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I don’t always meal plan, but when I do I like to go all out. Meal planning is a fantastic way to save time, money and effort. Best of all you get the smug satisfaction of having a meal on hand anytime.
Ask your family what they like to eat
By allowing your family to have input in your decision you can cut down on waste. Everyone has a favourite meal, or two, and involving them is part of the fun. This will also help you avoid having to cook more than one meal for fussy eaters.
Use your slow cooker
It is no secret that I love to use our slow cooker. We have a whole selection of meals we make in it. Here are some of our favourites:
Keep a well-stocked pantry
Keep all of the basics on hand. Sauces, passata, beans, pulses, rice etc. This will help you to knock up a different meal, at short notice, if you don’t want today’s menu item. This is one of the most important meal planning tips for me!
Meal plan for at least a week
By planning at least a week in advance you can cut down on your shopping trips. This will also help you avoid those impulse purchases which make the costs skyrocket.
Look for new recipes regularly
I personally really enjoy the BBC Good Food website. There are lots of fantastic recipes and they post new ones every month, at least. The recipes will give you an idea of cost, serving sizes and even the preparation time.
Try out theme nights
Consider a theme night. Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Indian etc are all great theme nights. You can have a night where you buy some of your sides already prepared or you can bulk prepare your own. Naans, homemade tortillas, Bombay potatoes, egg fried rice, and quesadillas can all be made in next to no time. Best of all they are super cheap to prepare!
Make a shopping list
Have your shopping list for the week, or longer, and stick to it. If you are going to need to purchase more fresh items throughout the week then make a list in advance. This will help you stay motivated and on track with your finances.
This is one of my best meal planning tips as it can make the biggest difference to your budget.
If you find that you have difficulty sticking to your budget then consider online shopping. Make sure your stomach is full before you shop to avoid impulse buys. You can earn cashback when shopping online too with *TopCashBack. New customers shopping at Asda can currently earn £5.25 just for placing an order. New customer shopping at Tesco can currently earn £6.30 just for placing an order.
Check special offers
Keep an eye on special offers, particularly if you like brands. If you have favoured items in your home look into bulk buying in order to make the best savings. I personally have this *storage unit in my hall cupboard. This allows me to bulk buy cereal, toilet rolls, tins, drinks and any other dry goods for several months at a time. It is next to impossible to overload that and it fits in one of my hall cupboards perfectly. I store lots of bulky items there and then just keep one or two in my kitchen cupboards. This helps me see easily what I have and allows me to bulk buy groceries from Amazon if a good offer comes up.
Take the weather forecast into consideration
It can take just a minute or two to view the weather forecast for the coming week. If it is sweltering hot you probably aren’t going to want to be cooking a slow cooker whole chicken for 5-6 hours. Take advantage of the nice weather with a barbeque or maybe a picnic-style dinner. Something that takes a minimum amount of preparation and allows you to enjoy summer with your family.
Create a bookmark folder
If you have a night when you are low on inspiration this can be a Godsend. I personally categorise my bookmarks by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then within that into more concise categories. This helps me find something if I am in a hurry or low on motivation. I tend to link to recipes found online. For me, this is one of my most used meal planning tips now.
Prepare food after you shop
This is another of my great meal planning tips. When I come home from shopping I like to prepare lots of items. I will remove, and recycle excess packaging. Then I get fruit and vegetables prepared and into their relevant homes. After this, I freeze lots of fruits and vegetables for smoothies. I will also part prepare airfryer roast potatoes, pizza dough in the breadmaker and anything else I can.
I usually only spend maybe 30-60 minutes on this, once or twice a month, but it works out very well. My husband can prepare himself a smoothie for work in minutes. He knows the portion sizes as they are chopped/prepared in individual portions. For example, I will freeze avocados on the day of purchase. I slice small ones into 4 pieces (1 per drink) or large ones into 8 pieces (1 per drink). This makes it easy to get a lot of fruit & veg varieties into our smoothies without having to cut or prepare anything at 5am.
I hope that you have found these meal planning tips useful. They work very well for me when I implement them and help me save lots of money. Having meal ideas, and prepared food, on hand is great for days when I am tired or low on energy. Having meals prepared, or partly prepared, in the freezer is great when in a rush and avoids us buying takeaways.
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