How can you meal plan to use up leftovers, weird ingredients, scraps and make substitutions?
I’ll admit I kind of wing it when it comes to meal planning most of the time and I’ve gotten lazy. Sunday afternoons are meal prep time here and lately, it’s meant pulling out whatever is in our fridge, freezer and pantry to turn it into something. Our home is gluten free, I usually eat dairy free and we tend to limit the sugar too. In this post I have what I made this week, some substitutions and my tips. Some of it I shared on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
Sunday seems to be our week prep day, not just food but all the washing, gardening, everything! . . . In this lot I used up a lot of stuff to get rid of it. . .Chocolate icing mix became sugar for the pancakes. A mini tub of Greek yoghurt and water became milk for them. . . . Creamy chicken pasta made with Greek yoghurt. . . Made salads (enough for lunches for the week). Butter chicken is only eaten by 1 daughter and there is enough for 5 or 6 meals for her. Beef stir fry will be for tonight and the rice will be used with dishes plus some turned into fried rice. . . We also tended to the garden, mowed the lawns and have discovered another fruit tree. So far we have 6 with flowers! . . . Do you have a prep day? What do you do on it? #debtfreecommunity #ozdebtfreecommunity #thethriftyissue #aussiesofinstagram #sustainableliving #ecofriendly #leftovers #butterchicken #salad #prep #frugalliving #frugalmeals #frugallife #barefootinvestor #debtfreecommunityaustralia #substitutes #lmbdw #moneysavvy #moneysmart #groceries
This post may contain affiliate links for products and services I use. Read my full disclosure here
My Meal Planning And Prepping Tips
While there are a million posts about meal planning, there are a few things I have been asked about which I think will help. It’s not about the actual planning, it’s about knowledge of food.
1.) Know how long the food lasts
Some food is best stored in the fridge, other food in the freezer. When I do my meal planning and prep I do a mix – a few meals to eat at the start of the week kept in the fridge and more in the freezer for later.
To give you an idea, cooked meat lasts 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Boiled eggs last up to a week. Salad lasts 3 to 5 days though I’ve found in Tupperware it lasts longer. This all depends on how you store it.
Meals like butter chicken, pasta bake, pizza, lasagne, meatballs, spaghetti, blended soups etc all freeze well.
2. Work out substitutions
I can’t remember the last time I followed a recipe. My kitchen has loads of ingredients and I’ll simply swap things around if I don’t have what I need most of the time. For example, we made muffins last week using a tin of coconut milk and 1 cup of water instead of regular milk. It made them even better!
If you don’t have an ingredient, Google a substitution.
3. Think about all the meals!
So many people plan only for dinners and assume there will be leftovers for lunch. Since I am working on my health, my lunch is planned with salads and similar. In winter it’s soups in a thermos. What will you and your family have for lunch? We tend to have smoothies/shakes or if I have cooked up breakfast muffins they are defrosted from the freezer the night before and eaten on the way. Sometimes my kids have cereal.
For lunch their lunches are simple – fruit, vegetables (carrot/cucumber/capsicum), cherry tomatoes, hummus if they want, sometimes wraps with salad, a muffin or cookie or something I’ve baked usually, seaweed, cheese, things like that. Rarely any prepackaged food.
4. Have ‘easy options’
Having eggs and frozen veggies on hand can really help you on nights you either don’t have something prepared or don’t want to do groceries yet. Scrambled eggs, French toast, baked beans on toast, vegetable frittata, there are so many options!
5. Cut yourself some slack!
We all have to start somewhere! You won’t become a meal planning and prepping superwoman overnight. In fact, most people start with simply cooking double and having leftovers the next night or freezing them. Do what works for you. If you want to do a heap of cooking as I do in 2 hours, do that. If you want to simply cook double and freeze it each night so you have options for later, do that.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a perfect meal plan or if you need to make changes. It’s part of life!
What I made and the substitutions
The above picture isn’t everything I made nor is it everything we will eat this week. I get HelloFresh for free and often cook based on that. Get $35 off your first box here. We don’t always do the recipes exactly as they come (my kids don’t like feta cheese and we don’t usually use the Greek yoghurt) so at times I have random ingredients leftover. The Greek yoghurt was mixed with water to make a milk substitution for our pancakes. Feta cheese was given to our neighbour who gave me a jar of olives, meatballs and pickled chillies!
Butter chicken, a chicken pasta dish, beef stir-fry, chocolate pancakes, rice and bacon for fried rice and a salad were prepped on Sunday this week. Most of this will be frozen for later. I also fried a small tin of pineapple I found at the back of the cupboard with the spicy bacon seasoning I got at Aldi. That was for me while I cooked everything else and it was amazing!
This is not all we will eat! It is all I cooked in one sitting though.
As mentioned Greek yoghurt mixed with water became milk for the pancakes. Greek yoghurt was also used instead of a pasta sauce or cream for the pasta dish. With the stir-fry, I simply threw in whatever vegetables I had on hand and extra vegetables were added to the butter chicken. The salad is kale, grated carrot, grated beetroot, one corn cob, thinly sliced cabbage and I’ll add nuts, seeds and egg later.
Our meal plan
Meals are fairly basic in our house. Breakfasts are smoothies (my favourite is almond milk, cacao, LSA, banana and cinnamon) or sometimes muffins I’ve made. Occasionally, they have cereal.
Lunches: kale and egg salad for me. Vegetables, fruit, crackers and a wrap or sandwich or leftovers for my kids. They pack their own lunch.
Beef stir-fry for me, butter chicken for my eldest and a platter of veggies, eggs and nuts for my youngest. I don’t usually cater to each individual like this, but only one of us eats the butter chicken.
Dance after school means we don’t get home until late on a Tuesday so the dinner is usually fairly easy, either reheated or defrosted. Lasagne from the freezer is on the menu.
Korean Beef Bimimbap, the first actual HelloFresh meal we are having this week. We do it without the black sesame seeds in the rice though and the seeds are used by me later.
Loaded spice wedges, our second HelloFresh meal of the week! My kids love helping to prepare these and Thursday is a night we usually have time to prep a meal together.
My kids are away at their aunty’s this weekend and I am away elsewhere so didn’t have to plan meals for the weekend. I will be sending our usual Friday Family Fun Night food to my sisters including pizza, popcorn, ice-cream and chocolate (good luck to her with my kids hyped up on sugar!)
While I haven’t included them this week because I am away, it’s important to ensure you either plan for the weekend or have enough leftovers. Our weekends are fairly casual and my kids grab whatever from the fridge or will have a bowl of whatever I am cooking when doing meal prep on a Sunday.
A few weeks ago I shared other things I had made including carrot and apple soup (similar to pumpkin soup but sweeter) using the sad apples. Chia chocolate muffins were created using coconut milk instead of regular milk. I realised I didn’t have enough milk but saw these tins in my cupboard. I did need to add more milk but my kids sad these were the best muffins. It made more mixture, seemed fluffier and we loved the coconut hint it added.
View this post on Instagram
Cleaned out the fridge and pantry today. Made: – Chocolate, chia and coconut cupcakes. – Sweet potato, carrot and apple soup (it’s like sweet pumpkin soup) – Lasagne – Beef stir-fry – a big salad and some mashed potato. . . . The lasagne, soup and muffins can be frozen for later. We have a busy week this week so it’s nice to be organised. We were home today as my kids wanted to play with the neighbours here. . . Do you meal plan and cook in bulk? What have you made from a pantry clean out? #debtfreecommunity #thethriftyissue #debtfree #barefootinvestor #mumswithhustle #budgetmum #savemoney #frugalliving #mealplan #leftovers #aussiesofinstagram #mumscooking #budgetfriendly #cheapskate #sustainableliving #ecofriendly #moneysmart
Look at your cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what items you can mix around. To see other meal plans of mine using up things check out this one. Or read 20 things to do with leftover sausages, 28 meals for mince and these 29 meals for leftover chicken.