Saving time and money by planning meals ahead

How many times have you gotten to six o’clock and realised you’ve nothing planned for dinner? This was a not uncommon situation for me to find myself in in my pre-productivity days. It would mean either finding some kind of trash in the freezer or getting a take-away. I reached a point where I had had enough. We were eating rubbish. I felt unhealthy and it certainly wasn’t a good example for the children.

For the last three months I have been planning my family’s meals ahead. On a Monday afternoon I make a list of what meals we will have for the next seven days. Then I make a shopping list for all the ingredients I will need and do the shop the following day. This has had a number of benefits.

We used to waste a lot of food. I would buy too much, just buying random items, thinking I would use them for something but then didn’t. The amount of fruit and vegetables we would throw away was appalling. (At least it went into the compost heap so it wasn’t completely wasted.) Now I only buy what I will need for the week. As I’m doing targeted shopping I’ve pretty much stopped impulse buys. Overall I’m saving about £30 a week as I’m only buying what I actually need. And that doesn’t even take into account money saved by eating less take-aways.

I have also started preparing meals in advance and then freezing them. This has been a huge time saver in the evenings. All the chopping and marinating have been done already so I just need to cook it. Every night before I go to bed I check my list of meals to see if I need to defrost something for the next day. I find I spend about one to two hours every other week pre-preparing meals and usually make about five each time.

Another time saver is my slow cooker. I only bought this a few weeks ago and it’s had a lot of use already. I bung meat, vegetables and stock in in the morning and by dinner time I’ve got a casserole. Fantastic!

I have found the Saving Dinner website to be a useful resource. It has some excellent freezer meals to download with advice on bulk preparation and tips on freezing and defrosting. If you’re short on inspiration the menu-mailer subscriptions are useful. For $18 you can receive 6 recipes a week for 6 months. I’ve found this to be quite useful when planning meals in advance and the recipes are all easy to make. It’s an American website so I’ve had to improvise with some of the ingredients that aren’t so easily found in Britain. My children have enjoyed most of what I’ve cooked so that’s got to be good.


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