Each week I make a meal plan but I do not have set days for meals as how we feel, and what we are doing changes, and we might not want to eat what is planned on that set day. If it was set in stone every thing we had to eat each day, I am sure I would probably waste food, or buy something different. Each week, however, I plan meals for 7 days based on what I have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards; and what is in season, growing in the garden or can be foraged in the countryside, or is on offer in the shops (if I have been). I usually base my meal plan around a few foods that I make that week. It might be hummus and we will have it with crackers for lunch one day, on toast for breakfast, or as a sauce for pasta with vegetables at night. It might be wild garlic pesto and we will have it under cheese on toast, to make garlic bread, as a pizza sauce, or with pasta and parmesan.
This is what we have planned for the following week.
Porridge with compote, yoghurt with waffles and compote, stretched beans on toast x 2 with a fruit smoothie, overnight oats, yoghurt with granola and fruit, poached egg on toast with a fruit smoothie.
Hummus with crackers and salad, spicy pasty, minestrone soup and bread x2, wild garlic and cheese on toast, fish finger sandwich with spinach, wild garlic and pea spaghetti with parmesan.
Pizza and salad, spicy bean burgers with salad and air fryer chips, baked potato with chilli, salmon and spinach and pea pasta, lentil and sweet potato curry with chapati, ham and leek potato bake with carrots, chicken fajitas.
Rhubarb compote and custard, compote and yoghurt, flapjack, homemade rice pots, jelly with raspberries and yoghurt, fruit salad and custard, rice pudding, scones and jam, blackcurrant and apple pie with home-made ice cream.
Homemade popcorn, hummus on toast, flapjack, biscuits, apples, hummus and crudities, fruit bread and jam.
That seems expensive!
That might seem like an expensive menu and it would be if I bought everything full price from the shops. However, I am time rich and so have time to make things that others might buy. A lot of meals are also vegetarian which saves money on meat. I make things like the yoghurt, rice pudding, and the curry in the slow cooker which also saves money on energy, and I batch cook when the oven is on. I also forage what is in season and grow my own food.
This weekend I made rice pudding in the slow cooker (crockpot), I will make yoghurt overnight tonight, I made bread, spicy pasties (out of fridge gravel, spices, tomato puree, chorizo and mash potato. Some went in the freezer), I made wild garlic pesto as you can pick wild garlic for free at the moment, I made waffles (some went in the freezer), I made hummus, I made pizza (with a bit of the bread dough and fridge gravel and some cheese we got reduced after Christmas), I made flapjack, I made blackcurrant and apple pie from home grown fruit in the freezer and will make rhubarb compote with fruit from the garden. I have salad leaves growing in the garden now, and spinach in the greenhouse. We mixed spices together to make our own fajita seasoning that we keep in a jar, and we will make our own wraps on the day we make fajitas, and chapati for the curry.
I rarely buy anything at full price except some staples. The chicken was bought reduced and is from the freezer. The fish fingers are cheap, bought in a big bag as they are broken and mis-shapes (but taste the same in a sandwich). The raspberries are from the freezer and homegrown. All the fruit for the smoothies is home grown and from the freezer except for ginger, and whiz them with water. The chilli and the scones are from the freezer, and have been batched in a previous week. The biscuits were made this weekend when I had the oven on a couple of hours to make the bread and the pizza and the other baked goods. The minestrone soup is made with tomato powder made from skins of tomatoes, home grown herbs, fridge gravel, onions and bits of broken up spaghetti. The granola is home made, as is the jam. The salmon was bought as a whole salmon for half price at Easter and was filleted by us, and the ham was from a bargain joint that we got at Christmas and cut up and stored in portions in the freezer. We have two freezers, a chest freezer and one with drawers and I keep an inventory and so I know mainly what is in them..
As you can see I have planned ahead and bought things when on offer, and frozen, dried, or bottled food when it was growing or foraged. This all probably sounds like an awful lot of work but the baking took a couple of hours at the weekend, the hummus and pesto take about 10 minutes each to make, the wraps and chapati take about 30 minutes, and the curry, rice pudding and yoghurt take about 10 minutes each as you are just throwing things in the slow cooker. The soup is made in the slow cooker too and it is just a question of cooking the onion and the vegetables in a frying pan and then adding all the ingredients to the slow cooker with water and tomato puree, and turning it on.
Living in this way means that we can eat a diet of tasty food that is reasonably healthy, but on a low budget. It does take effort and sometimes I can not be bothered or I am too busy, and that is when the batching that I have done a previous week comes into it’s own. I always have a back up that I can easily get out of the freezer and then will freeze things like the hummus if I don’t use it.
Each season I am foraging or growing food and saving it for another time as well as eating it. This planning ahead is so important to our standard of meals and our nutrition. My meal plan has changed a lot over the last year. I would make lots of things with a pulled chicken, and less vegetarian food in the past but times are getting harder and I am thinking outside of the box, especially at trying to make something out of what would have been waste, like crisps made from potato peelings or onion powder made with dehydrated skins of onions. What kind of things do you batch cook or make for the week and use in different ways?