. But in all honesty the best answer I have for this question is menu planning and organisation.
It is easy to whip up something acceptable to all the little tackers (and the big ones too) if you are onto menu planning and are on top of your pantry and fridge organisation.
To make a menu plan doesn’t have to be rocket science. Back in the olden days, even before I had heard of Thermomix, I had 5 hungry kids demanding dinner every night (as well as breakfast and lunch) and I had to be organised or there would have been a coup d’etat in the suburbs
I pretty much resorted to a rotation menu of 3 weeks. This may sound boring, but life did get in the way and it didn’t really ever work out quite that perfectly. It did make my life easy however.
Monday was Meatless. This is where I managed to come up with many of my vegetarian standards that we still eat now. There are a load more vegetarian and meatless recipes available across a wide platform of sites and publications. Save the planet and feed the little darlings at the same time. It’s a perfect Monday!
Tuesdays I remember was always a bit manic with kids activities. So I was often in the car up until early evening, picking up or dropping off or both. Piano, basketball, dancing, swimming waits for no mum. Food was often the last thing on my mind, but I had my menu blueprint and Tuesdays had to be slow cooker day. I had that thing cranked and working before I did the morning school run. I have to say, in the summer we would go with pulled pork or chicken, from the slow cooker with a quick salad or coleslaw on the side. Winter was more likely beef stews, curries or similar. Lovely warming dishes that filled the house with the fragrant promise of good food to come even before they were home from school.
Wednesday was chicken. Usually butter chicken. With a jar of sauce. (Scandalous!) Nowadays, you can go with your own jar of sauce. SO easy. If only I had jumped on the Thermomix train sooner!
Thursday was also a busy activity night, so it was usually a combo of leftovers made into jaffles or wrapped in crepes. Add cheese, bake and no-one asks what it is!
Fridays was Anything Goes. I would take the older kids down to the local shops with $5 each. They had to co-operate and come up with a meal that didn’t blow their budget. They were allowed to spend it all, and the meal had to involve vegetables. They could also use anything I had in the fridge, pantry if they wanted to. It was hilarious. There were many trips out from the store to me still in the car, to ask if we had this or that ingredient. Finally a decision was made and we usually had something pretty weird and wonderful. It did help my kids all figure out how to cook with what was available, and budgeting their money was also a life lesson learnt.
On the weekends I loved to cook. Some of my kids loved to cook alongside me. So we would make things like lasagne, literally everything from scratch; the pasta, bechamel, the bolognaise. There was nothing more satisfying than those family meals. We all still have fond memories and talk about those cooking sessions. Happily all of my kids enjoy cooking as adults. They certainly enjoy eating!
SO, my Top Tips for Menu planning and organisation are these;
- Examine your schedule/calendar: Do you have any events? Social plans? Is there a busy night or do you work late?
- Mark the days that meals will be difficult with a small “X” in the corner.
- Don’t worry about breakfasts and lunches yet. You’re going to address them once you get used to planning dinners. Sure, you can write down 2 or 3 simple, crowd-pleasing options for breakfast and lunch —but for now, plan mostly for dinners.
- Choose easy, familiar dinners—meals you can make, that your family likes. Even if it’s macaroni and cheese, or a super easy soup —totally fine.
- On a new list, write down the ingredients you'd need to buy to create those meals.
- Make sure meals with fresh ingredients are early in the week.
- Next, take your ingredient list and check it against your fridge and pantry. Cross off items you have on hand.
- Use your list.
- Shop online and save time.
Success! You've just meal-planned! GO YOU! Now put it on repeat! You got this. You really do.
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Tenina Holder is a wife, mother of five and grandmother, who started cooking in the olden days before Thermomix was even a thing.
Tenina has become the premium go to source for all Thermomix expertise and of course fresh and easy recipes that work. Her cooking classes and foodie trips are sold out in literally hours, her cookbooks appear on the Australian best seller lists and her social reach is in the millions. She believes chocolate, butter and salt are health foods. Her food positivity mantra is, eat everything, just not all at once!