While it may not be high on the list of things that you look forward to doing, planning meals can make life much easier and can also save you time and money. You’ll be amazed at how much less stressful meals can be if you sit down for 10 minutes once a week to figure out what you’re going to eat and write out a shopping list before going to the store. Here are more tips.
- Cook extra. It doesn’t take much longer to make a bigger pot of spaghetti sauce or soup, steam the entire head of broccoli or make a large stir-fry. Cooking once and preparing 3 or 4 servings at a time means you only have to clean up the kitchen once. The other bonus is you have lunch or dinner prepared ahead of time for the next couple of days.
- Freeze leftovers in individual portions. If you won’t use refrigerated leftovers within 3 days, invest in some good quality containers, label and freeze in individual servings to use when you’re really busy.
- Prepare snacks ahead of time. Cut up raw veggies for the upcoming week and pre-portion in snack bags or reusable containers. Do the same with nuts or trail mix, crackers, or any other backpack snacks.
- Invest in a slow cooker. It’s great for making one pot meals, soups and stews that don’t require constant attention. Add the ingredients, set the timer and let your meal simmer while you do other things around the house.
- Clean up as you go. Washing your dishes and cooking equipment before they get crusty means kitchen cleanup is quick and easy. It also means happier roommates when using a shared kitchen!
Money saving tips
- Take a quick inventory of what you have in your cupboards and fridge. Knowing what foods need to be used up first and what other ingredients you need to buy makes shopping time more efficient and decreases food waste.
- Use inexpensive grains. Grains such as rice, pasta and barley are inexpensive and can be used in soups, stews and salads. Look for whole grains, like 100% whole grain pasta or brown rice, and avoid packaged, pre-seasoned rice or pasta mixes.
- Prepare meat alternatives. Beans, chickpeas or lentils, eggs, tofu, peanut butter and canned fish contain a lot of protein at a lower cost per serving than most types of meat, fish or poultry.
- Eat with the seasons. Look for seasonal recipes; fresh veggies and fruit are cheaper and taste better when they’re in season. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also good choices and often cost less than fresh produce, especially if you buy them on sale.
- Plan to use up your leftovers. Re-purpose them by using in soups, sandwiches, omelettes or casseroles. For example, toss leftover pasta with grape tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, chickpeas and balsamic vinaigrette for an easy pasta salad.
For more information about planning easy and healthy meals, that won’t break the bank, see our cookbook (PDF).