how to meal plan to save time and money
Everyone loves a tip that will make their lives easier so below are the 10 simple tips to meal plan for a busy family.
- Do a stock check
- KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
- Search for inspiration
- Buy in bulk
- Stick with your schedule
- Plan for emergencies
- Eat food you enjoy
- Write it all down
- Buy food in bulk
- It’s okay to fail
Now, I’m no expert but I am pretty good at this meal planning thing.
I have always planned our family meals.
The benefits are definitely felt by us when I don’t as we end up spending tons on takeaways or mid-week shop trips.
Also, I love knowing what I’m going to eat throughout the week and getting excited about the food I’m eating.
Let me know some of your favourite meal planning tips on the comments section below.
Firstly, I want to get across how beneficial meal planning can be for you.
It saves time when you go grocery shopping and know exactly what you need to get, but also when you know in advance what you need to prep and cook.
You’re also going to save money when you know what to cook and have all the ingredients as you’re less likely to give up and order take-out.
Mid-week grocery trips will stop too.
You know, the ones where you go in for chickpeas and chopped tomatoes and come out with crisps, doughnuts, a new notepad, and $20 worth of cute clothes for the kids!
Do a stock check
Before you even think about planning meals you need to know what food you’ve already got in the house, and more specifically, what food you’ve already got in the house that is about to go past its use by date. You then use this food to build the basics of your meal plan to reduce your food waste and save money.
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Meal planning for a busy family is really simple Meal planning is basically choosing 7 meals that you and your family all love and buying the ingredients for those 7 meals. Most people fail because they struggle with recipe inspiration or think that because they’re meal planning they have to cook extravagant home-cooked meals from scratch every night. This is particularly true for a family trying to eat a plant-based diet. But plant-based junk food exists, and let me tell you – some of it is really good Keep it simple. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. If your family enjoys burgers, pizza and pasta then have those things. If you have the time and will to experiment in the kitchen then that’s great, if not then don’t.
Search for inspiration
Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend, Pinterest is! I love Pinterest and could spend hours on there searching for recipes, clothes and home décor ideas. If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it’s a search engine but instead of words, you get pictures Like with most of the internet Pinterest is quite clever! It gets to know you and remembers what you’ve looked at so that when you log in you’re met with tons of pins that directly relate to what you’ve already searched for. Great for some recipe inspiration when you’re a bit lost on what to make though. Or be lazy and let the recipes come to you! There are so many food blogs out on the world wide web. All of them have tons of recipes (you can find ours here) and will send them all directly to your email if you subscribe to their content. You can subscribe with us here. You’ll also get an email every month with all of my latest recipes, hints and tips and what’s new with me.
Prep in bulk
To save time when meal planning it’s handy to have a few options ready made in the freezer. You can freeze sauces, falafels, bean burgers and vegetables so that when you’re in a rush you can grab something out of the freezer and stick to your meal plan.
Stick with your schedule
If you work until 6 on a Monday or your kids have 3 afterschool classes and a playdate then plan a meal that can be chucked in the oven and ready in 15-20 minutes. There is no point in planning a meal that relies on you being able to stand and cook for 20 minutes if you don’t have that time. You’re just setting yourself up to fail. Even if you don’t have time Monday – Friday then rely on your freezer for those 5 days and cook something amazing on the weekend Being a parent is hard enough without needing to become a gourmet chef every night of the week too.
Plan for emergencies
There are times when, even with the best will in the world, you will be unprepared with your meal planning. You may think you have tons of time one evening to cook and then you have to stay late at work, or your kid forgets they needed to be somewhere. These things happen and it’s a great idea to have a well stocked kitchen for these occasions. Being able to grab chips and plant-based burgers out of the freezer will stop you from having to spend money on take-outs and fast food. No, it isn’t the healthiest meal but it’s healthier (and cheaper) than a take-out.
Eat the food you enjoy
This sounds so simple but it has to be said. If you don’t like something – don’t plan a meal around it! If you have some time to experiment in the kitchen then go for it! Try adding something you never previously liked because our tastes do change. I hated chickpeas until about a month ago but now you can give me falafel and houmous any day! But cooking what you know and the food everyone in your house likes is definitely the easiest way forward when you're running low on time.
Write a list
Even if you could remember the meals you want to cook it’s unlikely you’ll remember all of the ingredients to go in them so write it all down. Going grocery shopping prepared with what you need, how much you need and what it should cost will save you so much time and money because you have a plan Create a note on your phone or use a simple pen and paper to jot down what you need. Whatever you choose make sure it’s accessible so you can add to your list whenever you run out of something to save multiple trips to the grocery store.
Buy food in bulk
There are certain items that you use every week and these are the ones you should be buying in bulk. Items like pasta, rice, couscous, beans, or chickpeas work best because they have long use by dates. Not only does this save you money but it makes meal planning easier on a weekly basis when you know that you already have a couple of meal bases in the pantry. It also means that if your plans change there is always something in hand that you can use to make a meal. It’s not just dried goods you can stockpile though. Tinned food can also be bought in bulk. Sticking up on tinned tomatoes makes for an easy pasta sauce or can be used to make this quick and simple Tomato and Bean Bake recipe. Tins of chickpeas can be used for a last minute curry or as part of this Chickpea Enchiladas recipe. I buy all of my pasta, couscous, rice and chickpeas in huge bags that I store under the stairs then I have some pretty mason jars from Ikea (but you can get them here if you’re not close to an Ikea store) to store some in the kitchen so I’m not having to go get a portion every time I’m cooking.
It's okay to change your mind
Nobody is perfect … and … do you know what, you work hard. You deserve a treat! If you planned a meal but you really can’t be bothered and you’ve been craving a take-out for days then just do it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Enjoy your take-out while thinking about how what you have planned for lunch and dinner tomorrow.
So there you have it!
10 simple tips that are going to help you start meal planning for your family. Even when you feel like there isn’t enough time in the day.
Don’t forget to let me know some of your favourite meal planning tips in the comments section below.
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