Do you struggle to find the time to plan your meals and go shopping for groceries? Many of my clients complain about that time at the end of a long day when they open their fridge, find nothing in there and head to the phone to order take out. Obviously, this is not a very healthy way to live but with a good system and a bit of planning, you can make meals and grocery shopping less of a chore and something that is fun and part of your weekly routine.
I recently interviewed Laura who is one of my inspirations for fabulous meal planning within a tight budget. Laura is an entrepreneur with her own photography business and a mama to two beautiful children. Follow Laura’s tips for meal planning and you won’t have to dial for take out in desperation again. After six years of meal planning, she really knows what she is talking about!
How long have you been meal planning for?
For six years, since my son was born. It was really important to me that our family eat together and that my son grew up to appreciate family dinner time. I wanted to make meals that we could all eat rather than preparing lots of different dishes. At that time, life was crazy enough with a newborn – I just needed a bit of order in my life! Also, as I was on maternity leave after my son was born, so I was on a tight budget.
What kind of system do you have for meal planning?
1. Look in cupboards, fridge and freezer for leftovers and pantry staples.
2. Ask my family what they would like to eat that week.
3. Check family diary for any social events.
4. Check weekly food budget. Sometimes we have extra money to buy more staples such as pasta and rice or meat that is on special offer.
5. Check my own recipe book where I write down my favorite recipes. I also check my favorite cookbooks and blogs for more inspiration for new recipes. I love Jamie Oliver, Middle Class Value and Tana Ramsay.
6. Plan a menu for the next seven days. Often, I’ll plan to batch cook to make things easier – for example, I’ll make a spaghetti sauce one night which can be made into a chili the next night with some added beans, lentils and rice.
7. Pick a day to shop. I shop for my groceries online every Sunday night so that I know the order is arriving on Monday to start the week.
Do you have a budget?
Yes. I am very conscious of our food budget and spend no more than $80 per week for a family of four.
What are some meals that you typically cook each week?
Every week is different and I love to try new recipes but some family favorites include chicken and vegetable risotto, spaghetti, sausages, vegetables and mash and salmon and pasta. My kids aren’t fussy eaters at all and they eat everything which is great. Often, I’ll add extra vegetables to the adult meals for a bigger portion.
Would you recommend saving coupons and going for the best deals in the grocery store?
Sometimes. When there are deals on meat or fish, I go for those and freeze what I can. But normally, I don’t try to save coupons or be tempted by deals because I find that I just end up spending money on food I won’t necessarily use or have the storage space for.
What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about meal planning?
Meal planning is actually very easy and takes no time at all. Just make a list of meals that you and your family love and add it to your repertoire of meals. That way, you have a good idea of what to cook every week and then you can add in some new recipes too. You would be amazed at how much money you save with meal planning.
What do you enjoy about meal planning?
After six years of meal planning, I love the system and how it works for our family. Life is crazy enough with two little ones and my own photography business and it would be stressful if I had to think of new meals every single day at the last minute! I like having structure to my week and I save so much time and money with meal planning. It hasn’t stifled my creativity at all – I love to cook and bake and introduce new meals all the time. There is definitely some flexibility within the rigidity! My children aren’t picky eaters thanks to the range of foods they have enjoyed since they were tiny.
Interested to learn more about meal planning and how you can cook nutritious meals every night on a budget – while keeping you and your family sane? Contact me for more details.