As a busy parent, we get asked a million questions a day. But what is the one question that gets you shrugging your shoulders? “What’s for dinner?”

Given we know dinner happens every day, you would think that we would have it all planned out and we would know what is coming up, but the reality is, that life often gets in the way and we end up with whatever is in the fridge. Or if we do have a plan, the preparation of it is rushed and we’re not eating as well as perhaps we should.

When life is chaotic, we should be doing all we can to take the stress out of it. One way we can reduce stress at the end of day or after work meal time is to meal plan. I know, I can see you rolling your eyes, but it is achievable. Meal planning is absolutely essential to having a calm evening especially when you’re trying to manage fragile, tired little people who just want ‘cuggles on the couch’, or when everyone’s friend the telemarketer calls to chat about your internet problems.

A really great way to start your meal planning, particularly if you have fussy eaters is to sit down (with them if necessary) and list all of the meals that are happily eaten, with no fuss or arguments. For us, it’s burritos, tacos, spaghetti, quiche, fish and chips, fried rice, just to name a few.

Then list all breakfast meals, snacks and lunches that you and your family like to eat. If you haven’t already heard of it, a cyclic menu is going to be your new best friend. What’s a cyclic menu? It’s a menu that can be repeated, maybe every couple of weeks, or if you are more creative, every 6 weeks or so. It is as simple as listing Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks for each day. It’s predictable, it’s repeatable and it also helps with budget planning. With your meals in mind, and your cyclic menu template written out, it is time to populate the weeks ahead.

So once you’ve populated your cyclic menu with what you know you’ll all eat, check out what’s in your cupboard. Use those tins that have almost expired, and get creative. Search the net for the bagillions of recipes that are there and get cooking. Will your kids eat it? Who knows, but it is worth a try, right? It might just become your new favourite meal.

Never forget the power of takeaway night, either. Everyone needs a night off, and we don’t always need meat and three veg (ok, we probably do, but cut yourself some slack!) Not only is it a great relaxant for everyone, it can be a good bargaining chip with the kids!! Once your cyclic menu is planned, write your shopping list accordingly.

An excellent way to communicate the plan to the rest of the family is to use a wall planner to show everyone what is coming up. Not only does this (hopefully!) stop all of the questions about what is for dinner tonight, but more importantly, if you share your household with another adult or someone who is capable of cooking, they might even be able to start the cooking for you.

At Daily Orders, we have a range of planners available to suit your needs, from fridge size planners to large monthly and weekly planners. Our planners are loved by celebrities Janet Roach (Real Housewives of Melbourne), Jimmy Rees (ABC Kids TV presenter) ,Thermomix social media queens Nikalene Riddle (Skinnymixers) and Lailah Rose Drummond (Thermomumma) and thousands of busy Australian families. Because we’re on the topic of meal planning, we’re thrilled to be able to give away one black weekly planner and liquid chalk markers! The planner is super versatile so you can mount on your wall or fridge – wherever you need it really!

Meal planning is not hard, nor does it take a lot of time, but it is something we all seem to struggle with. It can even be done one night when you’re having dinner because you’re all in the mood for food! Take the time to sit down and do it once, make it repeatable with your cyclic menu, and your stress levels and food bill will be reduced in kind!


You might also like to read:

Children have to ask questions, it’s how they learn!

You Might be Surprised What Your Kids are Eating!

Playtime Rules

Stay-At-Home-Mum: A Day in the Life.