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Get Organised – How to meal plan….

The half an hour a week that I spend planning our meals and shopping list saves us more money than anything else we do so it’s well worth the short amount of time it takes to do so I thought I’d make my first post of 2013 all about meal planning and how we do it in our house.

I have a meal planning notebook (there’s a surprise) and every Saturday, I write down a list of everything we have in the fridge, the freezer and the cupboards.  I then sit down and write a rough meal plan for the following week and a shopping list to go with it. Don’t forget to take into account what you have planned for the week ahead so you know who you’ll be planning for each night.

When I’m writing my plan, I try to use us as much as I can of what we already have in, which in theory means I have to buy less so I spend less money.

I add to the shopping list any of my meal planning essentials that we’ve run out of through the week – even if I don’t need them for any of the meals I have planned.  I always like to have things like pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes and beans in the cupboard as they’re a great base for lots of meals.

I also write a list of the meals I’ve got planned on the back of the shopping list.

(Obviously my shopping list consists of more than just our meal planning ingredients but I won’t bore you too much today!)

Then we’re off to the shops, armed with our shopping list, ready to spend as little as possible.

You might have noticed above when I said I write our meal plan, it’s only a rough version at this point and that’s because t often changes when we get to the supermarket.  If there are any special offers on or any good deals in the reduction bay then I might decide to change one of the meals I have planned which is why I write a list of the planned meals on the back of the shopping list.

As an example, I might have planned Jambalaya for one night because I’ve got some chicken in the freezer but when I get to the shop, I might see some mince in the reduced section and decide to keep the chicken for another time and have the mince in spaghetti bolognaise instead.  Because we’re not having Jambalaya anymore, I can take chorizo, onion and peppers off the shopping list.  If I didn’t have the meals listed on the back of my shopping list, I might forget what I wanted the chorizo, onion and peppers for and buy them anyway.  Does that make sense?

When you get home, you can write down your final meal plan, taking into account any changes that you made while you were out.  I write ours down on the wall planner I made last year for our meal plans – that way, everyone can see what we’re having and when.

I’ve written posts before about other ways you can save money with your weekly shopping and your meal planning.  I’ve written about how I often get reduced bargains at the supermarket at the end of the day and also about how you can save lots by changing the way you shop.

Also, especially at this time of year when your cupboards will be filled with all the extra food you probably bought for over Christmas but never got around to using, I wrote about how you can have a use up week by shopping from your cupboards instead of the supermarket.

Make as much as you can from what you have.  If you buy a chicken, turn it into a rubber chicken by stretching it as far as you can – day one could be a roast chicken dinner, day two could be something like chicken risotto or chicken curry and day three could be risotto cakes or chicken soup made from chicken stock and the last little bits.  If you’re making chilli, make a bigger batch and use the leftovers for other meals like chilli cheese wraps, chilli pasta bake, chilli lasagne or even just as a baked potato topping.  You don’t have to eat it the next day, you could freeze it until you’re ready to use it.

Don’t be too ambitious – there’s no point planning something new and complicated every night as you’ll probably be more tempted not to stick to your plan if it seems like too much effort.  I think one night a week is fine to cook something new!

Good luck x

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