Meal planning: the good, the bad and the money saving.

foodwaste1Cooking, in any form, really isn’t my thing.

Eating? Now you’re talking – but, as I am head chef in our household, if I want to eat, I need to cook. And while I don’t relish it, I do my best.

Each day I make two or three different main meals because of Freya’s allergies, my vegetarianism and my husband’s meat loving tendencies so anything that makes it easier has to be a good thing in my book – and that’s the main way meal planning has surprised me since I started a couple of months ago.

When I wrote about wanting to return to a more sustainable lifestyle Louise, Renee and Mands, who also writes about meal planning and posts delicious recipes, suggested food was a good place to start (thank you all) but, as I have discovered, it is not just about cutting waste.

I’ve also found:

  • I’ve saved money.
  • It’s been less stressful.
  • We’re eating better because I am more organised.
  • I have more time (because I don’t have to nip to the shops each day for food items).

Bonus!

Before I started planning, I sat down with my husband and had a discussion about what he actually enjoys eating. It turns out I was buying and cooking things that he didn’t really like all that much which is why I was throwing half of it out. (I think the reason he hadn’t said anything before was because he is either very grateful to have any cooked meal or worried about offending me to the point I never cook for him again.)

Initially, I reused some of Freya’s “art” to write a fortnightly list on (we don’t have a big enough freezer to store more) but then I remembered I had an A4 white board which I like because it’s easier to cross things out and less wasteful than paper (and obviously I can keep ALL of my daughter’s wonderful “drawings”.)

So here are the main things  I found:

The good – Shopping is much quicker and easier because I already know what I need rather than roaming the aisle thinking: “Ooh, we might have that one day and could have that another”. It gives me more time to play “where did Freya drop her shoe?” instead.

I’m also saving cash by sticking to the list and hopefully we will waste less because it won’t be left sitting in the freezer forever (when I cleaned it out in preparation for this, I found some Quorn sausages with a use by date in 2013!)

The bad – Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking what’s on the list. If it’s been a bad day (or more likely a bad night which leaves me knackered) I want something quick and easy not a roast dinner but it’s on The Meal Planner so it feels like law. This is silly, I know, and I’m getting better at just switching things around.

Finding the time to plan and make the list has also been difficult and there have been a couple of days cross over where it’s back to guess what’s for dinner again. Hopefully this will also get better as I do it more.

Money saving – I’ve been silly and didn’t keep receipts for everything but I think I’ve probably saved £20 in the second month. I’ll update this figure as I get better at it.

Overall I think it’s been a really positive thing to do and I will certainly keep it up. There is plenty of help and advice available online (and even apps if you’re that way inclined).  The Love Food Hate Waste campaign website also has a handy two-week meal plan if you’re feeling uninspired (with a meat-free version here).

Do you plan your meals? Have you got any other tips? 

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13 thoughts on “Meal planning: the good, the bad and the money saving.

      1. I think it has to be more impressive to cook nutritious meals for Freya considering you don’t actually like to cook! I am glad that you’ve found a system that at least takes some of the headache out of it. I have a friend who spends her weekends cooking (because she loves it) and then she freezes her meals for the week…I can’t decide if a day of cooking is worse than just cooking a bit every day!

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      2. I used to batch cook when she was first weaning and it was brilliant. It’s not too bad cooking for her at the mo because she has such a limited diet it’s mainly veg, a meat or fish. It just means we have to be back home at certain times, which can be limiting if we want to go to classes or out.

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      3. For a baby I would say massage and yoga, bounce and rhyme when they are slightly older and then messy play and maybe a gym class for toddlers. I think there is a risk of doing too many things though.

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  1. Meal planning is such a good idea. Perhaps you could have a couple of pre-cooked meals already frozen on standby for the bad days? That will really take the pressure off.

    Sounds like meal preparation must be a logistical nightmare with 3 different sets of eating habits. Good on you for being so cheerful about it.

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    1. Good tip, Rose, thank you. It does feel like I’m working in a restaurant some days. Maybe I will pretend to be one of those sweary chefs to make it more entertaining 🙂

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  2. My meal plan has completely gone to pot recently. I haven’t got the energy to stand over the cooker every night, so I’ve swapped a lot of meals about and Tom has cooked a few simpler things. Going to have to start doing my plans weekly instead of monthly now aswell, I still haven’t received any maternity allowance (missed out on SMP by a week, but still glad I changed jobs). Tom’s even contemplating only taking a week of his paternity and the other week as holiday, which I’m a bit gutted about 😦 So I’m determined to get REALLY frugal and still stay relatively healthy.
    Meal plans do save money and give you a bit more variety, but they are hard work to sort out initially! So good luck and hit me up good recipes you find (I quite happily eat veggie meals and would eat even more if it wasn’t for carnivorous Tom!) 😉

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    1. I didn’t know you’d changed jobs, how annoying that you couldn’t get SMP. It’s terrible that you haven’t received the allowance! It’s hard enough as it is without worrying about money too.

      Hope you’re feeling ok today. I was thinking of you last night and wondering if you’d get a special coin if you gave birth on the same day as Kate, like they did last time. Not that it’s worth holding on, probably. Hehe.

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      1. Haa! Yeah Tom keeps mentioning the coin! 😀 I swapped jobs last September as the place I worked were just taking the pee, I was working split shifts and the woman I worked with didn’t like cooking, didn’t like kids and didn’t do very much but got paid considerably more than me! The school was miles better, but I never expected to get pregnant so quickly and so easily, was a shock 🙂 They’ve just messed up my paperwork and its going to be another couple of weeks, though to be honest my freezer is heaving with meals I’ve made so we should be okay 🙂

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