There’s nothing worse than that dreaded question – “what’s for dinner?” and your mind going blank as you try to remember what’s in the freezer. For us, weekly meal planning has been a huge timer, money and sanity saver. I have to plan for a family of four – including one children who is autistic (and has sensory/eating based issues) and another child who is on the milk reintroduction ladder so we have to monitor their dairy intake. We don’t have a huge budget so I don’t like wasting money throwing out food, getting extra takeaways because there’s nothing in the freezer that can make a whole meal and I don’t like being hungry.
Each week I go in the kitchen and do the following:
- Make a list of everything in the cupboard, fridge and freezer (write dates next to perishables).
- Sit and write what meals I can make from these items.
- Then fill in the gaps with meal ideas.
- Write shopping list of what is needed.
- Write meal plan and put somewhere you’ll see it easily.
It might help if you put a highlighter or sticker to highlight when you need to get something out the freezer to defrost.
Here’s one week of meals in my household:
Monday: Tuna Pasta Bake
This is easy to make and it’s mostly stuff you have in the home like tuna, flour, milk etc. I use the recipe from BBC Good Food for mine but tweak it to add some more vegetables in (hint: if like my children, your family can spot a vegetable a mile away then use the blender to make them as small as possible before adding). This recipe can be suitable for Cows Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) sufferers by switching to soya milk, cheese alternative etc. This is what I used to do for my youngest and once pasta was cooked I’d separate a little into a spare pot and add the soya version of sauce instead. Now he’s on the milk reintroduction ladder he is having a small portion of the main Tuna Pasta Bake.
Tuesday: Seafood Linguine
Ok, so this is a bit of a fake title as I rarely get linguine so I make it just using spaghetti. Frankly it tastes no different but if you want to switch pastas, then go for it. This dish is one I’ve cooked for years and slowly the recipe has changed as tastes have changed (and budget). It was originally a huge mix of seafood – prawns, mussels, calamari as well as tuna and anchovies. Now it’s a more budget version of frozen prawns, tuna and anchovies – still seafood and still tasty. It’s basically fried seafood then add in a tomato based sauce (I use passata as no one likes ‘lumps of tomato’ in our house) seasoned with onion, garlic and soy sauce. Add any veg you want – we usually have spinach in ours, sometimes mangetouts but I’m the only one who eats them! Serve with spaghetti (or linguine). My eldest is autistic and he actually likes this meal…as long as it doesn’t have prawns, the tuna/anchovies is so small he cant physically see them and I overcooked his so the sauce is pretty much dry on the spaghetti. He likes the taste but not the texture really so it’s more ‘flavoured spaghetti’ than anything else. I serve with garlic bread on the side.
Wednesday: Vegetarian ‘chicken dippers’ and wedges
I am in my 30’s and still love the classics such as fish fingers and good old dippers. I try and have at least one, maybe two meat free meals a week as part of our bid to be more eco friendly as a household. So I have bought vegetarian version of dippers (to be fair, they still taste like chicken dippers) and will serve with home made wedges and chilli beans (baked beans with chilli cut up into the sauce – you can just use chilli powder if you prefer, you could also buy beans in a chilli sauce from supermarket but this week I had some chilli’s to use up and beans in the cupboard). The kids will just have the nuggets (apart from J, the eldest, who will have regular as he has a special ability where he KNOWS if it’s not an actual chicken nugget), wedges and vegetables.
Thursday: Spaghetti and Amazeballs.
No, I’m not just trying to be clever – that is actually what they are called. I bought these vegan friendly version of meatballs as they are spicy and sound interesting. I decided to make a basic ‘Bolognese sauce’ and added the ‘amazeballs’ (which you can just fry in a pan). I then placed in some small balls of mozzarella and added some veg in – whatever was in the fridge really. Me and my husband loved them. They don’t taste like meatballs, they just taste like delicious spicy balls. This wasn’t one my youngest enjoyed however so he just ate spaghetti and vegetables, I think it was a bit strong for him…obviously on this day J had his usual food. Disclaimer: J is on vitamins and we have seen a dietician. We focus on calories more than nutrients as we slowly work on the food and sensory issues so if you see him having chicken nuggets or sausages pretty much every night there is no need to send me ‘parent police’ messages – yes people have in the past (insert giant eye roll here).
Friday: Chicken Fajitas
I love cooking this as I feel like I’ve been a proper cook when actually I’ve used a ‘kit’. I buy the kits that come with the wraps, sauce and seasoning. I literally just cook strips of chicken and add seasoning and vegetables (baby corn, mushroom, spring onions etc). Then microwave the wraps, cook some rice (microwave rice is totally acceptable), make some sides such as coleslaw, vegetables and/or salad bits…occasionally tortilla chips – with melted cheese if I feel fancy. I simple leave it out on the side and every one can choose what they want. F eats pretty much all of it (minus the coleslaw or salad bits) and J…he has the rice with nothing on it, bacon or chicken nuggets and vegetables (he eats baby corn and broccoli). I don’t like to cook lots of separate meals but on occasions like this it’s not hard to just throw some nuggets/bacon in the oven/grill.
Saturday: Spaghetti Bolognese
Everyone has a ‘spag bol’ recipe…some passed on by family, some by cook books, some by what’s in the cupboard. Mines simply mince (usually frozen as I find I get more for my money than fresh), browned off with onion and garlic (I cook mushrooms separately for my husband as I can’t stand them). Then add passata, dash of Worcester sauce, more garlic and a sprinkling of oregano and basil (I rarely measure things – sorry). Add that too spaghetti and serve with garlic bread or salad. As I said earlier, you can always blend up vegetables to hide and cook in the sauce. I’ve done this with carrots, celery and courgette once.
Just an extra hint this is a good reheatable recipe – freeze an extra portion of the meat and you can have it on a jacket potato for lunch in the week.
Sunday: Spicy Sausage Casserole
This is great if you need warming up and it only needs on saucepan so less washing up – woohoo. Grill or oven cook your sausages. Then add chilli, garlic, onion and oil to a pan and cover. Once softened, add vegetables (I add spinach, mushrooms and baby corn), half a tin of baked beans and either passata or tinned tomatoes. Leave to simmer whilst sausage finish cooking. Next, cut up the sausages and add into the saucepan, readd the lid and leave for a bit longer. I serve with potato cubes (you can make them yourself by microwave a potato, cutting into cubes then add a little spray of oil and bake in the oven till crispy or you can buy frozen potato cubes. This is quite spicy so for little F I give him sausages and the beans/veg but try to minimise the excess sauce. For J this is too ‘saucy’ so he has plain sausages, potato cubes and vegetables.
Good thing is, even the cheap sausage taste nice once cooked with tall the sauce and bits so this can be a very cost effective meal.
The thing I love most about my meal plan is that I don’t have to stick to it. If I fancy one of the other dishes I can switch it around…or if I forgot to get something out to defrost (oops). You can get a ton of good recipes online just by googling. Most supermarkets have a recipe section too. Have you heard of Jack Monroe? Jack is a master at cost effective meals that are filling and actually look pretty fancy so head over to the website to find out more (I tend to friendly stalk her on Twitter for ideas).
Are there any website or bloggers that you recommend? Do YOU share recipes online – if so please add a link in the comments. Any questions or recipe ideas you are welcome to comment below or come find me over on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. SHARES are always appreciated ❤