We’re now eight weeks into lockdown, and I’m still fascinated by all the different activities keeping everyone entertained. I’ve seen friends take up jogging, master the perfect chocolate brownie and learn sign language. Some have even started that small business they’d always dreamed of. The reason behind lockdown is a very serious one, but seeing all of these small successes has been a nice outcome.
I may not have done much jogging during lockdown, but I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve really enjoyed trialling new recipes that I can whip up at a moment’s notice. I’m staying with my parents until I can move back to London and have been making the most of their extensive cookbook collection. They’re BIG fans of the Lean In 15 books by Joe Wicks. After trying some of his recipes I can see why! In the last week or so I’ve eaten everything from Vietnamese noodle salads, Peri Peri halloumi burgers, to mushroom risotto. Yum!
Although I love cooking, I am sometimes quite reluctant to spend huge amounts in the supermarket. One thing that I’ve definitely noticed during lockdown is that the amount I’m spending on food has increased. I’m at home a lot more than usual, which naturally means I’ll be buying more food. But I’m finding that supermarkets have really cut back on the amount of offers available. Something I used to rely on for reducing my food bill.
I don’t often feel anxious, but the atmosphere in supermarkets atm has made me reluctant to search for the cheapest prices. I’m in a grab and go mindset. Which means I’ve been buying things a third more expensive than I’m used to paying!
In an effort to keep my spending to a minimal I’ve now decided to get back into meal planning. Carefully selecting what meals I’m eating for the week has previously been a great way to reduce my spending. It also really speeds up my supermarket shop, as I know exactly what ingredients I need. Which means no more aimlessly wandering around all the aisles picking up random things I fancy! (Donuts, sweets, a new flavour of Pringles that they’ve just released)
So, how do I meal plan?
I have a list of about 20 recipes that I love cooking. Each of these recipes are listed in an excel document (excel geek over here) with a list of ingredients needed for each recipe. All I do is select which meals I want to eat on which days, and excel will compile a full list of ingredients needed. I’ll then check the list against what ingredients I already have in my fridge, updating my list as I go. Setting the sheet up for the first time probably took me an hour. But now only takes a few minutes each week to sort out.
Other pros of meal planning:
- They save you money. I find that when you meal plan you’re less likely to impulse buy items you don’t need. You can also plan your meals around your weekly budget. If you need to spend less on groceries this week, simply pick the meals that cost less.
- They save you time. You may spend a few minutes each week deciding what meals to cook from your plan, but you’ll spend much less time wandering around the shops deciding what to cook.
- You’ll often end up eating better meals. Without a meal plan I’d always find myself cooking the same three meals that I knew how to make. Most likely some kind of cheesy pasta dish. Having a meal plan generally means that you’ll eat better meals. It also helps me make sure I eat a range of dishes – some veggie, some fish, some meaty!
- There’s less food waste – you only buy food that you actually need, and you’ll use all of it!
My top tips for meal planning:
- Plan meals around food you already have. If you have a freezer full of food, or a fridge with some veg about to go off, write your plan based on clearing through the food you already have.
- Choose recipes with similar ingredients. If you need to buy chicken and spring onions for one recipe, is there another recipe that also uses these ingredients? Mixing and matching recipes is a great way to cut down on costs, and means you’re more likely to eat up all the food you’ve bought!
- Choose things that you like cooking. There’s no point adding meals that take hours to cook onto your list, if you’re never going to have the time to make them. Be realistic with what you like cooking, and you’re more likely to stick to the plan!
- Plan when you’re eating the meals in order of their best before date. This one sounds obvious, but eat the food that’s going to go off first!
- Cook extra and eat for lunch the next day. I know some people frown at this, but I personally find that eating my leftovers for lunch the next day is THE EASIEST way to save money. And it means I have less meals to cook!
Has this inspired you to start meal planning? I’ll be launching the sheet I use to plan all of my meals in the next few weeks, so sign up to my newsletter and keep your eyes peeled!