The Food Blogger Who Made Me Rethink All I Know About Meal Planning

Doable recipes that are totally delish!

With a bio that reads 'simple home-cooking by the whole family', you know you're in for something hearty and wholesome.

I can't quite remember when exactly I came across Today We Cooked's Instagram account, but her approach to cooking has without a doubt, #influenced me. Her meals always look healthy, warming and full of flavour... and oh-so aesthetically-pleasing too. 

What separates Claire Packer's @TodayWeCooked account from the host of other visual foodie finds on the 'Gram though, is her authenticity.

Cooking alongside her little chefs (her sons, ages 7 and 4), she manages to meal plan in a manner that's actually fathomable and her veggie-friendly meals aren't too labour-intensive or ingredient-heavy either.

Peer Pressure

Making tasty, healthy and interesting meals for people with different tastes, on a budget and with minimal waste is the constant challenge that drives Claire and she's all about involving the whole family in the cooking process. 

She was pressed into starting her foodie Instagram by friends. "I started Today We Cooked because people told me too! I am very easily led," she told me over email. "I had been sharing some food pictures on my personal account and people would often ask for recipes or where to find products or they’d have questions about meal planning so I decided to put it all together in one place." 

Not entirely sure if Instagram was the right platform for something as practical as meal planning, Claire proceeded with caution. But sure enough, the reaction she garnered to her content – full of tips an tricks for meal prep, batch cooking and cooking with children – was really positive. 

It Doesn't Need To Be Complicated 

"Meal planning is my bag," she writes. "It is no exaggeration to say that I have cut our food bill almost in half since I began a couple of years ago. People think it’s more complicated than it really is, or that they don’t have time but meal planning saves me so much time and brain space (and money) that I really couldn’t stop now!" 

I know, from lots of personal experience staring into my sparse cupboards, that my default is set to 'There's nothing in', but on Claire's advice, I'll be looking a little harder from now on.

"How many times a week do we pop to the shops on the way home to pick up dinner? We often have many meals in the cupboards waiting to be created. We just haven’t thought of them yet," she tells me. 

Inspiration 

Inspiration for Today We Cooked's recipes come from everywhere. "Food has the ability to transport us to our Granny's kitchen, a holiday in Greece or just being at home eating beans on toast on our laps as kids. I am inspired by making memories!"

"I want to make food memories with my children too. They inspire me more than anything. They love to cook and have taught me to enjoy the process rather than just the end result." 

Meal Planning 

Sharing her expert advice on the process of meal planning, from the basic to the more detailed, here's how @TodayWeCooked preps for the food week ahead. 

Step 1: On a Sunday, open all your cupboards and note what you already have. Often we think we haven't got anything in, when in fact, if you raid your cupboard stash, fridge stash and freezer stash, you probably already have plenty to work with. 

Step 2: Next, check the fresh stuff – veggies, fruits, herbs, etc. – and base your meals around those, using up the least fresh first. Then check the dry supplies and pantry. 

Step 3: If you batch cook, or tend to freeze meals that you don't get around to, check the freezer. Leftover bean chilli could make for delicious quesadillas or cheesy tacos later in the week. 

Step 4: Be creative. Think what can I do with the 8 tomatoes sitting in the salad drawer and half a packet of feta? A pasta dish perhaps? A tart or a frittata? What about three tins of chickpeas and an onion? Maybe a chickpea and kale curry

Step 5: Plan as many meals for that week as you can with what you already have, then write a shopping list of the extra things you'll need, along with the essentials (ie. milk, bread, butter). 

Step 6: That list comes to the supermarket and that is all that goes in the trolley. Use up that stash throughout the week and start the cycle all over again!

Follow Claire's food adventures on @TodayWeCooked and check out her IG stories too, for instructional, mid-meal advice and updates from her lovely family too. 

Read More: The Dublin Restaurant Setting The Standard For Sustainability

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