The panto and the meal plan

We don’t do meal planning. I know it’s a good thing, but we just don’t do it. I have three fussy eaters, all fussy in different ways, two vegetarians and an awful lot of extra-curricular activities to deal with. It makes midweek meals a bit of a minefield. (We do eat home cooked food and eat together at weekends though.)

Although we don’t have a meal plan, we are creatures of habit, so our weekdays look something like this:

  • Monday – fish finger sandwiches or veggie sausages, potato waffles and beans
  • Tuesday – pizza, potato waffles and beans
  • Wednesday – pasta with some combination of pesto, beans and Dolmio, plus cheese
  • Thursday – spaghetti bolognese

(I usually cook myself stir fried vegetables and noodles, which are quick, vegetarian and healthy. Sadly the kids don’t like them as they would be very welcome to join me!)

During the first week of panto rehearsals, meals went even further downhill. Sometimes the boys waited for me to get home, but mainly they fended for themselves with pasta or beans on toast. Some days it would get to 5.30pm, I would be waiting for my daughter and I would realise I hadn’t even discussed with them what they were going to eat.

So my husband came up with a solution – a meal plan!

I was looking forward to seeing what he came up with. I was hoping to see a properly written plan, with the days of the week and exactly what we were going to eat. Obviously they would need to be things that could be prepared really quickly.

I’m sure he would have taken into account additional factors like Scouts and Explorers. Not to mention that my son had rehearsals for  the school musical all week (yes, really – two kids with rehearsals!) and we would be getting home EVEN LATER.

What we actually got was some Cornish pasties, some fish to go in the oven (takes longer than fish fingers and is actually no healthier), some chips to go in the oven, some microwave jacket potatoes and some chicken.

Food, Meal planning, Chips, Fish

So who was going to cook this stuff? And when? Was I going to do it when I got in at 6.40? By the time I’d warmed up the oven and cooked pasties it would take nearly an hour. Considerably longer than our usual staples. And not even any healthier!

And what would happen on Scout and Explorer days? Needless to say, this hadn’t even been considered.

So this is what actually happened… I have to say I was very impressed!

  • Monday – pasties, jacket potatoes and peas and sweetcorn (cooked by my husband)
  • Tuesday – our usual Tuesday food (cooked by me and the kids)
  • Wednesday – pasta with chicken stir fry (and veggie alternative) (cooked by my husband)
  • Thursday – chicken curry (and veggie alternative) (cooked by my husband)
  • Friday – spaghetti bolognese (cooked by me)

The meal plan worked remarkably well. It was great not worrying about what the boys were eating and whether we had any food in the house to pull a meal together while I was waiting for my daughter.

It worked well because my husband was making an effort to get home a bit earlier and cook. It would be brilliant if we could keep this up in the future, but the reality is he works too late and I’m aways driving around taking my daughter to dance lessons. Sadly, there isn’t time to cook this stuff. But even if we could manage it once or twice a week, it would be an improvement.

How do other families with lots of after-school activities cope with cooking?

Author: Sarah Mummy

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17 Comments

  1. I didn’t know microwave jacket potatoes existed! We usually do ours in the overnight for over an hour which is probably not ideal when you’re rushed off your feet. I am a terrible terrible meal planner. I’m currently trying to think what to have tonight!

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    • Glad I’m not the only terrible meal planner. I’m often desperately adding up what food we have available, who’s going to be where when and who’s fussy about what to try and work out what to eat!

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  2. I have three children as well, although one is now 18 so gets himself to work/college and usually eats out (he works in a restaurant so gets meals on shift). he other two have clubs and practice every night so it is difficult.

    I shop weekly and buy 7 meals and hope they all get cooked and no reverting to takeaway. One night is junk food such as pizza and oven hips, but the other nights we have things like spaghetti, or gnocchi, tonight we have pork escalopes with a herb crumb, prepped last night ready to grill when we get in, will have with boiled potatoes and carrots, peas and green beans, I throw the veg in half way through cooking the potatoes.

    Basically preparation, it doesn’t come easy to me but my children enjoy the clubs and sports they attend and my son is a county rugby player. Thankfully the dogs can be walked while he trains five nights a week and also most of sunday dediated to either rugby matches for him or hockey matches for my 9yr old daughter and if we’re really unlucky, sunday mornings are hockey and afternoons rugby which means mcdonalds in between the tow (blush)

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    • I’m impressed! Your lives sound really hectic like ours, yet you’re still cooking proper food! The one positive I can say about our eating is that we never resort to takeaway, but we do resort to the contents of the freezer far too much!

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  3. I remember the frustration of having to feed everyone and juggle all the extra-curricular activities! Our weekly meal plan was invaluable and I don’t know how I’d have managed without it.

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    • Maybe I need to try a bit harder and come up with a workable meal plan for us.

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  4. Sarah it must be such a nightmare planning everyone’s meals around the Panto and the normal after school clubs. I usually have some microwave baked potatoes in the freezer as they are handy to pop in the oven. I go through stages where I meal plan, and then I think I just get bored and wing it every night lol x

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    • A lot of people criticise microwave jacket potatoes, but I think they’re brilliant! I wing it every night! x

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  5. Im shocked Sarah, no vegetables?! I’m amazed at your husband helping though, I know you’ve said before how little he is able to help at home. Glad he’s stepping up to the plate.

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    • I always eat lots of vegetables myself, but getting the kids to eat them is like banging my head against a brick wall! I hope one day they will learn just by watching me! It was good to have my husband’s help for the week, it made a huge difference! Sadly, normal service has been resumed now.

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    • Thank you! No doubt I’ll be sharing a fair bit about the panto over the next few weeks, although probably not so much about our meal planning, which is doomed to failure! x

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  6. when the 5 kids were at home and i was working and endless after school activities i would spend sunday afternoons batch cooking for the week which i would portion up for the freezer in 2s and 3s, the night before I’d select the number of required pots and defrost in the fridge, after school the kids would put theirs in the microwave and put rice in the steamer to sort out their own dinners or id cook each meal when i got home, if hubby was late or didn’t fancy the options he’d make his own dinner, we also stocked a staple of pizza, oven chips, beans etc for emergency or light meals. i still batch cook today, making double of every meal, so when hubby or i am away the other doesn’t have to cook for one, and i’ll be working my way through the freezer pots this week. I must have the world’s largest collection of tupperware also

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    • That is a really good idea and very organised! The kids would be fine with microwaving something and cooking some pasta or rice to go with it. We would need a bigger freezer though! No wonder you have so much tupperware.

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      • We did have to invest in a small chest freezer to be able to do this, I started doing it as it wasn’t fair on the boys to look after Stephanie while I cooked and she can’t be left unsupervised and the kitchen is a dangerous place for her to be

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  7. Get a slow cooker!! Quick, easy and everyone can help themselves when they’re home

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    • I do like the idea of everyone helping themselves when they’re ready. I ought to look into a slow cooker really!

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