How Meal Planning Saved the World

Monday 4 November 2013 by

Food, Budget, Tesco, Aldi, Healthy eatingThis week, inspired by Tesco and their big food bins, I have been thinking about the food waste that happens in my own kitchen.

According to Tesco and its customers, the average household throws away £700 worth of food a year. That’s £58.33 a month or £13.46 a week. Whichever way you look at it, for a family on a tight budget that is a lot of money to be throwing out.

I am pretty sure, no, in fact I’m going to stick my neck out here and say, I am certain that we are a below average family.  Because, I can hand on heart say, I am far too uptight to be putting food in the trolley if I don’t have plans to be putting it into someone’s face. I’m no Holly Golightly when it comes to the food budget – sexy spontaneity has no place in my kitchen.

Planning meals has got to be the single most important element to cutting down on food waste. And keeping the shopping budget down, saving my sanity and avoiding those dangerous situations where the boyfriend raids the cupboards and improvises.

So I plan, write a list of ingredients and buy what we need. It takes a bit of training to get yourself doing it and sticking to it, but it doesn’t take many improvised culinary delights (left over lasagne, fish fingers, boiled egg and broccoli was a particular favourite) before you find yourself reaching for the pen and paper without fail.

So here are my top tips…

1. Look and what you have left over and use those ingredients in the first few days’ meals. Not sure what you can do with a courgette, ready roll pastry and natural yoghurt? Me either. But Google will know.

2. Use the same ingredients in a few different meals; e.g. chorizo, chicken thighs and Spanish baked veg one day, and a few days later, pork and chorizo burgers.

3. Consider how long meals will take to prep and cook and marry that up with what you are doing each day. Use the quick, easy recipes on days you are working late, if you share cooking duties make sure your co-chef knows how to make the meals you are planning for their days.

4. Cut down your spending and improve your eating by doing without the jarred sauces and pre-prepared food.  The boyfriend nearly imploded when I suggested (enforced) this.  We have compromised and I’ve let him keep the pasta bake sauce jars on the agreement what I don’t have to eat it.

My meal plan for next week goes something like this…

Monday – potatoes need using up. Sausage, mash and veg
Tuesday – roast chicken, sweet potato and baked veg with chorizo
Wednesday – chicken curry using left over chicken
Thursday – pork and chorizo burgers with sweet potato wedges and salad
Friday – improvise Friday… Well… you’ve got to live dangerously sometimes.

I popped off to Aldi (perhaps Tesco wouldn’t be so expensive if they didn’t keep chucking their food out? But they do have those sexy little hand held scanners now…) and £32 later, I have enough food for the weekday meals as well as lunches and other essentials.

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