After the collective recipes requests, meal plans are the next most popular requests that come through this website. I always say that a meal plan created for you by another person is overrated because it may contain meals you and your family do not like. It may contain meals that you cannot prepare where you live. It may even be unhealthy for you. The last reason is exactly why I have shied away from posting a meal plan. I am not a dietician neither am I a nutritionist so I am not qualified to draw up a meal plan fit for sharing on the interwebs.
But these requests keep coming and today, I will be sharing a sample meal plan (more information at the end) of what I and my family ate in one week. Hopefully, you will be able to find some meals in there that you can add to the list of meals you and your family enjoy. Because let’s face it, when we ask for meal plans what we actually need are ideas for meals that we can add to what we eat in our homes already.
The following are the truths about making a winning meal plan. They are not exhaustive so please add your own truths in the comments. 😉 I hope that after reading them, you will be able to make your own meal plans based on your family’s health requirements, schedule and convenience. So in addition to giving you one fish that you asked for, I will be teaching you how I fish. 😉
Go for overall health checks at least once a year to make sure you are eating the right things. In some countries, you can get these health checks done in your local health centre for free. In most jobs, you get a compulsory health check once in 2 years so make use of those.
Part of the meal plan you’ll download:
The Truth About Creating a Winning Meal Plan
1. Meal plans are overrated.
Some people believe that once they get a meal plan, all their worries about what the family will eat will be over. But that’s not true. Some days, you find that it is not practical to prepare some meals and you are forced to quickly change your plans and go back to the usual. I remember those days growing up when we had meal plans pasted behind the kitchen door. I am pretty sure that the only parts of that meal plan that my Mum stuck to were Beans Porridge Tuesdays and Moi Moi Saturdays. So do not beat yourself up if you do not eat exactly what you planned for the day.
Even me that wrote the meal plan I am sharing today will not repeat it meal for meal as laid out there because we will be eating different things in the weeks to come.
2. Be prepared to have more than one meal plan for any given week.
If you have kids, people with special dietary needs, those who watch their weights and picky eaters in your home, be prepared to have more than one meal plan.
I will be sharing just one meal plan but that is not exactly what we all ate as a family. My kids, I and my husband ate different things here and there. My daughter is quite picky (which is common with children) and she often requests different things for dinner. If I were to break the meal plan down, I will come up with 4 different meal plans and this is for a family of 4 people that do not have any special dietary needs!
3. Make a meal plan based on what you and your family love to eat.
You should make a meal plan based on the staple foods that are popular in your family. Do not try to force that fancy meal you saw on Flo’s meal plan on your family because you want to have variety. Your aim to make your life easier with a meal plan will be defeated by the frustrations of forcing people to eat what they do not like.
The sample meal plan is drawn from the foods I and my family love to eat – Nigerian food. We are not on any special diet. We eat almost everything: meat, fish, all popular Nigerian staples – we don’t like shellfish i.e. all that hard-core seafood. That means you will not see prawns, crabs, octopus, lobster in our family menu. For my kids, I try to prepare the food they love so I don’t mind giving them something else when I and my hubby have something else. I have given up on forcing them to eat what I think they should be eating at each point in time; nobody has got time for those meal time fights.
In fact, recently, I sat down with them and we made a list of all the foods they love so that I can make their lunch from the foods they mentioned. We struck off lots of foods from the list, negotiated a bit on some but in the end, everyone was happy with the list. We still struggle with the quantities of vegetables I add to their meals versus the quantity they want. They do not like their meals “very busy with veggies” so we try to strike a balance.
Ideally, I and my husband MUST eat a swallow meal for lunch every single day. We both believe we will die if we do not LOL but for a more balanced diet, we manage to set aside 2-3 days in a week to skip a swallow and eat legumes instead. On our legume days we have beans, lentils, ukwa or okpa for lunch. These legume days are usually Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We eat Moi Moi as a main meal or Okpa on Saturdays when I have some, if not we eat our usual – Semo and some Nigerian soup LOL!
And to be honest the only reason we have these legumes for lunch is because they do not sit well in our stomachs if we eat them at night else, we will move them to dinner and have our semo in the afternoons. That is how much we love swallows!
My kids eat a different meal from what we eat for lunch but eat the same meals as us on our legume days. What my kids had for lunch is not in the meal plan but to put what they usually have for lunch into perspective, take a look at our dinner (in the meal plan) – their lunch is usually a “less busy version” of what we eat for dinner. Not necessarily on the same day because my daughter mostly eats whatever I and hubby are having for dinner. That is, that we ate Minced Meat Spaghetti for dinner on Thursday does not mean they got the same for lunch on that day. And theirs will come with lettuce rather than broccoli. And instead of green peas, I will add green peppers to theirs because my daughter does not like green peas. They also love Nigerian Meat Pie, fish and veggies meals served with potato chips (fries) for lunch. Visit the Kids Recipes page on this site for more ideas.
For dinner, my son loves semo and his own special Ogbono Soup just the way he likes it – light and not many vegetables. That’s what he gets for dinner except on the days we eat a Pepper Soup dish or a grilled chicken dish because he loves these. Once in a while, I’ll prepare something new and he will be curious to see what it tastes like so he joins us. Apart from the aforementioned occasions, he will eat Semo and Ogbono soup for dinner all year round, no complaints.
There are certain meals that my husband does not regard as a meal. Once a meal does not contain a major staple, he will down it and look at me, expecting another meal like he just had an appetizer. For instance, for the Roasted Chicken Quarters that we had for dinner on Wednesday, his came with boiled white rice.
So in achieving your goal of creating a winning meal plan, make sure that everyone is happy. 😉
4. Getting a balanced diet for every single meal is impossible.
Do not be swayed by all the yummy meals you see online with every class of food represented in one plate. Nobody eats like that every single meal.
I try to get a balanced diet on a per day basis rather than per meal basis. So if you look at everything we ate for one day, you will see the major classes of food in there with nuts, vegetables and fruits.
5. You MUST have a sizeable fridge and freezer for a meal plan to work.
Yes it’s a must because for you to stick to a meal plan you need to be able to store your fresh food ingredients in a fridge and the prepared meals in the freezer. Without a freezer, you will be spending lots of money and time in preparing these meals.
So make sure you have a fridge and freezer that matches the size of your family. These are basic kitchen equipment to have in homes in developed countries but in Nigeria, due to the constant blackouts, lots of families have given up on buying these important items because the ones they bought were put out of service by poor and unsteady power supply.
But we can’t give up on that, can we? If you are in Nigeria, buy a power generator or inverter too to make sure your freezer is on for at least 5 hours every single day. It will save you time and money.
Some ladies report their husbands to me that they refused to buy these 2 for them. So dear husbands, I am begging you now o, these reports usually come to me because wifey knows you can afford a freezer and a gen so biko buy a deep freezer and the accompanying generator or inverter for your wife. It is very important for her kitchen and your pocket. Yes, good for your pocket because when food is prepared in large quantities, it is cheaper. And there is no waste. Food goes bad because there is no “light”. Not to think of all that warming and re-warming of soups that makes them lose taste and all the nutrients. As far as I am concerned, eating overly re-warmed meals can get one depressed.
Sometimes I have these single-serve quantities of fresh left over soups tucked away in my freezer and once in a while, I’ll whip it out and serve and the excitement on my husband’s face is priceless. You know, he will be on his way home from work thinking that he will eat Bitterleaf Soup on that day but comes home to his favourite soup – Vegetable Soup! And this is only possible because of a working freezer.
Having these 2 kitchen appliances is for the good of the whole family but I say buy them for “her” because it is we women that the responsibility of worrying about what the family will eat for each meal rests on. She should not suffer because our governments have failed woefully in giving us this essential amenity of life – constant electric power. And wifey biko, if you earn good money, buy these yourself because you go enjoy am well well, you hear?
I pre-prepare lots of base for the meals I cook and store in the freezer. For instance, the tomato stew for Jollof Rice and stews, the minced meat sauce for my spaghetti dishes, I always pre-prepare them and store in my freezer. I prepare Moi Moi in large quantities and store. I do not freeze rice dishes though because they do not taste as good as the day they were prepared once they’ve been in the freezer. Jollof Rice can stay in a non-stop working fridge for up to 48 hours (that is 3 dinners) and still taste fresh. In fact for me, Jollof Rice starts tasting better the next day.
6. You must stock up.
As a continuation of having a fridge and a freezer, having variety in your family menu not only means you will prepare some meals in large quantities and freeze, it also means that you will buy the fresh ingredients you will need for the week and keep in your fridge. Going to the market or supermarket every single day is not a thing of joy. While sometimes you can prepare some meals when one ingredient is missing, at other times, one ingredient can make such a huge difference that it will ruin your plans for a meal unless you go and buy it.
Because we love semo so much, I always have at least 2 soups in my freezer so we can change a bit during the week. But to be honest, I and my hubby love swallow so much that we can go on the same soup for a week, no qualms. Once in a while, I have up to 4 soups especially immediately after receiving fresh ingredients from Nigeria, when I’m about to travel for work or when I make cooking demos for Youtube videos. I prepare all the soups and store in my freezer.
I also often have Egusi Soup in my freezer. While Egusi Soup is my daughter’s favourite soup (her favourites change all the time LOL), the only way I enjoy Egusi Soup is by mixing it with other Nigerian soups to tone down its sweetness, as seen in the meal plan. It goes really well with my favourite soup – Ora Soup, also Bitterleaf Soup, even Vegetable Soup. So you can use “Ofe Mix” to add variety to your swallow meals.
I always have vegetables (root and leafy – carrots, spinach, mushrooms, green pepper, tomatoes etc) in my fridge so I can prepare an easy sauce in a jiffy. With the correct combination of ingredients, you can make a great sauce, just add chicken (I always have chicken quarters or chicken wings in the freezer), boil rice or any other staple and food don set be that. That way, your family can eat rice all week but think they are eating different meals because you are changing the sauce/stew each day.
I cook Moi Moi in large quantities and store. Moi Moi will save you a lot when it comes to meal plans because you can serve it in so many different ways.
For those outside Nigeria, I also store sliced Nigerian leafy vegetables in the freezer, that way, we can eat our favourite soups all the time till we get a new supply from Nigeria. For instance, I wash and slice ora leaves, ugu leaves, okazi leaves, uziza leaves and scent leaves and store in the freezer in single use batches. On the day I want to cook the soup/stew I just take one batch from the freezer and throw into the pot while the vegetable is still frozen. That way, while some of them go dark because it is frozen, a fair quantity stay green. The best thing is that the respective unique tastes of the vegetables are intact and the soups/stews taste as delicious.
Now you see why having a non-stop working fridge and freezer is important?
7. There’s a varied meal plan for any budget.
Yes, you can have a varied meal plan on any budget. Don’t think that you need to set aside lots of MORE money than you already spend on food to come up with a varied meal plan. All you need to do is spread your food budget across all classes of food. Assign a fair amount of your food budget to fruits and vegetables because not only do these protect your body, the vegetables help your meals look like they were prepared with one million Naira.
8. Variety is overrated.
Talking about that Jollof Rice that can stay in a non-stop working fridge for 48 hours and still taste fresh, I can tell you now that when I prepare Jollof Rice, I prepare the quantity that we will eat for 2-3 dinners in a row. I serve it for 2-3 consecutive days but I change up what I serve it with each day. That way, my family feels like they are eating something different for those days.
For instance, that Jollof Rice we had for dinner on Monday was a left over from Saturday. I changed up what I served it with each day. The first day, I served it with fried plantains and steamed veggies, the second day, I served it with Moi Moi and Mushroom Stir-fry and the 3rd day I served it with salad and peppered chicken. You should not slave in the kitchen every single day in the name of coming up with meal variety. I don’t believe in that or driving myself crazy trying to come up with different meals when there are thousands of days ahead for us to eat new food. My husband is happy to eat anything I come up with; he is a no-fuss man. And he understands that sometimes it is hard work to come up with what the family will eat and enjoy.
And talking about my no-fuss man, all ye husbands that frown because wifey is serving rice rice rice over a given period; even if she serves yam, plantains or potatoes, it’s still carbohydrate so it’s all in our heads. As long as wifey is serving the basic staples with different accessories each day, it does not really matter. We already feel bad when we are not creative with our meal plans so please don’t make it harder for us. Sometimes, we have a home-manager’s block (like writer’s block 😀 ) so we are not inspired to prepare varied meals with all that taking care of the other aspects of the home and our careers going on at the same time. 😉
In summary, based on the meal plan you will receive shortly, who ate what?
Everything you see for breakfast in the plan on school/work days was what I ate.
My husband does not eat breakfast on work days because he leaves home early. He takes a packed brunch (usually Nigerian Meat Pie or a baguette sandwich and fruits) to work.
My kids drink only hot chocolate (warm milk + Nesquick/Milo/cocoa powder) in the mornings before they go to school. If you try to give them anything more in the morning, they will throw up because they do not have appetite that early in the morning. They take a snack and fruit to school.
After taking my kids to school, I come home and settle down to a breakfast of my choice. Some days, I do not eat breakfast because I probably ran errands straight from their school and by the time I come back home, it’s time to prepare their lunch so I just take a glass of soya milk or yoghurt.
For weekends, we all have the breakfast meals you see in the plan.
Everything you see for lunch in the plan is what I and hubby ate. We eat a swallow meal for lunch every day except on the 2-3 days we set aside per week to eat legumes. On our legume days we have beans, lentils, ukwa or okpa for lunch. These legume days are usually Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We eat Moi Moi or Okpa on Saturdays when I have some.
More information about what my kids had for lunch in No. 3 above.
Sometimes they eat in school (when I am away for work), they eat the same lunch as us on our legume days: beans, lentils, ukwa, okpa, Moi Moi etc. They also eat Nigerian Meat Pies for lunch.
We all have a siesta every day (I sometimes skip a siesta when I need to get some things done) and when we wake up in the evening, we must have a snack. Each person eats whatever snacks, fruits and drinks they want. My kids love a range of snacks: cookies, popcorn, fruits etc for evening snack. I had everything you see in the plan for evening snack. Hubby loves his fruits: watermelon, tangerines, grapes, apples and pears and daughter joins him sometimes. During the summer, we have ice cream, more smoothies and other cold refreshments.
When I make Nigerian Chin Chin, Puff Puff and Plantain Pies we can have those too.
Whatever you see for dinner is what I and my husband ate.
Details of what my son eats for dinner are in No. 3 above.
My daughter is the picky one but mostly eats whatever I and hubby eat for dinner and on days she wants to eat a swallow meal for dinner, it has to be with Egusi Soup, her favourite soup. So sometimes, you’ll find that for dinner, I prepare 3 different meals for a household of 4 people. Mmh! Of course, I have these soups pre-prepared and stored in the freezer, so it’s not as tedious as it sounds, but you can imagine that!
Once in a while, we eat out or order takeouts: burgers, pizzas and Chinese food. But these are really once in a while like once in 3 weeks (mainly for the kids and I) because hubby will eat out or eat takeout and still expect a “real” meal afterwards. Remember when I mentioned that he does not regard some “meals” as meals in No. 3 above? Non-Nigerian restaurant and takeaway meals are in that list of meals.
I hope that with the so long a post, I have kept my promise about sharing a meal plan. Now that’s a huge weight off my shoulder. I am not used to whipping out my camera to take photos of every meal I eat but for this meal plan, I had to take on that challenge. If you take photos of every meal you eat and share on social media, I duff my hat for you, seriously! It’s not an easy feat at all. 😀
For the sample meal plan click >>> Meal Plan Download.
If you experience problems downloading it, let me know in the comments below. If you successfully download it, let me know in the comments too. 😉
Happy Meal Planning! 😀
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