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Could THIS be the answer to all your family meal-time woes?

Ever find meal times a teensy bit stressful?

Or does the thought of what to make for dinner, AGAIN, leave you feeling like there's got to be more to life?

Enter, Sarah Alder. Meal planning and family meal-times expert of Kitchen Titbits.

Did you know that in the UK, around 2.7 million carrots, 24 million slices of bread and 1.4 million bananas go to waste every day from our homes? Sarah's website informs us.

'Probably more shocking is that an average family’s food waste equates to £700 a year. In fact, 70% of total food waste is generated in our homes and food waste globally is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere' it goes on to say.

Which I personally think is both terrifying AND empowering as this is clearly something we all have in our power to do something about, and it goes hand in hand with reducing meal time stress and improving our health.

Which is why I asked Sarah to join us in the Shape our Future membership, to answer questions from the members and and share her expertise around meal planning and reducing food waste.

“The average person eats the same six dishes on repeat.” (Yep, that’s me!). “One of the ways to eat a more varied diet, reduce your food waste and save money on your food bills is to meal plan. I must have heard every excuse under the sun as to why people don’t do it and yet, the benefits far out weigh all of those excuses.”

Since meeting Sarah at a Freelance Mum networking event a few years ago, I’ve asked her to come and talk to the women I work with many times because I found that meal planning genuinely revolutionized meal times and family life in general for us.

Ordinarily, we spend (waste) so much time and energy on preparing food as a mother (not to mention thinking about it, shopping for it and the endless clean ups).

Meal planning is so simple and yet ridiculously beneficial. As mums, especially when you’ve got family members who like different things; some vegetarian, some dairy-free etc, we can get really stuck in a rut and that’s where Sarah’s meal planning comes into it’s own.

“I’m a meal planning and family meal times expert,” says Sarah, “So I work with mums with young children, really busy mums, to help transform meal times from stress-full to stress-free. I specialise in working with parents of fussy eaters, but also teaching all parents about meal planning as a way of saving time, energy, money, reducing food waste and making meal times quicker and more efficient”.

I point out that a particular challenge for many mums is when we get to that 4 pm slump. We’re tired and low in energy and we suddenly think, ‘Oh god what am I going to do for dinner?’

“Exactly! Because it’s just easy, it’s what we know but what we’re doing is restricting our diets and not getting variety into our meals."

And here, Sarah hits on something really key here. Meal planning isn’t just about saving food, energy and money. It’s also one of the simplest ways to eat more healthily. One, because you’re less likely to resort to quick and easy, lower nutrition meals (pizza anyone?). And two because it gives you the chance to vary your snacks and meal.

As the quality of our fruit and veg, is deteriorating, for example, because our soil quality is worsening, we need that variety even more to keep our gut bacteria really healthy. (for support with gut health & IBS, I recommend Goodness Me Nutrition).

So I asked Sarah for her top tips on how to get started, or in my case, re-started, with meal planning.

“It's basically about habit. Habits take work to become something you can do with ease, so start by scheduling some time in your calendar to make it a priority.But think about when is going to work for you. There’s no point doing it on a Sunday evening if that’s when you’re normally relaxing and you’re head’s not in the game.”

Definitely me – that's Line of Duty time.

“The best time might be a lunch break, or a weeknight evening when you’re already in that ‘work’ mindset. I also like doing it around the dinner table, getting the family involved so it’s not just your responsibility. Especially if you’ve got older kids or if you’ve got fussy eaters, they get some control over what everyone’s going to be eating.”

Sarah points out that I, myself, often talk about this ‘habit-tagging’ as a tool to create a new healthy habit. It’s basically where you attach the new desired behaviour to an existing one. Like doing squats while brushing your teeth or, in this case, doing your meal plan when you’re having dinner. Genius!

“But my best advice,” says Sarah, “is to just make a start – just do it! The thought of it is worse than just doing it. I start my clients off on a set template and which you can get here and it includes some tips. It doesn’t matter what you use though. I prefer to do it in a notes app in my phone so I’ve always got the shopping list with me”.

For me, meal planning and reducing food waste to help reduce our carbon footprint go hand in hand. Coupled with all the benefits to our physical, mental and financial health, it really is a ‘no brainer’.

In part two, I ask Sarah for any general tips and ideas for using up leftovers/scraps and she shares some great ideas and recipes!

Coming soon.

PS want to find out more about the Shape our Future Membership and get to join the monthly guest expert live and ask questions? As well as a weekly workout, monthly coaching call and general good vibes, I honestly don't know why you wouldn't! So click here for all the info, and why not find me on Instagram while you're at it.

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