Meal planning like a boss!

I used to be one of those people who pop into Sainsbury’s for a pint of milk and come out with a family size bag of crisps, a new wardrobe for Mollie, the latest bestselling paperback and a kettle – oh and have to go back half hour later to get the pint of milk.

A supermarket used to be a place to have a nose about, look at the latest books, DVDs, clothes and electrical items. My weekly shopping bill was huge and I would do a main shop and at least 2 top up shops every week, and there was only 2 of us!

I spent a fortune and never had anything to eat – sound familiar?

Fast forward couple of years and we are now a household of 3, we spend just under £40 a week on food and cook healthy meals from scratch almost every day.

How do we do it? It’s all in the planning.

Every week before I go food shopping I write a meal plan, writing down everything we are going to eat for every meal, every day and a shopping list of everything we need to buy. If you Google meal planning you can find some great templates to use, there are even websites that create meal plans for you, such as this one here at Tesco’s – . These are great if you’re looking for some meal inspiration. Personally my preferred method is sitting down with some cook books and a piece of paper and pen.

So next time you are about to do your food shopping schedule in an extra half hour and follow my steps to create a meal plan and shop smart.

Step one – Plan ahead

First of all you need to work out how many meals you are making that week. Will you be making pack lunches for the kids? Will you be eating out at all that week? Take all these things into account before you write your meal plan so you know what you are eating and when.

Step two – Choose the right meals

Pick sensible meals for the time you have available to cook. If I’m working late then I know I won’t feel like standing in the kitchen for hours when I get home.  If I’m going to the gym that night I pick a meal that is more filling and carb based than usual. If you pick meals that are new to you or complicated to make on a night when you don’t have time, you will be more likely to turn to something quick and unhealthy or a takeaway!

Also, pick meals you actually like or are willing to try. I once had broccoli and stilton soup on my meal plan for 2 weeks. I just kept bumping it to different days because I didn’t really fancy it, when we ran out of food to cook we ending up having Dominoes instead. Now I pick meals that everyone likes, choosing kid friendly meals for when Mollie is having tea with us and always picking something yummy for Saturday night so it feels like we are having a treat.

Step 3 – Get some inspiration

Use cookbooks or the internet for inspiration. Tired of eating the same old meals, or wanting to start eating healthier but not knowing where to start? Use resources available to you. The internet has millions of great recipes for all types of diets but cookbooks are my absolute fav! I have loads of cookbooks and am always expanding my collection; there are a couple I’m addicted to right now so I am mostly using them when doing my meal planning.

Step 4 – Write that list

Write your shopping list at the same time as doing your meal plan, this way you can see how much you are buying. If the list is looking incredibly long see if there are some ingredients you can use twice during the week. E.g. if you are buying a bag of potatoes maybe make mash potato one evening and make homemade wedges later in the week. This will reduce both your food shopping bill and the amount of food you waste. Check your kitchen and see what you already have, there could be meat lurking around in the freezer waiting to be used up, and what about all those tins and jars in the cupboard waiting to be opened? Use them before you buy more.

Step 5 – Don’t add anything!

You’ve written your list based on your meal plan, you have all the food you need right there for the whole week. So don’t go adding extras such as crisps and biscuits, you don’t need these things. Pick healthy choices for lunchbox fillers (I try to pick things I don’t like so I won’t steal them). Remember if it’s not in the house then you won’t eat it so leave all temptation in the supermarket where it belongs.

Step 6 – Choose the right supermarket

When I go to Tesco’s, Asda or Sainsbury’s, I get distracted by all the other things they sell such as clothes, toys and homeware. I always end up putting a few extra things in my trolley. These things soon add up and before you know it you’re stood in shock at the till wishing you could put half of it back but paying for it anyway. Now I shop in Aldi’s as there are less of the other items and what they do have is quite cheap anyway. They also do less 2-4-1 or buy one get one half price offers that fool you into feeling like you are getting a bargain. Also, their fruit veg and meat is ridiculously cheap and they have such a good range!

Step 7 – Don’t forget to take the list!

This is obvious, but too many times I have turned up at the supermarket only to realise my list is at home. This is the worst as I always try to wing it and remember what I wrote, it doesn’t work I always forget something. Put that list in your handbag as soon as you’ve done it and you’re good to go!

I hope these steps work for you; they really do work for me! Let me know how you get on, or if you already do this let me know if you have any tips to shop even smarter.

Tasha xx


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