Blog graphic with title of post - meal planning to save money, stress and time - and two images. First image is Spike, blonde hair girl 4 years old, putting two thumbs up at chicken korma for tea. The second image is an example meal plan of our week, with curry, pizza, gnocchi, broccoli, chicken wraps and scampi and chips on it.
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Meal planning to save money, stress and time – feeding a family of three including one fussy eater

As a working woman in charge of cooking and food shopping, I learnt early on that meal planning was the way forward. It saved my sanity and stopped arguments almost instantly after me and T moved in together way back when.

Why meal planning is important

Meal planning for me means I know what to buy when I go food shopping. I do my plan before I write my shopping list on a Saturday morning. Because of this it saves us money too. When I am working, it means that I don’t have the stress of coming home and figuring out what to cook. Not that that matters at the minute. I know to get chicken out of the freezer, prepare the potatoes, or stick the slow cooker on early on.

Meal planning to save money

Have you ever been to a shop without a list and ended up spending way more than what you expected? It’s a nightmare isn’t it? You think “oh, I’ll grab some of that! And one of those.” And next thing you know, you’ve got hardly anything that goes together to make a meal – but you’ve spend £100! I used to do that and it caused a lot of issues. We have a monthly budget for the food shopping. Knowing exactly what I need stops us from going over that – saving us money in the long run. Whats more, if I meal plan I can often bundle two recipes together that need similar ingredients. This means these can be bought in a bigger pack. Usually for less than two smaller packs would be over two weeks.

Meal planning to save stress

Like I said, coming home from work and not knowing what to cook caused issues in the early days of my and T’s relationship. We’d end up arguing because one of us didn’t fancy something and the other couldn’t be bothered cooking. We ironed this out early. We took turns cooking and I planned everything out based on who was cooking. Once T took a new job where he commuted 75 miles a day, I took on more of the cooking. I did weeknights, while he did weekends. This hasn’t changed even though we don’t have that commute now, but mainly because he’s taken on more of the other chores!

Meal planning for a family

I factor a few things into our meal plan. Who is cooking is a big one. But other than that I think mainly about what me and T want each week. I think about what we haven’t had for a while, if there’s anything we fancy. Then I balance it out through the week to ensure there are at least 3 meals that Spike will eat as well as us. The meals she won’t eat usually feature some ingredients she will which, so we combine these with easy foods. If we’re having a pasta in sauce, she’ll have plain pasta. If we’re having omelette with salad, she’ll have a salad with fish fingers, chicken dippers or something of that ilk.

The fussy one

Spike did throw a spanner in the works when it comes to my meal plan. Sometimes she flat out refuses to eat what I’m offering and when that happens its either argument city, or we compromise. She has to take one of the alternatives I’m offering which doesn’t affect the length of time I’m cooking for. The other day I managed to get get to have Jacket Potatoes with tuna when we were have sweet potato jackets with Quorn chilli. She hates sweet potato (strange child) so I knew this would be a night where she didn’t have the same. But I offered normal potato because I knew she’d had it at school. I offered tuna because I knew that T would eat a tuna butty that afternoon. This meant I could make the tuna mayo up in the day time and it wouldn’t involve any extra cooking/prep time.

Sticking to the plan

I put the plan up on a whiteboard which sticks to our fridge. Its there from the Saturday when I buy the food. However having on a wipe clean white board means that things can be moved around. I try to buy stuff with long enough dates so it doesn’t matter when we actually have it that week. This level of flexibility helps us save money and time by having a meal plan, but also helps us stick to it. If we don’t fancy what I’ve planned on a Monday night, I swap it out for another nights’ meal.

The inevitable takeaways

I’m not saying we never throw the meal plan out of the window by going to the takeaway. But when we do, I switch around the meal plan. That way, we will miss out on something I’ve bought which can be frozen/is made from cupboard ingredients. That meal then goes onto next weeks’ plan to save the next week by not having to buy one meal.

Meal planning for weightloss/health

I would add that this is one benefit from the meal planning too. I have managed to identify when I am putting together a plan with too much junk food on it. Saturday night is pizza night, its always going to be as its T’s night to ‘cook’. He can manage a frozen pizza! But If its been a heavy week in terms of carbs or junk, I get a smaller/thin crust pizza, rather than stuffed crust huge ones! Its not much – but it does help.

What kind of things do you find helpful when it comes to tea time?

Pinterest graphic with blog title "Meal planning to save money, stress and time" and image of Spike, a blonde haired 4 year old girl, putting her thumbs up about a chicken curry in front of her....