I did a Toastmaster speech a few years ago about food waste. While I was researching, I discovered that the average person in the UK throws away about 1/3 of their groceries, food that has gone off or is past its sell-by date.
If you went to the shops and bought 3 big shopping bags out, it would be the same as throwing one of those bags in the bin on the way to the car or bus.
I was quite genuinely horrified, but I had to be honest and admit that I was just as guilty of having food go off at the bottom of my fridge. This began my on and off affair with menu plans, that has been on again for about the last year.
How a menu plan saves money is simple. You only buy what you need to make your food on the menu plan. Its so simple and yet it’s the one area that I battled to be consistent in. What finally worked for us is fairly simple, and I’ll share with you my foolproof system for doing a menu plan.
Sit down with a glass of wine/coffee/soda and everyone who would have an input in the meal plan. Sometimes that may just be you, sometimes it could be the whole family. Brett and I did this together, and as Liya has got older she has had some input as well.
Get a large piece of paper, or start a new document on your computer or phone.
Start thinking about your favorite meals and write down all those that you really enjoy and aren’t too difficult to make.
That’s the basis of your next menu plan.
Our list of favourites at home has grown substantially, but these are some ideas of easy, tasty meals that you could add.
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Slow Cooker Chicken Korma – Which you can find here and is amazing!! https://www.theorganisedmum.blog/2018/01/02/fakeaway-slow-cooker-chicken-korma/
- Sausage Ragu – https://penniesforpinot.com/recipe/sausage-ragu-for-45-pence-a-serving/
- Toad in the Hole – Eat well for Less cookbook
- Lentil Soup – Pinterest
- Chicken burgers – You can either use frozen chicken or flattened breasts
- Chicken Parmigiana (I cheat and use a bottled tomato sauce and frozen breaded chicken!)
- Pork stew – Pepperplate
- Pesto pasta and frozen mixed veg
On a Friday or Saturday, sit down and take a look at your list of favorite meals , and make your choice of what you are going to eat that week. We always aim for one new dish a week, which is when we would try out any new recipe that we found online or in a cookbook. If we like the new recipe, it gets added to the rotation.
Write a list, and have it ready before you go to the shops. Buy ONLY what you need for that week. If you want to add some extra canned or frozen foods for the shelf, that’s fine. Make sure that if you buy anything that can go off, you buy only what you need!
At one point in time, we had enough meals on our basic list that we could eat a different meal every day for a month and a half without repeating a dish!
Lunches are simple. You can either make extra dinner and take it to work with you the next day, or you can make a big batch of lunches on the weekend and put them in the fridge or freezer.
I batch make sandwiches and wraps on the weekend and pop them in the freezer. If you don’t use anything soggy (tomato or cucumber for example) then they defrost perfectly. Think bagels with cream cheese and cold meats, wraps with refried beans and cheese, or sandwiches with grated cheese and ham. Yes I like cheese.
Take them out of the freezer the previous night or even in the morning, they will have defrosted by lunchtime in all but the coldest days, and wont get hot and squishy in Summer. You can do exactly the same trick with cakes and muffins, just freeze them in single portions in a Ziploc in the freezer.
Here’s a great sample plan that would cost a lot less than you would expect!
Monday – Lentil Soup
Tuesday – Sausage Ragu
Wednesday- Chicken Korma
Thursday – Spaghetti Carbonara
Friday – Chicken burgers ( Or beef burgers, the frozen ones from Aldi and Iceland are amazing!)
Saturday- New recipe day , I love the look of Miguel Barclays Beef Keema in his One Pound meals book so that would be my pick
Sunday : Roast Chicken , Yorkies and Roast potatoes, frown veg on the side.
You could use any leftovers from Sunday lunch to make a pot of chicken a la king, or just mix the chicken, gravy and leftover veg the next day, pop it over rice and call it stew
Menu planning can be intimidating, and there is nothing worse than sitting down to think about what you would like to eat and having your mind go blank. If you have a list of your favorite meals then you have a great starting point for a menu plan that will never get boring, and will save you a small fortune!