Is meal planning really so great?
Our little family of four have gone through a few hard changes the last couple of months. To make a very long story short, both Husband and I decided to undergo drastic career changes. Me because I was missing out on too much with the kids, and not spending enough time with him. Him because he was wholly unhappy and unsatisfied with his work, plus he had to take time to finish his MBA which he did not get enough time to do. We decided that we will buckle down and get our own thing going, working side-by-side to build a business that can sustain us and also allow us to thrive personally.
This was a calculated decision, but that being said does not make it any easier. We have moved to a more affordable option for a few months, giving us time to establish the business and get all our ducks in a row.
So, we are now in the beautiful position of having to make do with only a little fraction of the income we used to have. To make do, we have come up with a few rules, ideas and systems, the biggest one being meal planning. We have placed an absolute moratorium on any unnecessary spending, and that includes food.
We have been using this system for close to 6 months now, and I can truly say it has made a difference. Not only are we not spending unnecessary money on things we don’t need, but we are also wasting less. Because we work in a system we can keep track of which veggies must be eaten first, which ones can go into a sauce or stew and which ones are being kept for the stock pot. We use every last scrap, whether that is a peel or a skin or a carrot top. And it feels great. It feels even greater knowing that my family is fed and healthy and happy and I did not have to go rob a bank to accomplish any of those things.
A few other surprising things happened since (or because of) we started this experiment. The most important one being since we try to buy whatever is cheapest we mostly end up with seasonal and local produce. That means we eat better quality produce, plus we have been introduced to produce that we never would have considered buying. So much so that after listening to a podcast by Eric Edmeades, who advocates that we eat at least 200 different species of plants in a year, I made a list of the veggies that we consumed within the last 2 weeks and reached a total of 47! So we have really upped our veg game. That is without considering the different fresh herbs and fruit that also goes through our house and our mouths. All in all, I think we are the better for it.
Our meals have become tastier, more interesting and dare I say a bit more adventurous. Some of the new recipes are on the blog, you can see them here. Recipes such as:
If you want to know a bit more about meal planning, and how it can simplify your life then head on over to here and if you want to dig even deeper into saving money, time and space then read more on the pantry challenge
To get us through this patch, and to also establish better spending habits, we have made a few rules:
1. If we can make it, we won't buy it
2. No shopping during the week unless it is a life necessity. All shopping will be done on Mondays and we make do with what we have
3. If we cannot freeze or keep the leftovers, we cook less food - then only enough for dinner and one lunch
4. Buy on special only what we can use for the week. No pilling up in the pantry, that is money on the shelf. Specials do come around again
5. Limited treats, especially for the kids
Our system then works as follows:
I work out the menu for the following week on Sunday (you will get it on Friday). To plan this menu I take into consideration what is left in our fridge, then our freezer, then our pantry. I also consider the batch recipes I have made and frozen, i.e. stock, sauces, cooked veg, etc. Then I take a look at what is on special for the week and plan the meals around these factors. I like to use 2 or 3 tried and tested recipes with 2 or 3 brand new recipes. If they work then great, if not, we throw them out. Based on the menu for the week I plan my shopping list, which will be bought Monday morning (you can do your shopping on Saturday). If there is anything that must be batch cooked or prepped, I will do that on Monday (you can do it on Sunday). And that is it! As easy as that.
We have been running this system for 2 months now, and we are at the point where we had weeks that the only thing I had to buy was fresh milk and cream, the rest were all already cooked in previous weeks or we had leftovers from batch cooking. We have cut our grocery bill almost in half.
If that is something you would like to try, then sign up for my meal planning weekly email. I will send you the suggested menu for the following week on Friday, complete with recipes, ideas, shopping lists, prep lists and any other info you might need to make it successful.
Hope to welcome you all!