When you first move out there are a few things that people never tell you. Number one – when men shave their beards it creates a fuzz that you’ll be finding on your bathroom floor for weeks to come. Number two – food is expensive and it will be one of your biggest outgoings (boo – boring adult stuff). When I was at Uni this second factor didn’t really hit me mainly because I skimped on my food shops, buying frozen and pre-packed produce that on the whole wasn’t that healthy and worked off my pizza belly by hitting the dance floor multiple times a week. Now I’m a little older, haven’t seen a dance floor for years and want to look after myself a bit better, food is something we budget for and take time over.
In order to eat well (minus the odd Domino’s here and there of course) and for it not to cost the earth, I’ve found meal planning to really help. It means you know what your menu is going to look like for the week so you can prep appropriately, saving time later on and you can buy exactly what you need meaning nothing goes to waste. It also means that during your food shop you’re not so tempted to divert from the shopping list and pick up 6 packs of Pop Tarts because they’re on a 3 for 2. It’s all good. Fancy getting your meal plan on? Here are my top five tips…
1. See What You’re Working With. I tend to work off a weekly schedule. Going for a big food shop on a Monday, the food from which will last until Friday, and usually we top up with an extra shop at the weekend where we make some big meals that are easy to freeze and store them for the week ahead; so usually I’ve got some curries, chills and bits and bobs already in the freezer. I always have a root around before I make my list to see if there’s anything we can use up. Frozen batches of things are great for days when Mark and I both get back late and can’t be bothered to go through some long-winded cooking process. Also have a look through your recipe books or do some googling. It’s nice to mix it up and not rustle up the same meals week-in, week-out.
2. Make A List. I use this PDF to plan out my meals for each day, then from that I make a shopping list making sure I’m not doubling up with things that we already have in the cupboard.
3. Stick To It. Once I’ve got my list together, I head to shops and here’s the hard bit – sticking to it. I’m always surprised actually because when you have your blinkers on and you’re focused on just sticking to the list, my food shop is so much quicker. I can be in and out in less than 30 minutes because I’m not aimlessly browsing the aisles. I know what I need, where it is and because I always go on the same day I know exactly what checkout to head to where my favourite cashier is, so we can talk about the weather and the Queen. She loves the Queen.
4. Prep. Prep. Prep. This is the step that really makes the difference. If I’ve got a bit of spare time on Monday evening or at the weekend I prep as much as I can food-wise for the week ahead. I blitz cauliflower in the blender so my cauliflower rice/pizza base is prepped, chop veggies, make a tomato sauce and freeze it so I can add it to pasta at a later date, I make some kind of healthy-ish chocolate nutty balls so I can satisfy my sweet tooth quickly or cook up some chicken so I can throw it into salads for lunch. You get the gist.
5. Top Up On Tupperware. Meal planning takes up loads of tupperware. My favourites are the glass-bottomed, clip-top ones from IKEA that come in a load of different sizes (yes I have a favourite line of tupperware), and for meals that we freeze I use old butter cartons that don’t take up too much space and hold just the right amount for a one-person portion – a tip I picked up from my Grandma. Thanks Grandma! Now let me tell you, she’s the meal planning QUEEN. I must tell my favourite cashier about her…