5 Golden Rules Of Family Meal Planning

A perfect meal plan isn’t one that is just made up of your favourite foods or what you like to make or bake, rather it works in with your family and your life. It considers those nights when you just don’t have time to cook, it accounts for your son’s allergy and your daughter’s fussy ways and it also sits comfortably within the realm of the family budget – in short a great meal plan must be customised to suit you and your family.

Here are the five top things to consider when planning meals for your brood.

1) Plan for ‘no time to cook’ nights

Before devising a meal plan, think about your week and what everyone has on. Are there any activities that run late and leave you little time to prepare a meal during the week? Do you have a work meeting scheduled that you know will go overtime? Do yourself a favour and plan for these nights by scheduling quickie dinners, or meals that cook themselves. For example, speedy dinners such as a bowl of pre-made soup, cold meat and salad, or a platter of sandwiches that are ready to toast are easy-peasy dinners. Likewise, a crockpot casserole that you can leave simmering all day and enjoy when you get home after soccer practice is easier than dialling for takeaway.

2) Know what your family like to eat

While it’s not a good idea to always succumb to your kids fussy eating ways, taking this into consideration when you plan the weeks meals is a good idea because while they may not like all the meals that are put in front of them, you are more likely to have empty plates and full bellies if you serve up at least a few that you know a have your kids’ tick of approval. Think about the family meals you know are always winners – these are the family favourite meals that not only get eaten, but are requested again and again. If the thought of making spag bol one more time makes you sigh, try spicing up the family favourite to give it a twist.

3) Consider little ones who may need to eat earlier

While the idea of shared meal around the dinner table with daddy is lovely, in reality there comes a time in every mother’s life where you realise life is easier if you feed your babies and toddlers before he gets home. While they can still sit at the table with some finger food or dessert when mum and dad eat for some quality family table time, everyone will be much more relaxed if the kids aren’t hungry and cranky. To this end, plan for dinners that your little ones can eat earlier and that will still be appetising by the time you get to sit down – think easy reheat meals, dinners that can be left simmering on the stove and slow cooker meals that you can leave in the pot on the ‘warm’ setting.

4) Think about how much time you actually have to cook

When planning meals it’s a great tip to take into consideration how much time you will have to cook and tailor your menu accordingly. You may want to use the slow cooker and plan speedy meals like quick stir-frys for midweek dinners and leave roasts and long-cooking casseroles for the weekend when you have more time to spend in the kitchen. You can also bag up vegetables for soups and stir-frys on the weekend to make getting dinner on the table midweek a lot faster.

5) Plan to have a takeaway at home

Every household succumbs to takeaway once in a while – either as a special treat or a last-minute meal resort. But takeaway food is often expensive, salt- and sugar-laden and high in kilojoules and fat content. While it’s ok as an occasional treat, you will save money and your family’s health if you can take it off the weekly meal plan. If your kids are used to their weekly grease fix, however, why not learn how to replicate their favourite takeaway and restaurant favourites at home? Chicken nuggets, burgers, pizza and chips can all be made by you and are healthier when made in your own kitchen.

REMEMBER: To have fun!

Planning your meals doesn’t have to mean the same old boring dinners week in, week out. Work something new into the plan that you haven’t tried before. Bake a different cake, try making a laksa at home or recreate your favourite Chinese takeaway dish.

Download and print our weekly meal planner.


  1. Shorrty4life1 01/01/2020 at 10:17 pm

    Takeaway at home what a great idea. I love love love this idea now that we are getting into eating healthy. I can’t stand the oils in takeaways these days it repeats on me and gives me stomach cramp’s so doing homemade takeaways might be the best thing for me and my whanau.

  2. candyjanenz 31/12/2019 at 4:47 pm

    We do homemade pizza a lot at home which is quick and you can put on it what you know that children will like. Another quick and easy favourite for us is nachos. I think that it is good to have a couple of quick and easy meals and I also like ones that do not use many dishes as this is probably more important than quickly making the meal, as it makes clean up afterwards so much easier.

  3. Jen_Wiig 27/12/2019 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve always been hopeless at meal planning so I started using bargain box and hello fresh… More so to get family friendly recipes to create with our own ingredients once we had enough recipes… And it’s worked out well and now I’m more familiar with the recipes have changed them up a few times and doubled up for another meal at later date .. I’ve noticed since meal planning my shopping cost has come down quite alot over all.

  4. Micht 23/12/2019 at 7:19 pm

    Our family is always flying by the seat of our pants.. we cant plan ahead day to day as things come up suddenly and we go with the flow and work around it… based on that…our menus need to adapt..

  5. dawnblyth 20/12/2019 at 8:03 pm

    Planning meals for a family becomes very tricky in our house at times. I try and go for the majority rules element in cooking a meal but sometimes I end up cooking a seperate meal for the boys and then something different for the adults. Its not always ideal, but some nights I just don’t want what the children will eat and I don’t want the fight so I make it as easier as possible while still getting the children the food they need!

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