Hey there, fellow foodies! Let’s be honest, the cost of our favourite ingredients has been creeping up faster than a cat on a countertop. But before you resign yourself to a life of beans on toast (though, let’s be real, they’re delicious), let’s chat about meal planning and prep. It might sound like something out of a 1950s cookbook, but it’s actually a super savvy way to not only save some serious cash but also make sure you’re eating well and reducing food waste. Win-win-win!

Why Meal Planning is Your New Best Friend

  1. Wallet-Friendly: No more impulse buys at the supermarket or last-minute takeaways. You’ll have a shopping list and stick to it, meaning you’ll only buy what you actually need. Tesco even has a handy online meal planner to get you started.
  2. Stress-Busting: Ever stood in front of a fridge full of food and thought, “I have nothing to eat”? Meal planning eliminates that daily dilemma. You’ll always have a delicious and nutritious meal ready to go.
  3. Time-Saving: Batch cooking on the weekend means you’ll have meals prepped and ready to heat up during the busy week. No more frantic cooking after a long day at work.
  4. Healthier Eating: When you plan your meals, you’re more likely to make healthier choices. It’s easier to incorporate those fruits and veggies you bought with good intentions when they’re already on the menu.
  5. Less Food Waste: We’ve all had that sad moment when we throw away wilted lettuce or moldy cheese. Meal planning helps you use up ingredients before they go bad, saving you money and helping the planet. Check out Love Food Hate Waste for some great tips.

Getting Started: Tips & Tricks

  • Set a Budget: Decide how much you want to spend on groceries each week. This will help you create a realistic meal plan.
  • Check Your Cupboards: Before you plan your meals, take inventory of what you already have on hand. This will help you avoid buying duplicates.
  • Plan for Leftovers: Cook once, eat twice (or even thrice!). Leftovers are perfect for lunches or quick dinners later in the week.
  • Theme Nights: This is a fun way to add variety to your meal plan. Taco Tuesdays, anyone?
  • Simple Recipes: Don’t overcomplicate things. There are plenty of delicious and budget-friendly recipes out there that don’t require fancy ingredients or hours in the kitchen. Have a look on the BBC Good Food website for some inspiration.

Meal Prep: Your Secret Weapon

  • Chop Chop: Wash, chop, and store veggies in advance. This makes it super easy to throw together a salad or stir-fry during the week.
  • Batch Cooking: Cook large portions of grains, beans, or proteins on the weekend. These can be used as building blocks for various meals throughout the week.
  • Freeze Ahead: Soups, stews, and casseroles freeze beautifully. Double your recipe and freeze half for a future meal.
  • Invest in Containers: Good quality, reusable containers are essential for storing prepped meals and snacks.

Affordable Meal Ideas to Get You Started

  • Hearty Veggie Soup: A classic for a reason. Packed with nutrients and budget-friendly ingredients.
  • Chicken Fajitas: Quick, easy, and delicious. Serve with wraps, rice, or salad.
  • Lentil Curry: A protein-packed vegetarian option that’s full of flavour.
  • Tuna Pasta Bake: A family favourite that’s perfect for using up leftovers.
  • Breakfast Burritos: Make a batch on the weekend and freeze for grab-and-go breakfasts.

It’s a Wrap!

Meal planning and prep may take a little getting used to, but trust me, it’s worth it. It’s a fantastic way to take control of your food budget, eat healthier, and reduce food waste. Plus, you’ll feel like a domestic goddess (or god) when you have a week’s worth of delicious meals ready to go. So, grab your pen and paper (or your favourite meal planning app) and give it a try! Your wallet and taste buds will thank you.

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