It can be daunting to plan meals ahead. It doesn’t have be. (No, really.) These ten simple tips will help you plan meals and save money like a pro in no matter how much time.
1. Do not start from scratch
Planning a meal doesn’t need to take hours with a book. Start with your favorite meals. You can repeat them for a week or so. If you are feeling adventurous, try adding something new every now and again.
2. The Refrigerator
The refrigerator is where the next week’s meals will be made. Look at what is left and create a meal with it. Look in your pantry for any other ingredients, and then add them to your shopping list. Voila. Take one. Check.
3. Portion planners are a great idea
Portion calculators are useful for helping you feed large groups. They can also provide insight, such as why there is always so much rice.
4. Have Kitchen Essentials Handy
Make sure to stock up on at least two or three grains, basic cooking spices, and “hero sauces” such as peanut sauce and barbecue sauce. These items can save your favorite dishes and give them new life.
5. Build Blocks
Make a vegetable medley, a mixture of two types of protein and one or two grains at the start of each week to use in different dishes. A saute of peppers and broccoli can be served as a side dish, or added to enchiladas the next night. It can also be made into soups and meatloaves later in the week.
6. Double Duty?
Are you planning a Tuesday taco dinner? You might think of other uses for those tortillas. Asian salad wraps, perhaps? Sometimes, ingredients come in bigger portions than we actually need. It’s much easier to avoid an end-of-the week overload if you plan another meal around them.
7. Schedule A Lazy Night
Although we often visit the grocery store in the hope of making fresh meals every day, the truth is that we don’t have enough time or the energy to cook every single night. Take the time to plan a few lazy nights and order takeout.
8. Go Fresh Fruit
Perishables such as seafood and meat should be consumed earlier in the week. Save staples like pasta, dairy, and omelets for later in your week to preserve their freshness and nutritional value. Some greens like kale or chard will keep fresher than others.
9. Lean On Frozen Ingredients
Frozen foods contain almost all the nutrients, and sometimes more, than fresh food. They don’t spoil. Frozen vegetables can fill in any gaps. Fresh vegetables can be purchased in smaller quantities, so you don’t end up starving at the end.
10. Cook and Freeze
You can make soups, stews and casseroles in large batches. Once frozen, you can defrost it when you’re ready for dinner. It’s best to freeze the portions you will use.