We all know that being prepared is key to getting a successful routine going in the home. When you’re organised you feel more in control and are more likely to stay on top of your priorities as challenges arise during the week. We wanted to find out what can we learn from one Irish lady who started off on a mission to get organised and save money as she prepared to become a mom, but ended up creating a business from her brilliant idea to help other families too.
When Limerick native Nicole Murphy turned 39 she was at a pivotal point in her life. She had just made the life-changing decision to become Solo Mom by Choice (SMBC) and therefore felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to her children even before they were born. She knew she needed a plan that would ensure day-to-day life would be manageable and enjoyable as she embarked on solo parenthood. She was on a mission to see what was that one thing she could do to minimise the work that went into running a home in order to maximise the free time she could spend with her children.
“Every parent I spoke to said 6-7pm was the most stressful time,” Nicole told us. “What with getting home from work, trying to cook a nutritious dinner and give the kids attention at the same time. I knew I needed a plan to make this hour as automatic as possible and meal planning was key because it reduces the need to think about what’s for dinner, the shopping, the spending, the cooking and the cleaning up!”
Ireland’s organisational queen won’t tell you to decant all your cereal into clear containers or arrange your food by colour. Instead Nicole has created Magneplan which is a magnetic display system that empowers Irish families to plan out their meals, chores and activities in a visual way so that all the family can be involved. It’s beautifully illustrated and made in Ireland and attaches magnetically to fridge doors. Alternatively you can use a magnetic white board or stick it straight onto a kitchen cabinet with command strips - just make sure the kids can see it!
Magneplan takes the invisible work that goes into running a home and makes it visible – which means no chore or task goes unnoticed. Nicole also suggests asking young children to pick out their favourite meals and help with meal planning. Getting them to try new things to create their own ‘Winning dinners list’ can make children feel heard and more likely to enjoy the meals they are given.
“I started getting all my go-to-recipes together and created a meal planner. I summarised all the recipes on home-made magnetic cards, categorised them by colour to ensure good meal rotation and avoid getting stuck in a rut and made a magnetic board to display them all,” Nicole said.
“Using the planner, saved me €200 per month as a single person, reduced food waste dramatically and gave me a few nights off cooking! It’s all about getting organised so you can claw back time, money and headspace for the fun stuff in your life – whatever that might be.
“When others saw my planner, they wanted one too, so I started making them for family and friends. Soon, I was inundated with orders and then…. very happily, I became pregnant with twins!”
Fast forward 3 years and Nicole decided to take redundancy from her job and use the time to turn the Magneplan into a business. After much research and trialling of recipes, Nicole created the Magneplan Starter Pack which contains 49 of the most popular dishes cooked in Ireland and the UK today.
The magnetic tiles contain the ingredients, method and timings in ‘text speak’ so you can take if off your Magneplan chart and attach it to your cooker hood to have it right in front of as you make the recipe. There are also 9 extra cards for easy night like ‘Raid the Fridge’ and ‘Order Takeaway.’
The Magneplan allows you to plan out your meals with your busy schedule in mind. You can plan a week / fortnight or month ahead. The further ahead you plan the more you can potentially save. The colour coded recipe tiles ensure variety and good meal rotation. There are also blank magnetic tiles available for you to add your own family favourites.
When using the Magneplan Nicole found that not only did she save time but also money. “The absolute Golden Rule of household budgeting is to do one big weekly shop and work off a list,” Nicole said. “To get your weekly list together, you need to plan ahead – this only takes 10 minutes".
Here are some tips:
- Decide what your shopping day is and plan dinners from that day on.
- Factor in any big events for the week ahead, e.g. a nights out or visiting at the weekend – whatever it is. You don’t want to have wasted food or leftovers that night. There are many bonuses to meal planning and cutting down on food waste is a biggie.
- Choose meals with fresh ingredients for the first few days after the shop and later in the week you can use defrosted meat, chicken, frozen veg or tins or packets.
- Use the corner shop or garage if you just need bread or milk later in the week to avoid the inevitable overspend at a Supermarket.”
The newest addition to Magneplan is the ‘Chores and Activities’ pack which is perfect for when the kids start big school at 5 years old and may have after school activities during the week. This lets kids know the routine for any given day. The pack also contains 20 ‘Activity Cards’, such as ’playdate’, ‘swimming’ etc. There are also cards for family activities and treat days such ‘cinema’ and they include a good mix of social, physical and artistic activities to help encourages a healthy mix.
The pack contains 6 ‘Good Habit Cards’ like ‘make bed’ and ‘brush teeth’ to encourage younger children to form good habits. They can move these along the planner once complete and get a sense of achievement. There are 14 ‘Chore Cards’ which include common household tasks like emptying the dishwasher’, hoovering, setting the table etc. The idea is to get your ‘To Do’ List off your mind and onto the Magneplan so everyone can see the work that gets done.
“The chores have points on them based on actual minutes it takes to complete tasks per week. It demonstrates that these jobs have value and take actual time. The fairies don’t come along at night and fold the laundry!” Nicole said. “The kids get it and later they can take on more tasks for more pocket money. Mine are currently begging me to take on extra chores! It teaches kids some essential life skills and encourages everyone to do their bit to make a house a home. I strongly believe that the mothers are left with the domestic load, nobody is coming to rescue us (why would they), so we need a new way of operating a home in the 21st century – that is more equitable and democratic for all!”
The Magneplan is not about becoming a domestic goddess, it’s actually about doing less – not more! It’s aim is to free up time and energy for famillies for the fun stuff in life. Now that’s something we can definitely get behind!
Explore the Magneplan range at magneplan.com and follow on Instagram @magne.plan for tips and inspiration.