Menu planning can be as basic or complicated as you want. A menu plan is simply a plan on what you will eat which enables you to shop accordingly, reduce waste, eat in season and save money.
Ways to meal plan
Menu planning in our house is very basic. We eat pretty much the same things all the time with a slight variance in fresh produce depending on the season. We write down what meals we want that week, every meal including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dessert and treats.
We tend to cook up a few days worth and eat the same thing for a couple of days in a row e.g curries and stir fries. We cook one day and reheat the next. Not as exciting as most, not much variety, but it works for us and we don’t get bored with it. In fact, we prefer it as we are never thinking “what do I want for dinner tonight” and we aren’t wasting time with it as we know what we are eating and when. It also helps prevent take away.
Tips for menu planning
1.) Write down your activities for the week or month, however long you are menu planning for. This will give you an idea of what days you have more time to cook and which days you really need something prepared ahead of time.
2.) Pick some easy family favourites you can whip up with similar ingredients regularly.
3.) Eat in season. Fresh produce is significantly cheaper when you buy it in season.
4.) Cook ahead of time. Cook in bulk meals like spaghetti bolognese, chilli, soup, Mexican beans and other meals that freeze well. This helps prevent the temptation to get take away since you can defrost a meal quicker and cheaper than take away.
5.) Keep it simple. Don’t try an array of new recipes each week. If you want to try new recipes, do them one or two a week instead of all new meals.
6.) Plan around similar ingredients to reduce waste. The recipe book 26 Ingredients really helps you menu plan, cook around similar ingredients, reduce waste and save money. Only $4.95!
Our menu plan for the month
Our menu plan is incredibly simple. We are a family of 4, both kids in school. Here is ours for the week:
Breakfast: gluten free Weetbix, toast ,eggs such as omelettes, scrambled or poached(we have chickens so get eggs daily), fruit etc. Whatever selection works that week.
Lunch: Vegetable sticks, tomatoes, salad, ham sandwiches, leftover dinner
Dinner: southern pepper curry, butter chicken, chilli, Goan curry, fresh vegetable stir-fry, tacos, honey chicken. Basically meat and vegetables with some sort of seasoning or sauce. Although, to be honest, we often do a really simple mix of diced onion, capsicum, cabbage, zucchini and carrot with whatever meat is reduced or cheap. I’ll share the recipe soon.
Snacks: crackers, fruit, vegetables, popcorn
Dessert/treats: Once a week we have family fun night where kids pick their treats and we have ice cream – usually salted caramel and macadamia ice cream.
For more tips on how to menu plan check out The Organised Housewife.
This is part of my challenge to find or make an extra $100 a day. I have done a bit of a cook up and we have enough food and non perishables to last at least a month. We have saved $350 today alone, but it is not something we could replicate every month. It will be interesting to see just how much this saves us this month and how far we can make these meals stretch.
How do you menu plan? Do you have favourite meals?