Food

Meal Planning on a budget.

Like many families, we are feeling the pinch. More specifically, we are aware of the uncertainty of things to come. So, we are trying to be extra careful with our budget. When I first had children, I was really good at planning meals every week. It meant I knew what we needed to buy, and what we were eating each day. I have never stopped meal planning, but I had become a little more relaxed over the last few years. Now, as we approach an uncertain winter I am back to meal planning, and specifically with the aim of keeping us on a tight budget.

Set Your Meal Planning Budget

I set out how much we are going to spend on food by looking at roughly what we spend, and seeing whether we waste any money on food. For example, do we waste food? Actually we don’t tend to waste food, but sometimes we have too many snacks and we do indulge in a takeaway more frequently than we should. It’s a weekly thing, but it adds up over a month! That is where we can make BIG savings – I think! Tip – If you’re looking at your food budget, remember to take into consideration whether your food budget contains household products such as soap, cleaning materials etc. I found I couldn’t understand why I was already over budget when I came to shop, then realised that I hadn’t allowed for the dishwasher tablets and cat food! So, lesson learnt!

Family Meal Planning

If you have a bigger family, you’ll obviously need more food – so my budget will be higher than someone with one or no children. However, as a bigger family I can (and sometimes do) benefit from bulk buying. Bulk buys can work for smaller households too, if they have storage space – but not everyone does. Also, take into account if you buy a large amount of something can you afford to? So, if your freezer goes wrong and you lose lots of meat will that be a problem? I don’t keep us very stocked with perishable items as I don’t want to “invest” in a large amount of e.g. meat. We don’t have a huge amount of freezer space, so I use it for things we need each week rather than as a store.

So, my meal plans I tend to start by planning dinners each day. Then look at lunches – currently 4 packed and 2 eaten at home 5 days of the week. With breakfast and snacks being a bit of a round up at the end.

How to plan your meals.

Tip – Be Realistic with your Meal Plans. There’s no point planning to have a roast dinner on a day when you’re not going to have the time to prepare it. So, write on your plan the days you’re really short of time and need a quick dinner. Write a list of easy to cook meals which you can produce in a hurry – top of my list is salmon pasta (sometimes it is tuna pasta it depends what I have in the cupboard!).

Try to vary your meals and mix them up so you don’t end up having e.g. pasta every day. Or if you’re having pasta every day – be imaginative with how you serve it, or what you serve it with!

Our meal plans look a bit like this:

Monday

B- Weetabix, L- Calzone (home-made on Sunday) D- Salmon Pasta

Tuesday

B- Porridge L – Ham Salad Sandwiches D – Macaroni Cheese

Wednesday

B- Weetabix L – Ham Salad Wrap D – Spaghetti Bolognese

Thursday

B- Porridge L Cheese Sandwiches D – Cottage Pie

Friday

B – Weetabix L – Tuna Mayo Sandwiches D – Burger Night

Saturday

B- Toast L – Baked Potato with salad D – Sticky Chicken

Sunday

B – Cooked Breakfast L – Stew With Dumplings D – Pizza Night

Bulking out meals.

I will bulk out meals with vegetables or salad. Whether I hide vegetables in the mash, or serve them on the side of the same. My youngest won’t eat sweetcorn, but he will eat corn on the cob. So, I do have to adapt things a little to accommodate them, but they’re generally quite good at trying to eat the vegetables up. Vegetables are incredibly cheap, and if you’re time limited frozen vegetables are a real help! We buy a lot of frozen berries, as we add them to porridge and baking too.

Like many of us, my children usually like a pudding after dinner! I don’t meal plan puddings, but pick a couple of ideas for each week and shop the ingredients.

Puddings which work well for us include Natural Greek Yoghurt with honey, Banana Custard, Apple Crumble with Custard, Fruit salad with natural yoghurt, cake and custard, ice cream. We tend to bake cakes and biscuits twice a week, as the children enjoy to make those, and they work well as a pudding too. A word about apple crumble, it is SO easy to make and good value too. While it is apple season (now!) ask your friends with apple trees for their windfall apples! Cooked apple freezes really well and if you do the work now, you’ll be able to be eating delicious apple crumble until Spring.