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.

Even if you eat cheap, by buying fast food, in the long run this would be detrimental to your health. Not only does fast food cause obesity, it also causes dental issues and puts your heart at risk because of the high cholesterol content. Most fast food options are high in sugars and simple carbohydrates, which provide an ideal environment for harmful oral bacteria to thrive, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. You would need to visit your family dental specialist to get these issues attended to.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this. 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. You can find other dishes as well on The Recipe Book or other online cooking websites. Not only does this mean that you know exactly what goes into the food, but you are also saving on buying more expensive ready meals.

The first step is to create a meal plan, typically a timetable labeled with the days of the week on one side and the meals of the day on the other. Check your cupboards, fridge, and freezer to see what ingredients you already have that can be used for meals, and start filling in the meal plan. This might include items like cereal and milk for breakfast or lunches with baked beans and canned vegetables. Once you’ve utilized the options available at home, complete the meal plan with recipes that require just a few additional ingredients. If you have everything for a chili except the meat, add mince to your shopping list and update your meal planner accordingly. Similarly, if you’re running low on drink refreshments like niasca portofino limonata, add that to your shopping list as well. Continue this process until your entire meal planner is filled.

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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