Feeding a family, or even just yourself can take a lot of time and money. One way to reduce both is to plan your meals. There is a lot of advice on how to plan your meals for a week or month at a time. Some of the advice can be confusing and stop you from starting out.
1. Check for Sales at Your Supermarket
Nearly all supermarkets have sales of certain types of food during the year. What’s on sale now? Anything you’d likely buy and eat? Or is there something you can use to make a meal? Check the “Reduced to Clear” section. While a lot of products in the Reduced to Clear section have a “Use By” or “Best Before” date of the day you purchase them, they can be frozen and used at a later date. Alternatively, you can cook a meal with them and freeze that instead.
2. Make Use of Your Cookbooks and Recipe Websites
Not everyone has a cookbook or two on the shelf. If you do, open them up and plan your meals for the week. Look for recipes that have the reduced or on sale ingredients you found. If you don’t have cookbooks then simply visit an online cooking site.
For example, foodtv.com has thousands of recipes. If you are on a tight budget, then I cannot recommend Jack Monroe’s CookingOnABootstrap.com website highly enough. Not only are her recipes delicious and sometimes surprising, but they also cost so little to prepare. Each recipe has an approximate cost-per-serving. usually in the pennies!
3. Plan Your Meals
Once you have the recipes and reduced items ready, you can now plan your meals. Sit down and look at the five to seven nights you have to work with. Consider meals that can be made ahead of time and frozen.
Choose recipes that can generate leftovers you can use for another meal. That way you may even find you don’t have to cook every night. When choosing each meal, ensure you have a balanced healthy dish. While sausages or burgers are great, served on their own they are not very healthy. Try adding some freshly made coleslaw and a side salad or sweet potato fries. And if cabbage, the main ingredient in coleslaw, and sweet potatoes are on sale then you’re really in luck!
4. Make a List
Make a list of the ingredients you need for the entire week’s worth of food. Don’t forget to check your staples like bread, milk and eggs.
5. Go Shopping
Make sure you shop from your list. If you deviate from the list, make sure you have a logical reason for the addition. A list helps you stay organized. It also helps you stay on budget.
Meal planning isn’t difficult. However, it does require a system. You need to be both organized and a bit patient. Sometimes the sale items just don’t mesh with the recipes you have in mind. Or your week is really busy. Pasta, burgers and even breakfast for dinner are options for those busy nights. Get creative and have fun. Meal planning really can alleviate much of the stress of busy families and mealtime.
Do you have any tips for people starting out meal planning? Let us know below.