Thursday, 14 February 2013

A month of frugality: Menu planning

Image from here
With six mouths to feed, we go through a fair amount of food in our household. The cost can be overwhelming sometimes. The good news is that you can control how much you spend on groceries.

It is all about shopping to a menu, eating seasonally, and learning to 'shop your pantry' so nothing is wasted. Easier said than done? A lot of the time. I am always best with sticking to my menu plans when the budget is tight. You need to spend some time putting together a repertoire of cheap and cheerful recipes so that you can feed your brood on the proverbial smell of an oily rag when you need to.

On a good week, I do an inventory of what's in stock at our place, plan some menus around that and add the extra bits and pieces I need to finalise seven dinners, seven lunches, some breakfast for all and a couple of home-baked treats.

Breakfast is pretty standard Weetbix with sultanas for most of us. I switch up the cereals sometimes (usually when the store has a special at which time I stock up) but mostly I find a big box of Weetbix is a reasonably affordable start to the day.

Lunch supplies include cheese, deli meats, tinned salmon, salad, crackers and nuts. I don't have any brand loyalty with any of these products. I just get what I can afford at the time I need to buy it. This means we get variety, even in the basics.

For dinners, I have a good repertoire of easy meals that I make from scratch off the top of my head. Nachos, spaghetti bolognaise, fettucine bosciaola, pasta bakes, bangers and mash, lasagne, dahl, apricot chicken, stir-fries, quiche, fried rice, homemade pizza, san choy bow etc. When I have time, I add a new recipe from one of my many recipe books or from online.

I just buy what I need to make the meals; trying to have enough to stretch for another meal or snack. I take left overs for lunch or, sometimes, we have a night of leftovers with bits and pieces from the previous couple of nights.

I never allocate meals for each night of the week; that would be way too organised for me. I just have a list of possible contenders each night and tick them off throughout the week. It works for me, but I am not one for routine.

Here's my latest Spaghetti Bolognaise recipe (Feeds 2 Adults; 4 children for two nights):
500g pork and veal mince
1 cup red lentils
1 tbsp onion flakes*
1 tsp garlic powder*
1 vegetable stock cube
2 cups water
1 tin tomatoes with basil and oregano**
1 tin condensed tomato soup
I packet dried spaghetti

1. Cook the mince with the lentils, onion, garlic, stock cube and water until the lentils are soft and the water has boiled off. It will look brown and mirky.
2. Add the tomatoes and soup
3. Cook spaghetti as per packet instructions.
4. Combine the bolognaise sauce and cooked spaghetti.
5. Serve with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a salad and some garlic bread.

* Use fresh if your children will tolerate it. Mine refuse to each fresh garlic or onion and won't eat the rest of their dinner if it is in there.
** Use fresh when they are in season or if you have the herbs in the garden. You may need to add a bit more water though

What are your menu planning tips? Feel free to share your frugal recipes in the comments.


Rob Stevens said...

This sounds familiar.My main problem is putting things in the fridge to be used as leftovers and then forgetting about them... Maybe lists are the way forward!

ANB said...

Butter bean lasagne
3 tins of butter beans, 1 onion, 2 tins of tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, bechamel sauce
1. Cook onion and garlic until golden, add tomatoes and liquid from one tin of beans.
2. Reduce down until sauce is a bit thicker.
3. Add butter beans (drained).
4. Layers from the bottom up: tomato sauce, lasagne sheet, bechamel, lasagne sheet, tomato, lasagne sheet, bechamel and grated cheese.
5. Cook for about 30 minutes at 180C.

At Number 32 said...

We are much the same, only thing we have set one a week is home made pizza every friday night - i just make up a batch of dough at breakfast ttime and let it do it's magic during the day. It means if we have extras (which was often the case after a big week) it goes further and friends can easily chip in by bring what they have in their fridge as extra toppings really well for us :) Found it's a great way to use all the excess in the fridge too cause you just throw it ontop of the pizza and a nice way to have something out of the ordinary. Loving your month of frugality btw!

Petra said...

Since we got the iPad I am using Paprika to store all my recipes and meal plan at the beginning of the week: It has totally revolutionised my meal planning and I hardly look at a cook book or magazine anymore.

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