A guide to meal planning

We all have busy lives with work, commuting, children and the whirl of social engagements. In amongst this is the need to eat 3 meals a day and for many, the quickest option is to grab food on the run, have a takeaway or to pull a frozen ready meal out to pop in the oven at the end of the day.

Eating this way though is expensive and not very healthy. Ready meals and takeaways are packed with salt and sugar and a coffee on the way to work each morning quickly adds up to a big hole in the finances.

It doesn’t have to be like this though as with a bit of planning ahead and being committed to organising meals each week, there are huge savings to be made as well as being kind on the waistline.

Meal planning is all about setting out the choices of food for the next few days ahead. Most committed meal planners decide what is to be served on a weekly basis and then set about organising their cupboards and freezer to ensure all the ingredients are in place to use each day.

With meal planning comes the idea of bulk cooking. This is a great way to fill the freezer with portioned meals of healthy foods cooked in large amounts. Family choices often include bolognaise, cottage pie, chilli con carne and soups packed with vegetables and any leftovers. Not only does this mean that you know exactly what goes into the food, you are saving on buying more expensive ready meals.

The first step is to draw up a meal plan. This is usually a timetable labelled with the days of the week along one side and the meals of the day along the other. Next, have a look in the cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you already have which can be used for meals and start to fill in the boxes. This can be items such as cereal and milk for breakfast or lunches with baked beans and tinned vegetables. After you’ve exhausted the options in the house, now look to complete the meal plan with recipes you can make which need just a few ingredients. If you have everything for a chilli except the meat, add mince to the shopping list and fill your meal planner in with what you’ll be eating this. Carry on this way until you’ve filled the whole planner.  Look to utilise leftovers in your plan; if you’ve decided on a roast dinner for one day, use whatever is left the next day in some way.

Take the list to the supermarket and buy all the ingredients needed. Also ensure you have your planner as a reminder of what you are going to cook. Don’t be tempted to stray from your list – you already know what you’re going to be cooking.

If in previous months your overspend on quick solution foods has meant you are now faced with an unexpected bill and you are unable to pay it, look at direct payday lenders to give you a bridging solution at the same time as starting with your new mealtime challenge. Within a month you will have saved money on your food spend, repaid the emergency funding and given your body a great boost with fresh ingredients each day.

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