Why I started meal planning.
I never used to properly worry about money and so whilst I was on a full time income our food shopping was done weekly without much thought. I would buy mainly junk and convenience food and then for every meal rummage about seeing what we fancied eating and make it. I feel bad looking back as this led to a lot of wastage due to not paying attention to use by dates and also was working out expensive due to having to pop out to the shop where I had forgotten things. Or for a late night Jaffa cake binge.
Now I’m on a part time income I am always looking for ways to save money and I have found that by meal planning I have cut our food spending by half of what we used to spend even with an extra mouth to feed. It has eliminated a lot of stress too as I no longer have to endure the back and forth “what’s for dinner” “I dunno – what do you fancy?” “I dunno” back and forth between my husband and I for all of eternity.
By planning our meals for each day I can buy exactly what we need and we actually use it up so nothing gets thrown away. It’s great to teach our little girl the importance of not wasting food and it also means I can plan ahead the sneaky ways to get her to try new foods (I’m looking to you brocolli).
I am sharing with you my 12 top tips on how to successfully meal plan.
1.) Write your plan down and attach it to the fridge so everyone can see it. I personally meal plan fortnightly as I do fortnightly shops but it is possible to do any length of time. I write 3 columns for breakfast, lunch and dinner and use the back for a shopping list.
2.) Ask yourself and your family what they would like to eat while filling in the plan. There is no point cooking food that no one will eat.
3.) Create a list of regular foods and dishes your family like to have and keep all the recipes together. This way you can use your families staple dishes to fill the majority of your meal plan and then regularly rotate them. This will make it easier to create subsequent meal plans as you already have a list ready to go.
4.) Look up for new recipes to try and add these into your meal plans. Cooking the same foods over and over gets boring in my house so we often have 10 days of eating our regular foods in a fortnight and I will mix things up twice a week by making a meal we haven’t tried before. This is great for making foods that can be seasonal and more often or not the meal ends up being in our regular rotation.
5.) Check your calendar. If you are going out for dinner one night or are working late you won’t want to be cooking. Allow for this on the meal planner. The days that I work I cook extra the day before and will take the leftovers to work and leave enough in the fridge so that my husband and little girl can reheat it to eat while I work.
6.) Make double to freeze. I usually do this when I make chilli or spaghetti bolognese; I will make double the amount needed and freeze half for another meal. I plan this into the meal plan and I love it because it means some days I won’t have to cook.
7.) Plan for 3 meals a day. This will eliminate the need to pop out for breakfast items or lunches as you will already have everything in.
8.) Make an inventory of what you have in. More often or not there is hidden gems hiding in the freezer you had forgotten about and by incorporating this into your next meal plan you save money by already having a meal in.
9.) Have a clear out day. We do this twice a month usually just before pay day and I will write down on the planner to have a picky fridge and freezer day. This gives me a chance to rummage in the cupboards, fridge and freezer and use up all the items that are about to go out of date. This is usually a baking day for the little one and I to use up sad forgotten bananas and eggs.
10.) Always have an emergency quick meal in the freezer – for us this is a frozen pizza. For those days where you don’t want to cook for whatever reason this will stop you reaching for the nearest takeaway menu and will save you money.
11.) It is okay to mix up the meal planner if something crops up. Just swap the days about and cook the meal another day.
12.) Check the meal plan the day before in case you need to get anything out of the freezer.
By meal planning you can take control of your budget. If you are having a tight month you can purchase cheaper foods to eat or if you’re having a good month you can add a couple of luxuries in.
I am healthier now I’m meal planning: I am making healthy meals, I have more money in my pocket and I have saved my sanity from the daily dinner fiasco.
Do you meal plan? What ways do you try save your family money? Let me know – I’d love to hear from you.