Meal plans are simply a collection of meals that are pre planned, pre prepared or pre made in order to save you stress, time and money. Many people are waiting until the last minute before thinking about what they are going to prepare for dinner and that’s stressful and can lead to bad food choices!
A Meal Plan does three important things for your sanity and your household.
1. A Meal Plan saves you money and lots of it! You have a lot less waste of foods going off in the fridge because most of them are in the freezer or planned and you’ve used all the fresh ingredients before they’ve gone mouldy or limp! Leftovers are accounted for and you can purchase in bulk to save even more money.
2. A Meal Plan saves you time! You no longer have to think about what you’re going to have for dinner and possibly lunch the next day. No more quick trips to the shops because you’ve run out of an ingredient at the last minute.
3. A Meal Plan helps you and your family eat more nutritiously because you can organise the serving sizes while planning the meals, have more time to prepare side dishes that are nutritious and you can skip the drive through because you have everything covered!
If planning a menu daunts you then calm down. It’s not as hard as it may seem and the little effort it takes saves you so much effort later – it’s absolutely worth it!
An easy first step is to plan just one weeks menu and prepare it – however, ultimately we’d like you to plan a monthly menu and only have to prepare meals 12 time a year! Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Let’s get started:
1. There are two ways you can do this. Write down a list of seven meals you know your family will like to eat and start from there or search the local ads for meats etc on special and plan your menu using those choices. Now you have your recipes –
2. Go through your pantry and see what you can use to complete the recipes. Write down what you need to buy and go shopping to collect everything you’ll need.
3. Now you can simply post the menu on the fridge and prepare each meal each night as needed (that’s basic meal planning) or you can come home and prepare all the meals and then freeze them for each night of the week. Now that’s making things easier! Or maybe you could marinate the meats in zip lock bags and freeze, cut up the veges and freeze and prepare on the night quickly. Or prepare one pot meals in zip lock bags and throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning on low and come home to dinner done!
There, that’s the basics of meal planning – you can view our example of a monthly meal plan here.
Remember you don’t have to be a ‘Master Chef’ in the kitchen. You simply need to give your family nutritious meals that they love to eat. Keep a list of your family favourite recipes as a ‘go to’ reference and sure, try something new every now and then but you don’t have to – rotating say 15 -20 favourites will suit a lot of families and kids always love to eat their favourite meals at any time!
Favourite Breakfasts Sheet
Favourite Lunches Sheet
Favourite Dinners Sheet
You could cook double of everything one week and you’ll have two weeks of food pre prepared!
Another way to plan meals is to make double of each meal you cook every night over a month and then your next month worth of meals is already done in the freezer!
Here’s an example of a weekly meal plan for four people. You can use this to plan your own weekly meal plan by substituting your own recipes. But remember to stick to a budget of $125 for the week. This plan used products bought from Woolworths so buying from Aldi for example will give you more savings. Some people don’t have access to shops other than the big two so we based the costing on Woolworths products in 2015.
I tend to eat any leftovers from the night before dinner for my lunch the next day. If there isn’t any leftover then I make a sandwich or wrap with what’s available. Of course for snacks you’ll need to make a cake/biscuits or a slice to eat throughout the week.
Toast is a favourite in our house as an after school snack so stock up on the bread and keep it in the freezer.
- To keep the costs down check out the specials and generic brands.
- Try mixing cereals together, add one cheap one to a normal cost one to reduce the cost. They won’t even notice if you mix them with a similar, but cheaper brand of cereal.
- Sliced meats from the deli are a cheaper way to buy the sandwich meats instead of the prepacked ones.
- Remember serving sizes are not huge – it’s healthier and cheaper to have normal serving sizes.
- Only buy what you need – check your freezer and pantry, you might already have what you need.
- You can also shop around to find the best prices for all the items on the shopping list to save more money.
- For the chicken sausages in gravy dinner I parboiled the sausages and sliced them – this way I only used 4 sausages. I added a sliced onion and any leftover veges I had in the fridge. I then had enough sausages for the BBQ on Saturday night. Again I sliced them but in half lengthwise this time.
- I made up all the mince meals in one go. First I divided the mince into quarters – to one quarter I then added a chopped onion and grated carrot, some frozen peas,carrots corn mix to make the pastie filling. To two quarters I added a chopped onion and grated carrot, BBQ sauce, egg and breadcrumbs and then made up the hamburger patties for the hamburgers and BBQ. To the last quarter of mince I added some dried thyme, grated carrot, grated onion and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and made that into the sausage rolls.
- Note the leftover silverside from Sunday dinner was thinly sliced for sandwiches the next day and a cupful was chopped to use in the corned beef hash.
- We had our hamburgers on normal bread toast.
Shopping List (Using rounded up amounts and purchased from Woolworths) You of course can find these items even cheaper if you shop around but for this exercise we’ll buy it all from Woolworths.
500gm bacon $5.00
2 dozen eggs $10.00
2 boxes cereal or muesli $8.00
2 loaves bread $2.00
200gm sliced ham $3.00
1 chicken breast or 200gm sliced chicken (for sandwiches) $3.00
Puff pastry $2.50
Pita bread for pizza bases or tortillas $4.60
Milk and yoghurt $3.00 (milk) $5.00 (yoghurt)
1kg Beef Mince $12.00
Chicken sausages $7.00
Chicken mince $6.00
Tin of Salmon $3.00
You could use powdered milk and make your own yogurt and pizza bases to reduce the costs further.
Lettuce Iceberg $1.00
Tomatoes 1kg $4.00
Frozen peas and beans 1kg $2.00
Onions 1kg $2.00
Potatoes 2kg $4.00
Carrots 1kg $1.30
Assorted Fruit for lunches $15.00
Grand total = $124.40 (based on buying everything from Woolworths)