Meal planning and Eating on a budget in challenging times.



Something that I have practiced for quite a long time is the art of planning my food shops to make sure that myself and my daughter always eat a balanced diet. It helps us stay within a budget and saves us from the daily stress of having to work out the answer to ‘what’s for dinner?’ I’ve never been a fan of having to think about food and shopping each day whilst navigating work and other life commitments but then never has it been so relevant to get the most out of your shop and to cut down on visits to the supermarket as it is now.

I know, I know, the thought of planning for the week ahead seems like a mammoth task and possibly daunting but I promise the work all happens upfront on one evening and then the rest naturally unfolds into an organised and stress- free event. I promise. Besides, what better time than now to create this new habit, get the family involved and have some fun?

So how do you go about it?

· First, choose an evening, preferably the same one each week to write your meal plan. I opt for a Friday night. Doing this on a Friday night leaves me with Saturday as my shopping day ( be it physically going to the shops or ordering online) and then if I’m feeling super organised (and running out of things to do) I’ll do some *batch cooking on the Sunday.

· I tend to work on meal planning between Monday to Friday, allowing for the weekend to be more of a free flow. Maybe a pizza delivery here or a Chinese there. In more normal times, dinner at a friend’s or trying out that lovely new restaurant in town…. Sigh. By the way, I’m not really advocating take always as a permanent weekend fixture but merely giving yourself some flexibility will stop this from feeling too rigid. Rest assured there will be many healthy recipe versions of our favourite take-aways in Newsletters to come.

· Workout who and how many mouths you have to feed for Lunch and Dinner for each of the chosen days. If one of the members of the family is working on the frontline in hospital at the moment for example then figure out if they will eat the same but later, will they need something to take with them or will they be eating food provided from elsewhere. It’s likely that a vast majority of you reading this will be at home at the moment but each family or person (if you’re on your own) will have their own unique ‘whose home for lunch and dinner?’ timetable or ‘What do I fancy today? List.

· Some people recommend doing food planning for dinner only, but I like to cover all bases. This is especially relevant at the moment. I personally like to make sure there’s enough breakfast foods stocked up and the same for lunch.

· Next is the fun bit. If you’re anything like me you may covert a huge pile of recipe books, recipes acquired from others and magazines. If unlike me, you don’t there’s always the internet. The world is literally your oyster. I love mixing it up and having a fish- based dish one night followed by a vegan bean chilli the next. This is because I love food and eat practically everything. You may be a *vegetarian, *vegan or a *flexitarian and anything else in between. Whichever your food choices there are simply loads of recipes to be had.

· Once I’ve chosen my recipes, I then write a Menu for each of the days that includes lunch and dinner. I stick that on the fridge as a simple go to reminder. On a separate sheet I then list all of the ingredients needed for the chosen recipes. I must note that at this point (and before I venture out) I check the cupboards for anything that I already own. There’s nothing more annoying and expensive than buying spices and tomato puree to then get home and realise you already have them.

· If you have children at home with you then get them involved too. Let them choose a day in which they plan the menu and even better encourage them to be the chef for their chosen day.

· So, it’s that simple really. Just a bit of concentrated time will leave you loads of extra time to do what you want to do, take the daily stress out of having to think about food, stop you from having to go out regularly and exposing yourself to the potential of the virus and build in a huge variety of different foods. Using the meal planning method of eating will result in less waste and you will save you money by only buying what is needed. No more buying a huge bag of carrots when you only need 2 for a recipe.

Top Tips

· If you shop on-line you can quite literally see how much your spending. My sister does a cross comparison by having 3 different well know supermarkets up on her screen at the same time. The one showing the cheapest total wins every-time. This is worth doing if you want to go this step further as all supermarkets will have their own deals on at any one time, but this is for the hard-core budget planners amongst us and only if you are really struggling for things to do!

· Make double the amount for the next day or for recipes that can be frozen. Leftovers are fantastic for next day lunches too.

· Buy foods that you know you love but also try a new dish a week. Just to keep it fun and experimental. This is a very practical approach to eating so throw in a curve ball and have some fun along the way.

Terminology and fun facts

· Vegetarian - a person who does not eat meat or fish, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons.

· Vegan - a person who does not eat or use animal products.

· Flexitarian - a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish.

· Pescatarian - a person who does not eat meat but does eat fish.

· Foodie - a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet. Or Me!

· Batch Cooking –is simply the act of preparing and/or cooking larger portions of different foods, meant to be mixed and matched to create versatile meals throughout the week

Happy planning!

Warm wishes


Louisa



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