Saving money by limiting waste is a difficult goal for many families. Good management and, above all, proper food rotation can help you get there. You will see that it also brings many other advantages: not thinking about the menu every day, limiting restaurants and commercially prepared foods, eating more vegetables and having a varied menu.
3 steps to a well-planned weekly menu
1) Planning (30 to 60 minutes)
Often people who try to plan meals tend to plan backwards. They start by choosing recipes from the menu and then make their grocery list. This process works but increases the cost of the grocery basket and does not allow for turnover of food in stock.
The first thing to do is a quick tour of what's available at home.
On a piece of paper or in your head write down the foods you want to pass quickly. This can range from fruits and vegetables in the fridge to frozen meats or grains that aren't often used in the pantry. The Belles Combines have a storage label very convenient for this purpose. You can use them and create an "Eat Me First" tray to put all the foods that are about to expire or need to be eaten in a short period of time. Get your kids on board by asking them to always eat what's in the Eat Me First bin before anything else.
- Leftover rice, broccoli, onions and 2 frozen chicken breasts make an excellent Asian chicken stir-fry.
- An open jar of salsa, canned legumes and frozen tortillas make a great quesadilla meal.
- Leftover ham and wilted spinach can make up a pasta meal with ham and spinach béchamel sauce.
Second thing to do: look at the specials in the flyers.
Paper or electronic flyers save money. You don't even have to look at the entire flyer, the specials are always on the front or back page. If there is a limited choice of groceries in your area, choose the grocery store based on the specials you are interested in. If you have access to a Maxi or a Walmart, don't hesitate to use the unbeatable ones to apply the sales from all the grocery stores in the same place. Simply show the competitor's price in the flyer to the cashier when you pay. To save time and efficiency, try to make only one grocery store visit per week and if possible at one location.
With the specials in front of you, you can now complete the week's menu by adding your list of foods on sale to the foods in stock. If the specials are very advantageous, buy 2-3 copies to stock them. These foods will be used to plan other low-cost menus in the coming weeks.
Finally, it's time to take out your books and check out your favourite websites to choose recipes to complete the menu. You can get inspired by searching by ingredient to pass a particular food, for example cornmeal. You can also put in a recipe that you don't have any ingredients for but that you want.
Third thing to do: the shopping list
Make your list in 3 steps:
- Write down the missing foods for the recipes chosen when planning the menu.
- Add to the list the fresh staple foods to buy each week: fruits and vegetables, dairy products, protein for lunches and bread.
- Add the foods to be replaced so that you don't run out of basic ingredients.
2) Grocery shopping (60 minutes)
With a clear list in hand, the grocery store should take no more than an hour, including waiting time at the checkouts. Beware of impulse purchases, they drive up the price of the basket. To limit distractions and save even more time, online grocery shopping is an excellent option.
Multiple visits to the grocery store are the result of inefficient planning and increase the number of impulse purchases tenfold. Aim for only one grocery store visit per week and one per month for warehouse stores.
3) Cooking (2-3 hours)
The weekly menu is ready, the food is in the fridge, it's time to get ahead of the game. You don't have to prepare everything on Sunday! Preparing ahead of time helps to reduce the stress associated with making the week's meals and lunches.
Here are a few examples:
Preparing snacks: cutting fruit, portioning yogurt or shaping, making muffins and freezing them.
Cut up the vegetables that will be on the menu this week.
Make soup to accompany meals and lunches.
Prepare menu items that can be reheated (lasagna, stews, chili).
Cook the rice or quinoa that will accompany the meals.
Cut up raw vegetables. (Lots of raw vegetables!)
Families often look for quick recipes that are made in less than 20 minutes. Here are some ideas:
Stir-fries (if the vegetables are already cut up).
One pot dishes.
Egg-based meal variations: frittata, omelettes, boiled egg meal bowl, etc.
Sandwiches and spreads: grilled-cheese, salmon bagel, etc.
Meals on the plate.
Pasta with a sauce already prepared.
These meals are very practical, but cooking only these meals makes the menus redundant. That's why cooking in advance allows you to vary your evening meals.
Here are some recipe ideas that can be cooked in advance and that vary our evening meals :
casseroles (lasagna, potato and fish casserole, shepherd's pie)
Dishes consisting of large pieces of meat (chicken, shredded pork, ham, roast pallet)
Vegetarian recipes never tested: (Less well known recipes always require a longer preparation time than those that have been cooked for years).
You're probably very close to succeeding in effective planning that will save you money and avoid waste. You need to think about the deeper motivations that drive you to tell yourself that it's finally time to manage your meal planning. Sometimes the planning gets in the way, but it always comes back when you know why you're doing it and what the benefits are.