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5 things to consider when menu planning

This month on the blog I am focusing on the basics of organisation and planning for family life.

For me both organisation and planning is evolutionary. I become better at things, I work out short cuts and tricks and I learn from those around me and from you on the blog!

Systems I create for making our family life easier are not set in stone, they need to be fluid and fit with what stage we are at and what is happening in our life. Today’s focus is on menu planning and you can read the other posts in this series by clicking here.


For menu planning to be an effective organisational tool, there are more than just the meals you need to consider. Putting a menu plan together requires thinking about broader family life, budgetary restrictions an dietary requirements. These are the five key things I consider when putting together our family’s menu plans.

Seasonal fruit and veg

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One of the cheapest and healthiest ways to plan your meals is to focus on using what fresh produce is in season. For Australians you can find comprehensive month by month lists in this post – Seasonal Fruit And Vegetables In Australia. I also include links to resources for northern hemisphere readers.

Time available to cook

Work commitments, after school activities, study timetables and other activities will impact how much time you have available to cook.

There is no point me planning a complex meal to cook on Thursday this term for example, as the two younger children have swimming lessons. I need something that I can prepare quickly after swimming lessons or a slow cooker, prepare ahead type meal which can be cooked during the day and then is ready for dinner when come in from our activity.

As I plan each evening meal I consider what time I will have available to cook and choose a meal accordingly.

Left over requirements

As I have shared recently, I am taking a whole food approach to my daily lunches. To make sure this actually happens I need to consider what will be left over from our main evening meals, which can be turned into lunches for myself and my husband.

These recipes for us have enough food to make great use of left overs for lunches:

Up until recently I used to factor in one evening meal a week to be made up from left overs. With the growing appetites in our family and lunch requirements, this is no longer something that I do.

Who is cooking

I try to plan where possible to have one day a week where someone else in the family cooks. This means for that day (usually a Saturday) I need to allocate a meal that they can cook with ease.

I have tried in the past to have them cook something a little different but find that I end up spending just as much time in the kitchen with them, showing them how to cook it, that it really doesn’t provide me with a night off cooking.

I do still wish to increase the repertoire of meals the husband and the older kids can cook, but I now use opportunities on other nights across the week to teach them how to make new dishes.

Nutritional balance over the week

Improving the nutritional content of what we eat has been a prime focus for me over the last twelve months. I am still learning a great deal about this and see it as a journey. Whilst I have made dramatic changes to my diet, I am making incremental changes to the family’s diet.

When I am planning the weekly meals, I consider the nutritional make up of what we are eating across the each full day and the week. For instance we have fun Fridays as a regularly inclusion in our menu planning.

Fun Fridays generally involves a homemade version of what would be a take away meal. (Take away meals are a very rare occurrence at our house.)

They are meals like:

These meals in themselves may not provide all the usual nutrients I would like served up for an evening meal, but when taking into account what they have eaten that day and across the week, I am happy overall with the nutritional balance.

What are the key things you consider when putting together your menu plans?