What does September mean to you?
How has your Summer gone?
Lazy days with the family, grabbing food on the go?
BBQs in the garden, picnics on the green?
Sipping cold drinks, licking ice creams and scoffing scones at NT tearooms?
However you spent your Summer break, I remember the horror of coming back home to routine, normal life and planning meals for a family.
Let me put this out there, I don’t enjoy supermarket shopping. If I had my own way, I would order online and get it delivered. The less amount of time I spend in the aisles the better.
When I was struggling to lose weight, my nutritionist drummed into me the virtues of meal planning and basing my shopping list on the meals.
I was your typical busy executive, who did breakfast in the office (after the gym), usually skipped lunch because I hadn’t planned ahead and missed the “sandwich” van coming to the office and then came home wondering what to eat, even though my freezer was full of homemade food.
Wine (stress reliever), crisps or nuts whilst the food was defrosting and heating up, eating too late and dropping into bed too late and groaning when the alarm went off at 5.30 a.m.
Planning my meals 7 days ahead, and making a shopping list of those meals saved me time, money, and food waste and I lost weight because I ate healthy foods on time and didn’t feel the need to snack on rubbish.
I decided to run a 5-day September Reset in my free Facebook Group. I know not everyone is on Facebook, so here are the 5 days here!
The first task is to check what’s in your fridge, pantry, cupboards and freezer.
How many times have you done a shop without a shopping list or even with a shopping list and come home with more than you need?
You go and start to put the items away and find you already have a bag of macaroni or rice. How many bottles of ketchup do you have in your cupboard?
Is your freezer full of items you can’t identify? Or just full of items that you forgot you had?
What about your herbs and spices? Is that paprika a pale orange rather than a vibrant red.
Tins and jars that have just languished at the back of your cupboards, but still can be made into a decent meal.
Today, take stock of what is in those places. Yes, it may be daunting, but I promise it will be worth it.
Just think of the meals you could rustle up, the money that is sitting in your kitchen is just being wasted, when it could be put to good use.
Make a list of what you have now and where. Don’t make a list of what you need as that is for another day!
2nd task is to put our thinking caps on and brainstorm meal ideas.
Sad as it seems, OH (the other half) and I decided during the 1st lockdown to brainstorm the meals we currently made, ones that we had forgotten, ones in books/websites that we wanted to try.
As we couldn’t go out for restaurant meals, we ensured that each Saturday we travelled the globe by cooking meals from other countries. Some made it to the list, others went by the wayside.
We set up a spreadsheet - I told you we were sad - split into different meats, veggie meals, miscellaneous etc. Plus a section for lunches.
We printed it out and left some spaces for new additions. Every so often we update and print it out.
So my task today is to brainstorm your meal ideas. Get the family involved. Use Post-it notes or just bits of paper. Translate it into a list that you can use for the next task.
3rd task is to make a 14-day meal plan! Well at least a 7-day plan
You have checked out the kitchen and made a list of what you have hidden away.
You have brainstormed meal ideas and written them down.
Now let’s translate these 2 into a 14-day meal plan. 7 days will do and just for dinners if trying to do lunches and dinners is too overwhelming.
Look at what you have. Can they be made into meals without getting any more food in?
Can you make some meals from what you have by adding a few more ingredients - that you will continue to use?
Don’t buy things that you won’t use on a regular basis. Write these meals down - Make sure you highlight the ones that need extra items.
If you want to start a shopping list, you can do it and the task is below.
The 4th task is to write the shopping list and go shopping
Take a look at that 14 or 7-day meal plan and if you haven’t started to transfer the items you need to make the meals, then start to do that now.
I find it best to split the list into fresh foods, frozen, tinned/canned etc.
Don’t be afraid to stock up on frozen veggies to bulk out chillis, spag bol, curries, stews making soups, etc. Frozen fruits are great for adding to yoghurts, smoothies, and crumbles. There are so many options available.
Don’t be lured into buying pasta sauces based on tomatoes, when you can make them yourself. White sauces are easy to make as well. Want a curry, then buy the paste rather than a “cook-in” ready-made version.
These can be classed as “Ultra-processed” foods and are full of additives and other items you won’t find in your kitchen. One reason why these tasks are so important is to help stop you from buying ready-made meals, sauces etc.
Got that list ready?
Now hit the internet or your local supermarket. Don’t be tempted by the special offers, they are usually on ultra-processed foods. Don’t buy something on impulse because it looks shiny and new!!
Off you go!!
The 5th and final task is to cook once, and eat many!!
So the food is in the kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer. The meal plan is pinned up and we are ready to go.
Going to be late home? Stick it in the slow cooker if you have one or switch on the timer for the oven.
Frozen meal ready in the freezer - get it out in the morning to defrost ready for heating up later.
Rope in the family to help you. The kitchen is not just for women! Kids can pitch in to help and remember you are teaching them habits that will last a lifetime. Hubby/partner gets in before you? Explain what needs doing even if it is just veggie prep.
Don’t forget about cooking once and eating twice/many. What’s the point of chopping up veggies and meat etc., just for one meal, when you can double/treble up the ingredients and freeze for other days?
When we had a garage, we had a big freezer and used to do batch cook-ups! We don’t do the same level of batch cooks now, but always cook once, and eat twice.