Friday, 13 April 2012

Meal Planning (The £50 a week budget)


FACT: We all love a good list.

I know some people who have their whole lives revolving around a series of complex lists.

So we are all going to love meal planning.

Because it's all about

LISTS!

I like to do my meal planning on a Sunday evening... try to do your meal plan 24hours before going to the supermarket, this will allow you the time to do a definitive shopping list.



List 1: Start your meal plan by taking a sheet of paper and writing down all the evening meals you like to eat. You will keep this list for future meal planning so it might be an idea to keep it in a diary, notebook, control folder or stick it to the fridge.

Here is a snippet of our list:
  • Pasta and Tomato Sauce
  • Tortilla and salad
  • Sausage and Bean Casserole
  • Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Roast chicken
  • Lasagna
  • Cottage Pie
  • Pizza
  • Chilli
  • Tuna Pasta
  • Fajitas

List 2: Now go to your fridge, freezer and pantry and make a note of the food stuffs you have, what needs used. What were you thinking when you bought that jar of anchovies and 2 pints of double cream? While you are in there throw out things past their best, things that have been in there since Christmas, and anything that would pass as a school science experiment.

Be honest with yourself and throw out the things that have not and will not be eaten.
A dried up orange, half a grapefruit (I can't remember when I ate the other half) and 2 fossilised parsnips.

I could pretend that, being the domestic goddess that I am, I had saved these up just to show as an example of things that should be thrown out.... but that would be lying.


List 3: Know the days you will have time to cook and the days you won't - So make sure you plan easier meals around any driving lessons, archery tournaments or NASA weightlessness training.

List 4: We do quite a bit of 'grow-your-own' here so I also take a note of anything good from the veg patch, allotment or garden.

List 5: With all this info to hand, sit down with your note pad and write down the days of the week down the left-hand-side. Then start matching the days up with meals that will use up what you already have, and then fill in the blanks.

Sample Weekly Menu:

Mon: Chilli (from Freezer) - Chilli was the big batch last week so there are 4 boxes of it in the freezer.
Tue: Tortilla - We have chickens, so we eat quite a lot of eggs.
Wed: Spaghetti Bolognese (From Freezer) - Bolognese was the Big Batch the week before last.
Thu: Sausage and Bean Casserole (Big Batch Cooking) - allow it to cool before freezing - ALWAYS label the tubs.... ALWAYS!
Fri: Fish and Chips - Fish is a bit of a treat for us, we buy the frozen breaded stuff, Small has fish fingers
Sat: Fajitas with Chilli (From Freezer) - Making it a bit more interesting by serving the same meal in a different way.
Sun: Pizza - homemade.

With the above sample menu we have 3 evenings when we don't have to cook.... which leaves more time for that NASA weightlessness training- woop!


My Money Saving Top Tips

Use what you already have
This is key to saving money, esspecially when you start meal planning. You probably already have a weeks worth of meals in your fridge, freezer and pantry. 

Learn to cook!
You are not going to be able to keep feeding a family nutritious and cheap meals if you don't cook. We cook almost everything from scratch, this is the cheapest and healthiest way. If you buy prepared or ready-meals you'll struggle to keep the costs down.


Cooking for Blokes was the book that got me started cooking decent, normal food.

Most things are cheaper to make  - bread, pizza, pasta sauce, posh preserves and cakes. 
Some things are cheaper to buy - stock-cubes, sausages, pasta, cheap jam.

Learn to cook canteen style
I aim to do a BIG BATCH once a week and manage to get  around 15 servings in one pot.
I freeze it in meal sized portions and have home-made ready-meals.

Get some good freezer boxes
Stackable boxes with well fitting lids that hold enough for a family meal. Microwave proof tubs are ideal, large margarine tubs work fine if you don't have the funds for new boxes.

Plan for the left-overs
A roast chicken will have meat leftover, I freeze it for fajitas or a pizza topping and make chicken soup the following day.
3 meals for the price of 1!

A large tortilla (spanish omelette) is enough for dinner and the next day's lunch-boxes

Be veggie friendly
Meat is an expensive luxury (especially if your ethics push you towards local, organic or free range)

 When I cook a meaty sauce (chilli, bolognese, etc) I add plenty of grated carrots, grated mushrooms and a handful of lentils along with a stock-cube to keep that meaty flavour.

Leave room for flexibility
Leave one evening free or don't plan lunches, this way you can take advantage of leftovers or supermarket discounts (always have a fall-back lined up though)


There's only so much list making one girl can take, I'll go into detail of shopping lists in another post.

I'll leave you to plan your meals.


Enjoy!
:)

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