This post is kind of a ‘Part 2’ to my earlier post of ‘Meal Planning For Busy Mums (Part 1)”, explaining further tips and ideas to make meal planning easier and more economical.
Not all families may agree with some of the tips in this blog .This is because every family is unique : our wants, needs, budget are all so different. This blog entry just aims to give suggestions to make meal planning easier.
1) Collect recipes that use 3 ingredients (or less !)– it cuts down marketing costs and you also have lesser grocery bags to lug home after marketing
2) Collect recipes that use only one pot /dish (eg. rice cooker,crockpot, baking tray) to cook a meal. Less cleaning up and washing to do!
3) File your recipes inside an App (like Evernote) and back it up in a soft copy (eg. ring binder)
I started using Evernote one year ago and it has cut down my paper clutter-i used to have my recipes in this exercise book , that notebook or that file but I have now consolidated it in one ‘virtual’ file-this app can upload recipes from the Internet (text as well as pictures) and I ‘file’ it under several ‘notebooks’ indexed by topics I find suitable, all arranged in alphabetical order
On the other hand, I still have my ‘soft copies’ of my previous recipes in a ring binder in case my virtual recipes get wiped out in some virus attack (touch wood!)
4) Have a well-thought out ,nicely -arranged pantry
I have three ‘pantries’
i) Cupboard pantry (dry)- I stock all those food items that can tolerate our tropical climate and will not go bad inside here.
ii) Fridge pantry(wet)-I stock items that will turn bad if not refrigerated.
iii) Freezer pantry (frozen goods)-To store items that were bought in frozen state or are best kept frozen
In the same vein, only stock up food items you often use. Banish all those Pinterest images of cylindrical jars or tidy containers storing beans , flour, wafers, pasta, cereals etc. You see these in magazines , online or print, but in order to get to that kind of organisation you really have to be vigilant over your cooking style and kinds of food you often whip up before your pantry will really look like that. I too had all these ‘containers’ when I started out as a novice cook about 10 years ago and boy oh boy, I must have thrown away that many bags of macaroni, cereal, green beans and flour!
I suggest not to buy any new receptacle to store your items in the pantry. Try to reuse the glass bottles or plastic containers some of your store-bought food arrives in – or store them in ziplock bags (which are really quite flexible storage containers because they can be stored flat, standing up, or any ‘shape’ you want depending on the amount of space you have available.
It is noteworthy that good-quality plastic containers are good to have in the long term if you think you are going to have young kids in your house ( the glass ones stand in perpectual fear of being broken – either by the children or by the harried caregivers looking after them!)
5) Edit your pantry
Note which ingredients you you use often (and how often) and thus buy in bulk (even better if you buy during a sale!) Naturally, you will need to know how much space you can accomodate the additional food items and what is your budget for stocking up.
6) Try and make your breakfasts similar every week.
Same principle of cost-savings: so that you can buy/make more of each food item or dish and stock up/freeze (egs. wholemeal crackers, digestives, savoury or sweet pancakes or muffins, fried noodles with greens, fish porridge, oatmeal, sandwiches etc.)
In our family,some of our breakfast items also double-up as our ‘snacks’.
I suggest never have more than 2 snacks or 2 breakfast items at any one time in a week.
(below is our snack box and our breakfast box placed side by side, in the same cupboard)
I believe in the adage: ‘Make do, or do without’. It’s a good habit to cultivate in children and a thrifty reminder for adults as well 🙂
7) Make any food item work doubly or triply hard
Eg. Buy brown rice instead of white rice-for the simple reason brown rice fills you up longer than white rice
We use this brand of brown rice and it is quite delicious.
At this juncture, I would like to share I am simply aghast I have just bought such an expensive (to me lah) brand of brown rice without first doing comparison shopping. Actually, I did..but with brown rice, you just don’t know which brand your family will take to. Never mind – we persevere in our quest to keep our food costs low while maintaining a happy satisfied household. Hopefully more sales promoters will allow us customers to try their brown rice so that we are more confident to buy their brand ( and thereby finish up the rice!)
After eating the above brand of rice for some months, I discovered it was not economically sustainable for me to feed my family of four on just this rice (2kg for $9.30); another compelling reason to switch was the nutty flavour of this brand of brown rice doesn’t go well with some of my fried rice recipes or did not complement certain other dishes.
So if you have similar concerns like me, and additionally yr family don’t really like the taste of brown rice, then SLOWLY make the switch by starting out with this pack:
It costs $5.70 (2.5kg pack) and consists of 20% brown rice, 80% white rice; the taste is yummy.Therefore, you have not only started your family on the road of eating healthier, you are also spending within a smaller food budget like I am.
8) Always choose fresh food over processed food
Do your best for this..tinned food and some packaged food is very tasty and can allow you to serve delectable dishes cheaply but….we all know they can be detrimental to our health, especially our heart, because they are so high in fat and salt!
For some of us with no one to guide us in our cooking methods as well as give us tips on how to plan healthy meals, then we will have to educate yourself with classes, wide reading and reading blogs just like mine ^^
Finally, as my knowledge of how to season my food with herbs and spices increase, and as my family is already getting used to blander food, I have grown to rely less or even got rid of (hopefully for good!) many popular processed foods in our diet. We hope it stays that way!