Life with allergies isn’t that conducive to spontaneity! Our eating out or take away options have become so limited since Caleb was diagnosed with food allergies- not just because of Caleb’s restrictions, but mine when I was breastfeeding him.
We all know that ground-hog day feeling of standing in front of the fridge at 5pm vaguely surprised that it’s dinner time again, and when your options are already restricted, you may need to find some way of creating a little ease around mealtimes to make sure you get variety, a little bit of ease and options for plan B when you have one of those nights where nothing seems to be working.
I think a lot of us feel resistance to a rigid plan- I know I do. I know intellectually I should plan weeks/months ahead with meals to make shopping cheaper, reduce waste, reduce decision fatigue and make the week just flow more easily, but I also find that hard to stick to despite my best of intentions.
So I have my own little ‘go with the flow’ planning style, which meets my need to feed our family of 5 without feeling too claustrophobic about the whole thing.
I tend to plan on a Sunday afternoon- we don’t often have commitments then, so everyone is home and reasonably rested.
- I ask each child (we have 3!) to decide on one snack and one dinner they would like to see during the week. That then gets written down on my list
- I have one night that is ‘freezer’ night (usually a bolognese, curry or soup from batch cooking)
- Another night is a ‘Mum doesn’t mind’ night which is essentially a left-over night dressed up with a fancy name!
- That means I only have to come up with 2 dinners myself, and I’ll usually try at least one new recipe a week, just to keep things interesting. If it is a busy time though, I don’t push this
- I know roughly what the plan is for each week- for example, any late finishes for my daughter after school. This means I plan something for those days that can be left in the oven or slow cooker while I do the school run.
- I check what I need to use up in the fridge and work out what recipes might work (often a vege pasta or soup does the trick!)
- I write my weekly shopping list at the same time, so as I go through each meal during the week I am covering off any ingredients I need.
At the end of all this, I have a list of dinners that sits on my fridge, a shopping list that means I will have the makings for all those meals and a framework of where during the week those meals will likely fall, but I’m not rigidly committed to specific days.
The other savior for me has been batch cooking. I do this once a month or so, and it is honestly self-care for the ‘future me’. I know that invariably there will be a night during the week where things run late, I might want to hang with the kids rather than cook or I’m just tired and don’t feel my cooking ‘mojo’.
Plans are there to make life easier, not to be a rod for your back, so find what works for you, follow the plan loosely and always always always know flexibility is your superpower!