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Please help - am losing my mind

(17 Posts)
DahliaBloom Mon 09-Feb-15 12:20:14

I am seriously STUCK. I spend hours every day trying to figure out what we should have for supper, I go shopping every day for ingredients, I start everything from scratch when the boys are home for school and clamoring for attention, snacks, help with homework etc., and the whole evening seems to be taken up with cooking, and clearing up. Then I'm irritable and I wish I had more time with the boys.

I know I could do this better, and more efficiently, and I just seem to get into a spiral of over-complicating things and self-defeat. What's more - I have time! I am freelance and can plan my day exactly as I wish, so I don't really have any excuses. But as I say - I seem to have got stuck. I spend hours THINKING about meals and driving myself mad.

What I would really like to achieve is a combination of cooking things at the weekend that I can reheat during the week (casseroles, curries, I guess), and quick, easy suppers (that I can do the prep for in the morning). I'd really like to do minimal cooking in the evening. And I'd quite like a, say, 4 week plan for weeknight meals, that I just rotate. (DH isn't often home for dinner in the week, it's usually just me and the boys).

I've read countless articles about meal-planning and get completely overwhelmed by the huge variety of meals that people are cooking all the time. I like the idea of prepping veg/salad, poaching chicken, roasting veg etc., to have building blocks in the fridge - but am never quite sure how to turn them into substantial meals! For some reason, every time I sit down and say to myself, right this is it, just put a plan together - I get overwhelmed by all the millions of recipes out there and different strategies and spend two hours looking stuff up before giving up completely.

As I write this, I'm thinking "it's not that hard, for God's sake!", but for some reason I have a serious mental block. I would love some ideas so I can just get a system going and think about something else! Have a very small kitchen, and only a small freezer (no slow-cooker). Also - ds1 is very allergic to fish, so that's a no-no. And nuts, though that's not a big issue for dinner.

TIA.

AFingerofFudge Mon 09-Feb-15 12:24:39

Ok. I was going to say get yourself a slow cooker. Meals can be thrown in in the morning or at lunchtime and be ready for the evening.

Also, think about things you really love eating, because you'll be more likely to make something you really enjoy. For instance, I really love lasagne. And yes it is a pain to make it, but because I love it so much I do actually make it.

DahliaBloom Mon 09-Feb-15 12:26:24

Had considered a slow-cooker but when I read up on them on here, it seemed opinions were quite strongly divided. Perhaps I should re-think.

TeenageMutantNinjaTurtle Mon 09-Feb-15 12:37:18

Ok, I admit I am totally anal about this but I hate meal planning so I treat it as a job.

I set aside Sunday evening after dinner to do the week's plan, lunch and dinner. I have a folder of recipes that we use regularly. I do not use recipe books, if there is a recipe in a book that I like, I tear it out and put it in the folder, if I see one on the Internet, I print it out and put it in the folder. The folder is my food bible.

Then every Sunday I make myself a cup of tea and flick through the folder making my plan. I keep notes of what works well for lunch or dinner. I throw away any recipes we tried and don't like.

It is pretty streamlined now, I add everything I need to my online shop. I make a note on the plan of when I need I buy additional fresh veg. Takes me about an hour and a half every week.

Print it off, stick it on the fridge, easy peasy hmm

LollyLondon Mon 09-Feb-15 12:39:34

I've always meant to do this, but never quite got round to it...

I came across this site resourcefulcook.com/ which looks good. It might be worth following something like this, until you get the hang of it. It will hopefully take some of the decision making away and you can just follow the suggested plans?

Good luck!

cdtaylornats Mon 09-Feb-15 12:43:53

My system is much like TMNTs way. Plan and order on Sunday. I use a set of 50 recipes I have collected, about once a month I go for a brand new recipe and if it's good it replaces the least preferred in the list.

momb Mon 09-Feb-15 12:44:19

I started by, like you, deciding I wanted to do it but not actually starting!

By a big notebook. For the next two weeks write down each evening meal you do and make some notes on how each one could have been less stressful/better planned.

I now have a folder with about 50 easy/cheap meals that I make a note on which week we have them so they don't come up in the rotation to often. I plane on a Tuesday for the next Mon-Friday so have a couple of weekdays in hand to arrange groceries.

ishouldcocoa Mon 09-Feb-15 12:49:44

Rather than do a whole weeks worth of meals, try just doing 2 or 3 meals a week to start with, and build up from there.

Take it in small steps. Ease in gently!

YY to a slow cooker; they're really not that expensive. I got a Russell Hobbs one in a sale reduced from £35 to £17.50 last summer. We've had some great meals out of it.

DahliaBloom Mon 09-Feb-15 12:56:35

Ok, thank you for your wisdom so far! Have also been sitting writing a (another!) list of favorite meals. I think part of the problem is that in my daily panic/chaos, I've managed to cook so many bloody different things over the years, and then forget what was good, what wasn't. Would be better to concentrate on a few, then ditch less successful ones as I go along, as TMNT said.

DahliaBloom Mon 09-Feb-15 12:57:39

By the way - with regards to roasting veg to keep in the fridge; I like the idea of this, but what can I do with it? Purée for soup? Add to tomato sauce for pasta? Anything else?

HuevosRancheros Mon 09-Feb-15 13:01:38

Much the same as the other posters, Sunday night here too.
I have a diary to write my meal plan in, that way I can flick back and see what we have eaten in previous weeks, to remind myself of our staples, and also not be too repetitive. And it being a diary (mine is A4, page to a day as it is my "life planning" diary), I can see what we have on that may affect meals.

So today we will be lateish in, so it's spag Bol - bolognese batch cooked a while ago (I hope, just about to check freezer, otherwise I'll be batch cooking this afternoon!).
Tomorrow is swimming and very late back, so alternate each week with takeout fish and chips, and jacket potatoes.

Wednesday I'm doing pie and mash
Thursday we're having Mexican - fajitas can be quickly stir fried and any excess goes in the freezer.
Friday night is curry night (homemade)

I also run my meal plan through a checklist to make sure it's nutritionally balanced (ish!), so make sure we're having one pasta/rice/potato
We're veggie, so I check that our quorn/tofu/veg mix is balanced.
And I try to get eggs in once a week!

There's usually a meal planning thread on here, have a look at that and see if it inspires you smile

ivykaty44 Mon 09-Feb-15 13:07:44

can you keep the meals as simple as possible for a while and only do two weeks at first rather than trying to plan 4 weeks, which might be a bit overwhelming for a new starter?

I often make omelettes when in a rush or pasta with pesto as a later supper after sports- can put on the table in 10 minutes with three vegetables form the freezer and cherry tomatoes

EnglishGirlApproximately Mon 09-Feb-15 13:09:56

I love meal planning blush. To keep it simple i tend to theme the days, for example.
Monday - something with roast meat leftovers ie stir fry, enchiladas, mac cheese with gammon
Tuesday - something that goes in the oven whilst i do other stuff so lemon chicken, sausage and tomato bake etc.
Weds - pasta of some sort
Thurs - simple stuff as Dp works late do baked potatoes, omelettes, salads.
Fri - fish ie tuna steak and Crispy noodles, fish pie
Sat - treat night so fajitas, homemade pizza, burritos etc

Obviously adapt to your taste but i find it helps to have a rough theme in mind for the planning then we just swap the days if we fancy something different. Definitely look into getting a slow cooker. Mine was about �15 from Tesco and i use it loads. Yesterday leftover beef is in there at the moment making a chilli all I need to do is add a cornbread topping later then bake it.

DesperatelySeekingSanity Mon 09-Feb-15 13:18:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 09-Feb-15 15:34:41

My approach to this is to cook one or two lengthy recipes (casseroles, curries etc) at the weekend and freeze spare portions for another day. During the week the cooking is limited to some quick cook dishes or using pre frozen portions.

The 'meal planning' is in the form of a wipe clean, magnetic freebie from the local estate agent with the days of the week on it. Each day shows either a meal, main ingredient or freezer. The next few days therefore show 'bolognese', 'salmon', 'freezer', 'corned beef hash' ... As we eat the meals they get wiped off and a new one added to the end.

ishouldcocoa Mon 09-Feb-15 22:44:05

Ahhhh Cogito! We've just had one of those magnetic thingys through our post from a local estate agent.

Now I know what to do with it!

AlpacaLypse Mon 09-Feb-15 22:48:32

Our local estate agents are slacking. WHERE'S MINE??!!!

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