When we discovered that our fourth baby was actually going to be babies Four AND FIVE, I felt:
- exceedingly blessed
- exceedingly terrified by all the practical challenges to come
My lovely husband let me have some time away from family life so I could map out a survival strategy. Firstly, I realised that having a kitchen day (read more here) to focus on food prep and cleaning could be super helpful. Then I realised I needed a better system for meal planning and shopping. I already meal planned, and obviously I shopped, but it took too long and I wanted it to be quicker, slicker and easier.
In lieu of having my own housekeeper, shopper and cook, I was looking for a way to easily rotate recipes and crucially create a shopping list so I didn’t need to waste time shopping twice.
Oh dear reader, let me tell you that I have found a meal planning solution and the more I use it, the more I love it!
I took a deep breath and paid good money for an annual membership to a meal planning service called Real Plans. I’m not one to spend money on, well, anything if I don’t need to, but I thought this would be cheaper than hiring a housekeeper/ au pair/ counsellor. Since providing nourishing food for my family is one of my priorities, I wanted to avoid the cheerios for breakfast and pasta for lunch and tea scenario if at all possible.
There are various meal planning services out there and to be honest I kind of chose this one without a load of research but I love it and can’t imagine a more responsive and comprehensive meal planning programme.
Since I have started to have shopping delivered on a Tuesday, I plan my menus Tuesday to Monday. I find it easiest to always prepare the same things for breakfast and lunch week by week so these items feed into my weekly shopping list. Then I shuffle meals around for the evenings based on what’s in the freezer/ what we fancy. I set the quantities for the number of people we will be feeding and hey presto….a shopping list magically appears telling me exactly what I will need for the week.
My favourite things about this system are that:
- I have a nice neat plan I can clip onto my fridge that includes breakfast and lunch
- It is really easy to add your own favourite meals to the database
- There are some lovely new recipes that have become family ‘go tos’ including meatball Parmesan and chicken tikka masala
- It is quick and simple to use
- Everything about it can be tweaked (recipes, portion size, shopping list)
- There is really good support for when you’re getting started
- My weekly shop has been around £20 less since using the service so great money saving!
My least favourite things are:
- I do still need to have some input into planning the meals!
- You need to pay for the service (its good and proper to pay but still, it would be nice if you didn’t have to!)
- It takes a bit of time at the beginning to add in your own recipes and to tweak everything for your family.
The couple who designed and made Real Plans are traditional, real foodies so there are lots of options for paleo, AIP, Gaps, Gluten free, dairy free or traditional food. I can imagine this feeling indispensable if you are struggling to piece together family meals when there are allergies or special diets in the family. However, there are also lots of ‘normal’ recipes for ‘normal’ people.
After seeing my weekly plan and shopping list on my fridge one friend (4 kids on a normal diet) rushed out to sign up and I’ve been loving her comments:
Real plans- I have tried so many internet things… this is the first where the kids like the recipes, it suits our schedule in terms of time, it’s actually healthy, and it suits ingredients available basically anywhere. I’m genuinely impressed!
A few weeks later she messaged me to say:
Still finding real plans has changed my life!! Honestly not hyperbole- we are eating better and I am almost always ahead of the game. It’s a win win. So thankful.
If you want to try it, there is a 30 day cancellation window so you can see how you get on with it. I paid upfront for the year as it is the best value. I have found the service so useful that it is the first time I have become an affiliate provider for another company which means that I’d love it if you clicked through from my links ; )
If you do try it I’d love to know how you get on with it. Or perhaps you have other great meal planning tips? I’d love to hear in the comments.