a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Jul, 2011

Guest post: meal-planning advice from Julie at the Magic Fridge

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Guest postings

It’s GUEST POST WEEK here at the Fishbowl! Julie Broczkowski, owner and head chef at The Magic Fridge, has been cooking professionally for ten years, and in her own kitchen for her friends and family for over 20. Julie – bless her heart – said she’s “ecstatic to be contributing a guest post to A Peek Inside the Fishbowl” (isn’t that nice?) and “hopes it will empower the intimidated home cook – food at home is not as difficult as the magazines and cookbooks make it seem!” If you’re a really busy person (like meeeee!), Julie and her Fridge Fairies can help. Check out www.themagicfridge.com for more details on her personal chef service. Thank you Julie!

Meal planning…. it’s one of those things that we *know* we should do, but somehow never get around to doing it. But just like diet and exercise, it really works when you do it whole-heartedly. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to make meal planning fun, easier and more satisfying.

DON’T try to fix it if it ain’t broke… list all the meals you cook now that are big hits with your family and make them the backbone of your initial meal plan. This is your YES list.

DO try new things, but not all at once. Add one new meal to your plan each week, and if the family likes it, add it to your YES list.

DON’T be the only one who works on your plan. Get input from other family members. You’ll have fewer ideas to come up with, and your family will be more open to the process and the meals if they have contributed.

DO cook once, eat twice. This can be as simple as planned leftovers for lunch the next day, or as all-encompassing as OAMC (Once-a-Month Cooking) and freezer-feeding. I land somewhere in the middle. If I have a less busy suppertime, I will cook two suppers that day, and put one in the fridge for the next day when I am busier. Or I’ll cook a big roast knowing the second half will become fajitas later on in the week.

DON’T get caught up in the idea of following recipes. They’re great for ideas and guidelines, but can be overwhelming with all their techniques, details and fancy touches. For example; you see a recipe for, say, chicken with apples and squash, and it appeals to you. Then you look at the recipe and it’s a page and a half long with seventeen steps and three pans. Why not just cook some chicken with apples and serve it with a side dish of squash? If there is a particular spice or seasoning mentioned in the recipe, add it to the chicken while you’re cooking it.

DO use your family’s skills and interests to your advantage. Got a computer-obsessed person in the family? Ask them to make a meal planning spreadsheet and work with you to update it once every week or two. Put an active child in charge of taking the menu poll once a week, running around asking each family member if they have an idea to add to the meal plan – if they are old enough to write, issue an official notebook for taking down the suggestions. Is someone crafty? Show them this pretty, easy menu board project from MakeAndTakes.com.

DO get inspiration from other places…. lots of blogs and websites post meal plans, so check them out and adapt them for your own family.

DON’T freak out if you stray from the plan, and then decide that this meal planning stuff doesn’t work. One night ordering pizza isn’t going to hurt anyone. At least you have a plan for the other four weeknights, right?

7 Responses to "Guest post: meal-planning advice from Julie at the Magic Fridge"

1 | coffee with julie

July 5th, 2011 at 7:56 am


Great post Julie! We find meal-planning really hard, even though we do cook and eat at home 6 nights out of 7. I think we just don’t like to sit down and do the planning part … so your suggestion to get the kids involved to do a poll is genius! Definitely going to try that one! :)

2 | Ginger

July 5th, 2011 at 1:42 pm


Menu planning is one of my top to-do items. Thanks for your great suggestions!

3 | other andrea

July 6th, 2011 at 3:17 pm


Oh dear — a stock photo “family.”

4 | Kim Reynolds

July 7th, 2011 at 8:18 am


Great ideas Julie. Especially about not reinventing the wheel. When I sit down to meal plan I tend to sit myself in a puddle of all the cooking magazines I impulse buy and try to overhaul our entire eating plan. I also really like your idea of getting inspired by recipes and not enslaved to them.

And thanks other Andrea (comment number three) for your snarky comment about a stock photo – I always get a chuckle out of people who think small minded comments make them look superior.

5 | other andrea

July 7th, 2011 at 12:34 pm


Kim, what I like about blogs is their personal, home-made quality. Often the photos people take are quite good, or at least interesting. I don’t come to blogs to look at stock photos. That’s all.

6 | Vicky

July 9th, 2011 at 9:07 pm


I loved your post Julie! I like the suggestion of asking family members for their suggestions. That way they can’t complain and say they don’t like it. And if they do, I can just say hey, it was YOUR idea!

By the way, this is great CONTENT. I didn’t even notice the pictures because I was interested in your writing.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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