If you’re trying to save money on food or trying to improve your eating habits, planning your meals can really help. Making a meal plan for the days and weeks ahead saves you money and time and ensures you’re eating a healthy diet.
1: Take stock of your supplies
What’s in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry? Check the use-by dates on your food and throw out anything that’s out of date. Prioritize the items that will expire soonest and plan your meals around these.
2: Plan around sales and discount offers
Check store websites, coupon sites, flyers, and other sources for deals on groceries. When you know what’s on offer, you can plan your meals around these inexpensive ingredients. This can make a big difference in the cost of your weekly groceries.
3: Create a menu
Decide on which recipes you’ll make for breakfast, lunch, and your evening meal. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out some of the example menu plans available online. These will give you some inspiration and tips on how to plan meals for the week. Note down your menu so you can refer to it during the week. You can find menu planners online as well.
4: Incorporate ‘Meatless Mondays’ into your plan
Meat may be tasty, but it can also be one of your more expensive ingredients. You can save money — and cut your carbon footprint — by skipping meat at least one day a week. Choose other sources of protein, such as pulses, nuts, or dairy foods. If you’re not sure how to create a meal plan without meat, consider substitutes like tofu or seitan. There are many delicious Asian recipes that don’t call for meat and that the whole family will enjoy.
5: Batch cooking is your friend
Cooking in big batches is often less effort than making separate meals every night. If you’re chopping vegetables for one meal, it may be easier to cut some extra and make a larger quantity. Soups, stews, chilis, and other dishes are easy to prepare in bulk and taste great when refrigerated or frozen. This works for dishes like lasagna too.
6: Include family favorites
Poll your family on the dishes they’d like to see more of on the menu. There’s no sense in planning a menu with dishes that nobody will eat — especially not if you plan to cook in bulk. Instead, look for foods that are healthy and that the whole family will enjoy. Home-made burgers and pizzas piled with fresh vegetables are likely to keep everyone happy.
7: Explore whole grains
Whole grains are tasty and full of goodness. They’re a great way to incorporate more fiber, protein, and B vitamins in your meals as well as staples like bulgur wheat and barley, experiment with quinoa, and other grains that may be less familiar.
8: Celebrate the seasons
Buying produce when it’s in season is generally cheaper than buying it at other times. Fruits and vegetables that haven’t been kept in industrial refrigerators or flown halfway around the world are often tastier, too.
9: Skip ‘special ingredients’
Some special ingredients are well worth the investment, such as spices that can be used for multiple recipes and won’t expire quickly. Some ingredients are perishable and can be wasteful if you’re only going to use a little. Do you need to buy a can of tomato purée if you’re only going to use a spoonful? Look for alternative ingredients or change up your menu plan to avoid recipes like this. Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated. With a bit of imagination and forethought, your weekly meals will be much less hassle, and your grocery bill will be lighter. You can also feel confident that everyone in your household is eating a healthy diet with all the nutrients they need.
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