• Cara Goulding

Family Meal Planning

One of the things I was super excited about when having a baby was all the meals that I would be able to plan for her and the tastes she'd be able to explore. I was really eager to make sure she got home cooked meals but to do that I needed to do some planning or else I'd be reaching for the easy meals more often than not.

We also all know that Maternity Pay doesn't last forever, nor is anyone living on maternity pay particularly well off, so I've found that planning for the week/two weeks/month ahead is key in saving the pennies.

We've recently started shopping at Lidl because we have one on our doorstep and it's far cheaper than the usual supermarkets. I also prefer Lidl nappies to Aldi so that works out well! I do miss being able to shop online and in some respects I do find that this is the best way to stay in budget as you don't have to walk around with a calculator in store (like I have been doing) but unfortunately Lidl isn't quite there yet!

After some trial and error we have decided that the best way for us is to shop fortnightly. This helps stop the 'additional bits' shops that were happening before when we were shopping monthly.

So the first thing I do is draw up a list of the weeks ahead and start to think about what we've had in the previous weeks. I have my staple dishes but I do like to mix it up a bit, especially now we have Rosie and I want to make sure she has a broad scope of foods to try. It's really easy to get stuck in a food rut so I check my recipe books, Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and I try and add in a couple of new recipes with every shop. One of my new favourite recipes is a Moroccan Tagine which has become a firm favourite.

I would highly recommend the Young Gums recipe book which has a really good choice and thinks about both parents and babies in portion sizing. They are also really quick to make which is so important when trying to make meals and keep an eye on the baby.

You just need to type 'BLW' or 'Baby Food' into Pinterest to be hit with idea after idea but here are some ideas to get you started:

Banana Breakfast Balls

Blueberry & Coconut Oat Bars

Chicken & Sweet Potato Meatballs

Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach & Goats Cheese Mini Quiche

Tuna & Potato Cakes

Some of my favourite BLW instagram accounts that are worth a follow are @little_human_big_foodie, @our_blw_journey, @anjs_kitchenblw, and @ledbylorelei

I find the way that works best for me when I'm meal planning is to make a chart with the days of the week and breakfast, lunch and dinner columns and just simply fill it in.

I like to visualise the weeks ahead and doing it this way means I can make sure that she's getting enough of each food group per day. I try and make sure she has some protein, fat and veg/fruit with every meal but I also try and make sure she has at least two days where she has fish or tries a food she hasn't before. If I'm trying to encourage her to eat a food she isn't particularly fond of then it's a good way to remember how often I've tried to reintroduce.

I've been pretty laid back with the foods that she has tried, we hit the allergy foods (nuts, egg, milk) quite early on just to make sure there wasn't an immediate reaction, although it's worth noting that with all allergies they can build over time. This has allowed me to give her all the foods I can think of, nothing is off limits. If I'm having it for dinner there's no reason that she can't too and in fact that's how we work now.

We've got into a nice routine where in the morning I come downstairs with her and consult the list to see what's on the menu for breakfast. Rosie has had other ideas recently and doesn't seem to want anything but yoghurt, I've indulged her with it because I want her to put on some weight and full fat greek yoghurt is a good way to do that but I also don't want her to become a fussy eater and turn away other foods so I plan to start introducing the options again. We eat breakfast separately because it's easier to help her eat the yoghurt and then eat my own breakfast.

When lunch time comes around I check the list again and make up her food. It can be anything from a crumpet with cream cheese to cheese and courgette muffins. The meal plan really comes into its own here as lunch is the meal I struggle with the most. It's hard to feel inspired but if I've already written down what she's having I don't have to frantically try and think of something on the spot and then just give her the inevitable peanut butter on toast. We tend to have lunch together as I can let her get on with it, she always steals some of my food too so I normally just have what she's having or a variant of.

Until recently I was leaving Leigh to make dinner whilst I did the final breastfeed and giving Rosie leftovers from the day before but we've found it actually works quite nicely if I start making dinner for the three of us a bit earlier. It doesn't always work out that we all eat as a family, if Leigh is late home then he and I will eat our food after she has gone to sleep but it does mean that Rosie gets a freshly prepared meal everyday rather than our leftovers. I find that dinner is the meal that she most enjoys and her biggest meal of the day so I like to make sure it's heartier than lunch.

We haven't started introducing snacks yet as this will then require a whole other level of planning that I don't know I'm ready for yet. We seem to spend half our lives sitting waiting for her to finish her food.

Bib is from @reissandme (#gifted)

The biggest challenge I find with meal planning is being inspired as it's so easy to get into the same routine. Having Rosie has definitely made me look at my food choices differently, especially when trying to be careful with no added salt and avoiding sugar where I can. Luckily it hasn't closed off too many options for me, there are always alternatives to be had. For instance I've been making healthy little 'cake' balls for her with almond and fruit which seem to satisfy her as a pudding treat, although her current favourite is a peach. I give it to her whole, without the skin and she smooshes it into her face with such glee.

I think meal planning is crucial when you have a baby, it saves time, only requires you to think about what you're eating for one evening whilst you sort your list (rather than standing in the kitchen scratching your head with an open fridge, a screaming baby and no idea what to serve) and encourages you to look at the scope of what you're feeding your little one{s}.

I thought it might be beneficial to share with you what a week in the Goulding household looks like and the meal plan I put together as a starting point. Hopefully it helps inspire you and you can try a few things you might not have before.

Cara x