Making Ends Meet with Meal Planning

When you hear the words ‘meal planning’ does it make you anxious? It did for me, for a long time. I have read 101 blogs about meal planning. After each post, I thought to myself, “I don’t really have time for that.” Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to plan ahead. When making ends meet while on a budget, meal planning is key.

Photo c/o Upsplash Fabian Blank

Meal Planning 101

If you have already tried meal planning and have failed, here are a few tips to help you get started again. And if you have never tried at all, I suggest starting small. Plan 2-3 meals for your first week. Grow from there.

Photo c/o Leonie Wise

Break out the Flyers

Before you break out the flyers and your notepad, check out what is already in your fridge and freezer! If it is ground pork, Google recipes for ground pork. You will find more than 101 recipes to help place it into your meal plan. Ground pork balls are always a must for me. I switch it up with different flavours. Souvlaki is a fav! Go Greek one week, and Italian the next.

Weekly Specials

While taking weekly specials into consideration, do not forget to head straight to the discount section of your grocery store. The President’s Choice 50% off sticker is my best friend when meal planning. Tomatoes get chopped and made into salsa. Lemons and limes get chopped and put in the freezer to help jazz up my water. Even that yummy Ace Bakery, non-GMO bread gets sliced and frozen too. Yip, I save $50 plus bucks a week because of that sticker!

Cook at Home

When I encourage my cooking class clients to cook at home they often say, “it takes too much time.” But with a meal plan in place, you are saving time by not having to think about dinner after a busy day. Most all my meals take twenty minutes or less. But I cheated and bought a book that has over 50 meals already planned out for me.

Variety of Dishes

The great thing about this guide book is the variety of recipes included. Thai, Mexican, Greek, Italian, you name it the flavours of the world keep me inspired. Since purchasing the at home Red Thai Curry mix I have not visited my local Thai restaurant in the last three months. My red curry costs $3.50 per person. My preferred restaurant costs $15 per meal. The other great thing about cooking at home is leftovers!!!

Leftovers

Speaking of leftovers, cook once, eat twice is the way to go! If you are making chili, make a double batch. We all know buying meat in bulk saves a lot of moola. Freeze leftovers for the following week to help make future meal planning easier. Or, get creative! Take the chili from last night and use it in a lasagna the next day. Food fusion is a big trend right now. My kids love spaghetti tacos for lunch after we have spaghetti dinner the night before.

Reduce Food Waste

Upgrading my kitchen with products that reduce food waste is very important to me. I grew up in a family where there was zero food waste. Nothing EVER got thrown out. That value is instilled in me to my core!

No More Tetra Paks

A big change for me is no more tetra packs! That’s right, I make beef, chicken and veggie broth at home. I whip up a big batch and freeze it! My freezer is a mess but it never lets me down! My preferred brand costs 0.40 cents per cup. I add water, stir and ready, set, go. The best part is, my broth also has B vitamins and nutritional yeast. It is a win, win!

Frozen Bananas

Brown bananas on your counter? I used to bin them once upon a time! No way, not anymore. I throw them in the freezer, use them for smoothies or for baking later on! By the way, smoothies are better with frozen bananas. The consistency of a frozen banana helps give the smoothie a creamier texture. Yum.

Make What you Need

I also stopped buying jars of salsa and salad dressing. Grocery store salsa only lasts about 3-4 weeks once opened. Before I started making my own, I threw most of it out. Now I make what I need. The same goes for salad dressing. My, oh, my, I had at least 5 bottles to throw out by the end of summer. Now I make it as I need it. And the only ingredients I need are oil and vinegar. No polytriglucerinmolydoxtrin crap in my dressing!

Final Thoughts

Even with all these tips, my best advice revolves around mindset! It takes the time to form new habits. Don’t give up on yourself. If you try and don’t succeed right away don’t sweat it. I have tried meal planning many times. I am sure there will be weeks when I fail at it. But not giving up is important. Try it as often as you can. Saving money never goes out of style. So grab your pen and paper and start planning!

CTV Interview

This blog post was inspired by a visit from CTV’s Heidi Petracek. The kids had a great time but I think our dog Rufus was the star of the shoot. You can watch our CTV News at Five debut by clicking on the picture below. Watch until the end if you would like to see the pup! He’s a cutie pie.

If you would like to join my Meal Planning group head on over to my Facebook page. Drop me a line, send me a message and I will add you to the group.

Disclaimer: My views are my own. I was not paid by any parties mentioned to write this blog. If they were to pay me, I would be happy to disclose. Otherwise, I write what I like, what I don’t. What works for me, and what doesn’t.