August 11, 2022

Meal Planning

Every couple of weeks I plan my meals for the next two weeks. This not only saves me worrying about what we can have for dinner, but it helps me save money, use up what I have in already, makes my meals healthier, and saves time. I then make a list of what I need which saves on impulse buying in the shops. These are some of the questions I ask myself when meal planning.

  1. What is in my cupboards, fridge and garden and what meals can I make with what I have got so that I can spend as little money as possible? (In these times of rising prices you don’t want to run down your whole stock of meat etc and so you still might buy some bargains you find whilst shopping).
  2. Do I need to go to the community pantry, (or food bank if you are eligible) and see what I can add from there?
  3. Look at the diary. How many meals will I need? Is there football practice or other nights when I will need a quick meal?
  4. What is the weather going to be like? Will we want a BBQ or to cook outside?
  5. Nutrition. How can I balance our diet and make sure there are enough vitamins, protein, carbohydrate minerals and fat to ensure that we stay healthy? Do I have enough vegetables and protein sources?
  6. Which meatless meals can I make to cut down on cost? Meat is often the most expensive ingredients. The vegetarian meal could be pizza, an ommlette, cheese, onion and potato pie or a veggie curry or chilli.
  7. Am I putting enough variation into the meals. Are people going to get bored or am I using different flavours, texture, colour and presentation? (You can still use similar ingredients and left overs but serve them in another way eg a big pan of bolognaise can be served with spaghetti, fill pasties, make a lasagne, make potato nachos, or even have on toast for lunch. It is the same meal but served differently.
  8. What can I use to bulk out the meals and stretch them to make leftovers that can be used for a lunch? This might be veg, oats, lentils or bread crumbs added to mince in dishes like chilli or bolognaise. It also might be serving bread with a salad, Yorkshire pudding with a main meal or turning something into a pie.
  9. Will my family like these meals? It is a good idea to put some family favourite meals on your plan, or even sit down with the family to discuss the meal plan.
  10. Is my meal plan flexible? Things happen. People might not fancy what you have planned, you might be late home, you might have to use up more left overs than expected. I write 14 meals but don’t have a plan written in stone, or put which meal we are having on which day. I usually decide the night before when getting something out of the freezer. My plan always has things in that can be made quickly. Eg yesterday I had some pulled chicken out of the freezer to use with pasta. We didn’t feel like it and so had chicken, salad and sweet chilli wraps as we wanted some thing quick. I don’t buy many convienance foods but I try to get chicken strips now and again or fish fingers as they are great to cook quickly from frozen. If I have something like raw mince out of the freezer which we no longer need or want, which will be yellow sticker and so needs to be used that day, I will make quick burgers or meatballs and cook them in the airfryer and then freeze them for another quick meal another time.
  11. What is in season? Which will be the cheapest ingredients to buy?
  12. What is on offer in the leaflets?
  13. What can I add through foraging? We forage fruit for pies or to cook with meat or stir fry, wild garlic for pasta and on toast with cheese or on pizza, fruit and elderflowers for cordial.
  14. How can I incorporate these meals into activities? ( summer holidays are coming and if you have kids or grand children this may be relevant. Eg. Pizza making with the kids, baking, making bread or chicken nuggets etc.)

Making sure that you have staple ingredients in your cupboards, some veg in your garden or on window sills, and that you pick up some yellow stickers or discounted items when you see them, will make your meal planning easier. It takes 30 minutes of your time but will transform your meals and your purse.

14 Meal planning questions.

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