Ever since the pandemic started, my family and I have been very careful with our food and diet. The first factor we look at is cost; second is shelf life; and lastly, the nutritional value. When meal planning for a week, I ask my kids to sit down with me and help me out. I have to admit, their ideas for meal planning are also good. Mostly, the meals that I cook are those that I can just throw in the oven with my baking pan and rack set. As a homemaker who also works at home, I sometimes get too tired to cook.
Great Ideas for Meal Planning
As I sat down to fill in my meal planning template, I also have a list of affordable and healthy ingredients that I try to incorporate. Make sure that you also have these stocked on your pantry:
- Brown rice – for main course, side dishes, casseroles
- Multi-grain or whole wheat pasta – for hot and cold pasta dishes, soup
- Whole wheat bread – for sandwiches, stuffing, and pudding
- Non-fat Greek Yogurt – for smoothies and quick snacks
- Old-fashioned oats – for breakfast and muffins
- Frozen vegetables – for main courses, side dishes, soups
- Potatoes – for casserole, side dishes, snacks
- Canned refried beans – for side dishes, burritos, soups, and casseroles
- Canned tuna – for sandwiches, salads, casseroles, salads, or with crackers as snacks
- Eggs – for breakfast omelette, sandwiches, soups, and appetizers
Meal Planning Tips
Planning your meals should not be a nerve-wracking experience for you. Have your family sit down with you and help out with the meal planning. It is also important to discuss that we have to stay within budget because we never know when this pandemic will end. It is good stock up on basics without hoarding without sacrificing the quality of the food we prepare.
Here are some tips on how to efficiently plan your meals:
- Make a weekly calendar. Check your food supplies and distribute them throughout the week. Also consider the shelf life and expiration date. I also have days when I just wrap some salmon or chicken with veggies in parchment paper, keep them in the freezer then roast them in the oven for dinner.
- Do not shop when hungry. Before heading out to the grocery, make sure you have a bite to it. We tend to be impulsive and give in to our cravings when hungry. Which brings us to number 3…
- Stick to your grocery list. Oftentimes, we become impulsive and see something that we may need. If you see something in the grocery that you MAY need, write it down. The next time you plan your meals, see if you still need that item.
- Buy generic brands as they are cheaper and still have the same quality as branded ones.
- Avoid junk food. There are 2 reasons why: 1. They are unhealthy. 2. They are expensive. Compare the price of potato chips vs making your own healthy potato chips are home.
- Buy cheaper cuts of meat. You just have to be creative in coming up with recipes. You can just tenderize the meat to make it softer.
- Stock up on sale items. For example, if your family consumes a lot of milk over the week, buy them in bulk. Most items in bulk are cheaper than retail ones.
- Buy frozen fruits and veggies as well as canned beans and veggies. You can stock up on these and you only get what you need. Plus, veggies are more nutritious. You can also be creative and make soups or stews then just store them in the freezer for later. You don’t have to keep on cooking everyday. In addition, canned beans, chickpeas, tuna, and sardines are nutritious. They also have a longer shelf life.
- Buy whole foods rather than processed food because the former is cheaper. For example, a whole block of cheese is cheaper than the grated ones. Buy a whole chicken and just cut them into parts rather than buying pieces.
- Grow your own produce. Plant eggplants, basil, cilantro, spring onions, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, lettuce, and more. You don’t have to run to the supermarket just to buy a bunch of cilantro that you will use for one recipe.
- Use coupons wisely. There are some Sunday newspapers and magazines that have coupons as inserts. You can also visit Coupons.com or SmartSource for online coupons that you can print. NOTE: These sites may only allow 2 coupons per IP address.
- Factor your leftovers. Cook large portions and save some for leftovers. For example, I like to make this Pulled Pork recipe over the weekend, then save some pork for tacos and stew.
Get Started with your Weekly Meal Planning
Planning meals not only help us stay within our budget, but it also makes our lives less stressful. Not only do we ensure that we eat affordable and healthy meals, we also get to relax a bit. Make sure you have reliable kitchen tools, too, to help make cooking easier for you. As a tip, my baking pan and rack with parchment paper combo are my favorites. They really help me cook delicious meals in less time and with easier clean up.
I suggest that you plan your meals weekly. This also allows you to make adjustments yo your stocks and budget. However, planning your meals does not necessarily mean that you have to go to the supermarket every week. You also need to consider what supplies you already have and use them to your advantage. Remember, the key is to make lesser trips to the grocery so as not to affect our budget.
What about you? How do you plan your meals? Feel free to share your ideas with us by commenting on this post!