Meal Planning for Beginners (or the culinarily challenged)

Frozen lunches - for the culinary challenged

Every Sunday my insta feed fills with the pictures. Fresh bread, ribbons of vegetables about to be transformed into edible beauty, bliss balls, home baked muesli bars and menu plans.

Evidently there are scores of parents productively spending their Sundays in the kitchen with a view to the week ahead. I won’t say it’s  a cult. But I know some of them own Thermomixes.

Before going back to office work my Sundays were full of, well, work. It was always a great opportunity to catch up while the boys were diverted by Dad. Nowadays, I’m trying my hand at preparing frozen lunchbox treats and meticulously meal planning the week ahead. Boys are still diverted by Dad.

I am not a natural cook or baker. People presume I might be because I can sew. But any talent I received in one home-maker arena must have been stolen from the other. So this is all a bit new and foreign to me. Undaunted, I have thrown myself into the weekend tradition of baking, cooking and prepping.

Although I have to admit three hours into cooking last Sunday, I was getting a wee bit bored. I may have gone in search of wine.

That morning I went to the fresh food markets to gather all the ingredients. I always come away from the markets in a hazy glow, feeling all nature-mummy and proud of the obscure vegetables I have bought (even when I know the kids won’t eat them). High on my market experience, I over-shot. I made two frozen dinner meals, that night’s dinner, pizza scrolls, ham and cheese scones, bliss balls and assisted with the muffins. (I was a bit exhausted by the time we got to the muffins.)

Muffins - lunch box ideas for the culinary challenged

So here’s how all that went …

The tuna, spinach, mac ‘n’ cheese (which the kids always have) went down a treat because my kids are boring eaters and hesitant to try new things. At least it froze well and somehow spinach doesn’t count as a vegetable in our house. Win.

The Mexican casserole (which I loved) was akin to poison and induced all kinds of exaggerated gagging. It’s cheese, salsa, beans and polenta little people – what’s not to like?

The ham and cheese scones are still chilling in the freezer a week and a bit later – not because they aren’t nice but because I forgot that my kids don’t actually eat that much for lunch.

The pizza scrolls got a huge tick of approval and were, by far, the easiest thing to make. I absolutely love this pizza dough recipe – it’s awesome and does not require a Thermomix.

I learned that any recipe that makes only 12 bliss balls needs to be tripled or quadrupled immediately because those things last about 20 seconds. Particularly around me. They are super healthy right?

The muffins started out lovely but I forgot about them and left them out in the tin overnight, rather than putting them in the fridge. Not a great idea during a heat wave.

I also learned that freezing things requires de-frosting things. I warned you — I am no kitchen genius. Popping the completely frozen mac ‘n’ cheese into the oven for 30 minutes or just until it was a bit bubbly on top was ridiculously hopeful. Keeping in mind that our oven doesn’t reach over 180 degrees (which I wrote a  post about last year and still haven’t bothered to get fixed). Suffice to say my genius plan where everyone would be fed and in bed by 7:00pm didn’t work that night. Also remembered that we own a microwave. Face palm.

Clearly, I need help. So I am excited to join up to Amanda from a Cooker and a Looker’s Rediscover Your Kitchen Mojo challenge – starting March. I don’t know that I have much mojo to rediscover, but maybe I’ll find some to get me going.

I’m also pinning my lunchbox ideas here and my meal ideas here. Feel free to let me know if you have any boards I should be following or recipes I should know about – I’d be very grateful.


Have any frozen meal tips for the culinarily challenged?


Linking up with Kylie Purtell – Capturing Life and IBOT 


46 thoughts on “Meal Planning for Beginners (or the culinarily challenged)

  1. Bec Senyard says:

    I like reading about other people’s baking and meal plans because it gives me ideas on what to cook for my family. My older two girls can be fussy as well. And something they loved, they sometimes turn their nose up at. GRRR. I’m trying to be more organized for myself with lunches this year. I find if it’s already prepared in the fridge, I will eat a healthy lunch. It avoids the snacking during the day too.
    Bec Senyard recently posted…I’m a Celebrity… Get Me OUT OF HERE Australian Bloggers EditionMy Profile

  2. Raychael Case says:

    I’m not sure why but I completely suck when it comes to menu planning. I’m assuming it might be because I only do half the cooking in the house and hubby (the other cook) doesn’t take well to planned meals. He prefers to cook on the go. Avoids bulk cooking and doesn’t see the value in having left overs. Perhaps I need to give menu planning another go with hubby out of the kitchen this time round.
    Raychael Case recently posted…GIVEAWAY | Fifty Shades DarkerMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      My husband was the same before the kids came along – he saw no value in it whatsoever and couldn’t fathom figuring out what he felt like that far in advance!

  3. Jenni @unclutter my world says:

    I’ve always been a meal planner. Once a week all of the evening meals are planned for the following week, taking into account what events are on that need to bee planned around. then a big supermarket shop is done, this saves so much time. When cleaning up from the evening meal, its an easy check to see what needs taken out to defrost for the next day. The ingredients can then defrost in the fridge overnight and then everything is ready to go. The teen techie has organised his lunches for many years now, and is responsible for writing on the shopping list the things he needs. The weekly baking is a shared thing, but often taken on by the teen techie. We have a standard supply of baking ingredients which are kept topped up, and any special ingredients is noted in the meal planning or bought as needed. I’ve found that this forward planning saves me heaps of time when doing the big shop, saves many trips to the shops during the week and makes for calmer evenings all round.
    Jenni @unclutter my world recently posted…ITS A WRAP 2016My Profile

  4. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says:

    I love meal planning and nothing makes me happier than a freezer full of food! If we lived nearer we could start our own sewing/baking co-operative, you could sew and I could bake! Incidentally, I’ve been pinning lunchbox ideas as if they’re going out of fashion on Pinterest. I just whipped up a batch of Vegetarian Sausage Rolls – they’re so yummy, no one misses the meat!
    Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted…9 Things to See and Do in TorontoMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Oh wow great – I did chicken sausage rolls on Saturday evening for the week ahead, so I’ll have to check the vege version out. Most of what I cook for the boys I can’t actually eat myself.

  5. Josefa says:

    No tips from me – but I am watching and reading eagerly! I am terrible when it comes to any pre-thought about meal prep or lunch box items. But I’m hoping for that to change this year. If your pizza scrolls got a huge tick – I’m going to start there! Happy baking xx

  6. Erika @ Ever-changing Life of a Mum says:

    I don’t know where I would be without meal planning, but I have to say that it only extends to dinners.I never meal plan my kids’ school lunches for my kids, rather I just go with whatever we have in the pantry and fridge. However, I have just started popping a few homemade treats in the freezer for the first time ever after seeing so many posts about this all over my social media feeds during the school holidays. I’ve been freezing half of whatever I make and I have to say it does stop these baked goodies from being gobbled up before the school week even begins and offers a good selection of different treats to add into their lunch boxes! #teamIBOT

    • Robyna says:

      Just because we have such a short window of time to get out of the house in the morning on work days, the pre-prepped lunch box has become a winner. My kids don’t love sandwiches, so they are happy now too.

    • Robyna says:

      Oh, I hear you – and I can’t understand why because it doesn’t look that hard. I keep thinking – I should be able to get this!

  7. Tracy says:

    *sigh* I love the idea of cooking ahead. I hate the practice of it. I have a family of five adult-sized people (four of us are actually adults). Cooking for this hungry bunch is no mean feat, and cooking more than one meal at a time is really just proof on insanity. I have decided that on my Wednesday’s off I can double a recipe, or prepare some raw meat to freeze (like in marinade or something) for a meal the following week. That’s the best I can do. I can’t spend my Sunday all day in the kitchen. Sunday’s are for resting and breathing in to brace myself for the busy week ahead.

    In the meantime, I totally get why the Mexican casserole may have been an issue. Only because I have a son who has actually went beyond gagging on beans. We no longer feed him legumes. It’s just kinder of all of us! He barely tolerates green beans. When he was small he called all beans “evil beanies”.

    • Robyna says:

      I do feel like most of Sunday is being spent in the kitchen which is why I am determined to try and enjoy it 🙂 Kids and beans. Sigh. I’m vegetarian so legumes are important.

  8. Prue says:

    Oh Robyna how I love your writing. You speak to my heart with the words “I am not a nutural baker”. My neither but alas we must keep feeding these small people. Love your ideas, scrolls and pizza are a big hit with us. I’m going to try those scones. Keep posting ideas please for others of us who are culinarily challenged.

    • Robyna says:

      Yes, they demand feeding no matter where their parents’ talents lie 🙂 I might do a weekly wrap up and let you know whether it’s induced “yum” or “gag”

  9. Amanda, Cooker and a Looker says:

    You deserve a medal for spending three hours in the kitchen last weekend – it’s been soo hot!
    Glad to have you onboard for the challenge and thanks for sharing mate.

    Can you believe the hullaballoo that’s happened over that poor mum’s chocolate slice? I’m so grateful that the Little Sister is at school now (and I have a bit more freedom in her lunchbox!) 🙂
    Amanda, Cooker and a Looker recently posted…Happy Birthday DavidMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I know – it’s chocolate slice people – childhood can surely still include home baked treats. I think it’s the hidden sugars we should all be more worried about. That said, I think I sweated any extra calories out by cooking in the heat!

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