You like winging it in your kitchen. You want to meal plan but you hate recipes! No problem.
Meal planning with no recipe
Meal planning is about more than recipes, it is about a lifestyle change. Simplifying your life and making time for you to spend doing what you prefer. It also saves you money.
In a previous blog post we looked at themed meal plans and that is where not following a recipe will fit in. Dinner Theme Meal Planning
Your meal plan template allows you to go to the store and use your imagination for ingredients.
Using a template
If you step into a store with the idea in mind that your main meal ingredient is chicken, you then can decide while in the store or in your pantry what other ingredients you will be adding to make this into a healthy balanced meal.
You don’t need to only plan your main ingredient; you can even plan your cuisine. An example of this is Mexican + Meat. Now you can go to the store knowing you want to buy meat and spicy/tomato ingredients.
This method allows you to make use of specials, as well as not buying too much and having it sit in your kitchen and go to waste.
While this is a method I do not think I could use successfully in my home I do think that it would be very successful for single people, college/varsity students and possibly stay at home moms (as an excuse to get out of the house possibly?).
For single people meal planning can be a little tedious and most have a fairly fluid social life.
This means if you meal plan for more than a week in advance you will likely have food going to waste. Just having your template can work not only for meal planning, but also for your social life.
For example if you have Fish on your template for a certain night, then you can use this to help decide on a restaurant if you are going out for dinner. It can also be used to decide whether it is canned tuna or perfectly seared tuna steaks, whichever you have time for.
For college/varsity students living either in an apartment with other students or on campus where you only have limited way to prepare foods, then this method will also help with budgeting and saving money.
Having a template and being able to use that to decide on your ingredients will be a big part of your life. Students living in res will usually only have a kettle and microwave and this can to a certain extent limit your options, go online and search for ideas to help you.
Going online to look for microwave recipes will help. Instant noodles are very versatile as a base for some great meals. These can definitely be bought in advance and then dressed up, with ingredients bought fresh on the day.
Choose your flavor of noodle and then add. For example choose a fish flavoured instant noodle meal and add some salmon off cuts and a tablespoon of cream cheese for a delicious supper.
For those sharing, it will definitely help you with your food budgets.
Stay at home moms
Staying at home to raise your children is an amazing thing to be able to do. If you are the type of mom who wants to stay at home, and if your finances allow you this option.
There does come a time, however, when even the most dedicated moms need to get out. Going to the mall and buying your groceries can fulfill this need two fold. The first is retail therapy without feeling guilty for spending money; the second is feeding your family nourishing meals.
Shopping without a recipe can allow you to choose ingredients that are versatile in terms of the ages of each family member.
I love hearing how people go about deciding what’s for dinner, so why not let me know how you decided and what methods work best for you?
Here are 10 reasons to grocery shop on line. In June 2015 I started this blog and in the first article I spoke about how much I saved with online shopping. Nearly 2 years later, I can still say it is worth the hassle.
Yes it was a huge learning curve on how to do the online shopping and still get everything I ordered. I have learned the best days to order, what I can’t order and what I must specify as ‘no substitutions’. The first time was really painful!
1. You can shop anytime
Our country is held hostage by the taxi drivers, staff at the end of the day are in a rush to get off work so they can catch the last taxi of the day. If you are late finishing work you don’t have to rush to make it before the store closes, because there is no closing time.
2. No rude staff
I have to laugh when I see the signs on the tills that remind staff to greet the customer with a smile. I have seen this very rarely. Customer service seems to be a vague concept that they are taught and then promptly forget. The staff is quite content to carry on their conversation about the evening before, what’s happening in their favourite soapy or how the new ‘protocol’ is unfair or the boss is rude. This is whether the client speaks their language or not.
3. You can wear your pajamas
There is no dress code. Now I have seen people (mostly women) at the shops in their slippers, hair in curlers and once at my local store a lady in her nightie! I am not saying you must get dressed up and made up to go to the shops. I know some would disagree, you never know who you might meet! At least in your own home you can happily do your shopping in your skivvies if you want, no one will judge you.
4. Your stuff is safe!
Shopping from the comfort of your own home, means your wallet, cellphone and children are safe. There are no pick pockets or child snatchers around! No worries about keeping your handbag close or people distracting you so their sticky fingers can lift your property. You don’t have to worry about someone jamming your locking signal and then making off with the contents of your car or even your car itself.
5. Guilt free parking
Since you won’t need your car, you don’t need change for the ‘car guard’ to help you unpack your trolley or help you reverse out the parking that you got into quite easily on your own. I don’t always have change as I use my card for most things and then I put that in my phone cover and leave my bag at home. I have a savings option on my card, where the total purchase is rounded up and the difference is put into a little savings account. Sometimes when I do have some change with me it is only 50c or so and I feel guilty that with my huge shopping trolley all I can give is some tiny change. I did try once to give a guy a can of food and he handed it back to me with a disgusted look.
6. You save money
One thing about online grocery shopping is that impulse buying is reduced to a minimum. You have your list and you search for those items only. There are no checkout counters, so no sweets or chocolates to tempt you. You aren’t wandering up and down aisles and taking things off the shelf, because they caught your eye.
Another thing I learned to do is to open the profiles of the stores that offer online shopping and compare prices. You can shop at 3 stores at once (maybe soon other grocery stores will offer online shopping). You get to choose your products and make use of any specials that are offered.
7. It’s environmentally friendly
When you shop online you have the option of saying no to plastic bags! This not only helps the environment, it helps your pocket too. The delivery arrives in plastic containers, which are then unpacked in your home, no having to worry about carrying heavy stuff or plastic bags breaking.
8. You can shop in stages
One thing that I am sure has happened to you, I know it has happened to me more than once. In fact it happened just last week. You are in the store and shopping is taking longer than planned. Suddenly you realise the time and you have to be at a meeting or fetch the kids from school, an extra mural or a friend. This means you are either going to be late, not going to be able to complete your shopping or have to abandon your trolley all together and come back another day. You land up with your shopping
Shopping online means when you can come back all your groceries are still in your trolley where you parked it. You don’t have to start again; nothing is going to go off, because it sat in the car while you did lift schemes.
9. You can take as long as you want
This goes a long with the last point. You can shop in stages. It can be days or weeks. You can add to your trolley anytime you want. If you log on and add to your trolley as soon as something is finished in your cupboard, you will not leave anything off of your shopping list.
10. No children
Shopping with babies and small children can be difficult. Having to push your trolley and control an over tired toddler can cause any mom to have a meltdown. Shopping online means you avoid, cranky, tired children, your own children and other people’s children too. It also means that if it is nap time, you can stop shopping, put your child down for a nap and go back to shopping. There is no nagging for this toy or that sweet. This applies to children of all ages.
For breast feeding mom’s it means you can feed in comfort while still doing the shopping. No one complaining about you feeding in public, no having to go feed your baby in the public bathrooms either or going to sit in your hot car for privacy and then having people look in your window.
Some smaller stores allow you to phone in your order and they deliver, this is usually the butcher and specialty stores and has the same benefits of online shopping.
Do you online shop and if not, I would love to hear why not?
What’s in the pantry?
Your pantry cupboard is an important part of your kitchen. If this is in a mess and dis-organised, it is not only difficult to decide what to make for dinner, but it also wastes money.
How many times have you gone to the store bought something only discover on your return that you already have 2 or 3 of the same product in the cupboard already! I own my kitchen, do you?
Being kosher means that we can’t always get a lot of food stuffs, so I developed a habit of buying unusual kosher products, which then sat in my cupboard for years. Last year I got rid of 2 cans of waterblommetjies. They had expired 3 years before.
The expiry dates on canned good is not really an expiry date but more of a date of when the producers will no longer guarantee the quality of the product inside. As long as the can is not bulging your food is safe to eat.
I did think, however, that having sat in my cupboard at least five years and still not been used in a recipe, it was unlikely that I would ever make a waterblommetjie bredie (stew). There were also other products that needed to be tossed.
Keeping your pantry cupboard tidy and organised is a must if you want to stop wasting time and money. If you ask a family member to look into a disorganised pantry cupboard and pick something to make, 9 times out of 10 the answer will be, ‘there’s nothing to eat’!
Keep like with like
Keeping items of a similar kind together will definitely make your time spent in the kitchen easier, cut down on your grocery bill and allow you to use up products before they expire!
It doesn’t need to be OCD tidy to be organised. If you have all your baking ingredients, your pasta’s and cans on their own shelves, condiments together on another shelf and spices together on a different shelf, you are what I consider organised. Items don’t need to be alphabetised or facing the same way, unless that’s what you want of course, but being arranged like with like will be enough.
Follow in the group as we get through the week with short daily tasks to organise the pantry cupboard https://www.facebook.com/groups/gettingsorted/.
A meal plan can save you money. If you are budgeting you need to do this
Even if you think you are good with budgeting, you may be wasting money without even realising it.
My first time
The first time I created a meal plan and took the shopping list with me to the store and stuck to it, I spent less than ever. I didn’t have to worry about whether my card would have enough money in or not.
Feel like you are earning more
Since then my saving skills have gotten a lot better, at one time my eldest daughter even asked if we were earning more money. In previous months, by the last 10 days before payday the pantry cupboard, fridge and freezer were ‘empty’ and now there was food to be had all the way through to the end of the month.
The truth is that the pantry while on the lean side, wasn’t empty but because there were no meal plans, what was in the cupboards didn’t seem like food, so we ate a lot of pasta in those days.
Literally from the first month of meal planning all that changed. I ‘shopped’ in my kitchen first and did an inventory of what I had. I took this inventory and scoured my recipe books, then stumbled across a site called ‘myfridgefood.com’. On this site you type in your ingredients and it searches the internet for recipes using those ingredients. I then drew up my shopping list for the items I didn’t have.3 Steps to Mastering Your Grocery Bill
In house trainning
I did have to retrain the family to not help themselves to whatever they wanted. The salad drawer in my fridge has been turned into a snack drawer. Anything in the drawer can be taken without asking permission first, the rest is off limits, without consulting me first.
Now that we have a meal plan in place, we are also discovering a hidden saving. There is almost no food wastage any longer. I only buy what I need, occasionally I will get something that isn’t on the plan. Often, this is the food that usually gets thrown out.
My meal planning is not perfect, when I am stressed, or tired, I will either not plan properly, or just ignore the plan all together.
10 simple ways to save money with meal planning.
- Create a meal plan, whether it is a weekly one, or like I do, a monthly one.
- Based on your meal plan draw up a shopping list and stick to it
- Look out for bulk specials, then cook and freeze for later. Once frozen, you can put it into a future meal plan.
- When possible, plan using specials that appear in the local papers.
- Whether you have a meal plan and shopping list or not, do not shop when you are hungry, tired or feeling sick. You will then most likely not be able to stick to your list and you can end up buying food you don’t need
- Don’t go to the grocery store more than once a week if possible. A minimum of 10% of the final bill will be things that you don’t need but rather that you want. This is costing you money.
- If possible do not take husbands and children with, this definitely costs you more!
- Shopping in your kitchen, before you go out to a store will also prevent you from buying food you already have and then wasting it.
- Buying bigger size packages is not always cheaper. Compare the prices first.
- The store brand is also not always cheaper than the well-known brand. Check first.
A little change, can make a big difference.
Do we have coupons?
Couponing is big business in the USA, reality shows abound on this topic. Here in South Africa though, we don’t really have coupons.
Years ago we got coupons in our subscription magazines and the weekly local papers. Those days are gone.
Except for PnP VIP vouchers for senior citizens (only available for use in Hypermarkets) most South African coupons are in the form of an app or a loyalty card and they can save you a lot of money when used correctly.
Do you know what is out there? Are you using it effectively?
The first one under the spot light is:
PnP Smart Shopper card.
If you don’t have one, I suggest getting it. Whether or not you like PicknPay the card is worth it. You earn points which can be converted to cash, there are discounts and often in their brand match campaign, when you swipe your card, at the end of the till slip either has the message ‘you saved …. on this purchase or ‘get R… off of your next shopping”. I got a slip once that said I had R84.50 off of my next shop.
Often they will have items for sale where you earn extra points when you swipe your card.
You get vouchers when you swipe your card at different times if the year, these are specific to your spending habits. You get extra points to use during your birthday month.
Earn points and to use for shopping or even travel. I like to accumulate my points for a year and then use them for my grocery shop, I often land up only having to pay half my bill and sometimes even less. The points expire after a year.
A big plus for me is the Fresh living magazine which you get free with your first purchase of the month, if you have a smart shopper card. I have found and made some amazing recipes in the magazine.
The Woolworths store card which you can only use at a Woolworths store also gives great discounts, however, it works like a credit card and you are charged interest on your balance.
In the instance of the Woolworths credit card these each have different quarterly discounts depending on the colour of your card, you also get a % back for using the card at other stores. You also get a voucher for a free “Taste” magazine (on the black card). These are credit cards and can be used anywhere.
Spar has two options, a loyalty card, which can only be used at the Spar that issued the card and the Spar rewards program, which you need to sign up for on your pc and gives you rewards just for signing up, plus vouchers that you can use at participating stores, you also link your loyalty card to the rewards program and earn more points. Then download the app to your smartphone. You will receive your vouchers on your smartphone; you type the voucher number into the keypad at the till to redeem your rewards.
The Checkers Eezee coupons app for your smart phone allows you to ‘book’ your specials and when you get to the till you type in the voucher number that the app generates and it will give you your discounts. I have once been able to buy a product with the app and combined it with another coupon app and landed up pay R5 instead of R65 for my item.
Clicks Club Card and Dischem
While neither of these are grocery stores, a lot of us do our shopping for toiletries at these stores. Their loyalty cards do offer great savings and bonuses.
When using banks cards together with loyalty cards you once again increase your savings.
The Unilever deals site is accessed from your computer. They have very good discount “coupons”, either two for one or often between 25%-50% off. I once spent R5 on Omo washing powder as it was on special at the store, plus I had the Unilever code.
An app that allows you to ‘book’ specials on your phone. Once you are done shopping, you upload a picture if your full till slip, then gives you money back in their virtual wallet that you can use at one of many partner stores.
I am sure there are some that I have missed.
How are you using apps and loyalty cards to save you money? Did you even know we had so many?
Meal Prep is going to make your life a whole lot easier!
Too tired to care
At the end of a long day the last thing you want to do is stand in the kitchen peeling and chopping vegetables.
Meal prep is the way to go. I don’t cook anything that is going to take more than 30-40 minutes from start too finish. I am too tired and there are other things I want to do when I get home from work.
Meal prep is also a good way to be able to buy your vegetables in bulk and then freeze. Remember if they sell it frozen in store, then there is a way for you to freeze it as well.
An hour a week
Spending an hour a week prepping and freezing a whole lot of things from onions to bell peppers will save you time in the evenings when you get home from work. Just pull the ingredients out the freezer and toss into your meal. If the vegetables have been frozen correctly, they will retain their texture, colour and flavour when cooked.
Obviously, if you have help at home or or slightly older children (9 years old or more) then they can be used to prep your vegetables or even cook supper occasionally. The children will not only learn to cook and learn about fresh ingredients but also gain a sense of independence.
In South Africa, for the most part, children know what a potato is in its natural form. How many children know that store bought or restaurant oven chips are made from potatoes?
Involving children in meal prep will also let them appreciate why dinner is not on the table as so as they want it. It gives them a new perspective on the food that is cooked and, maybe, encourages them to try and eat new things. Having them help with the cooking gives them a new confidence and a feeling of pride when they can say they helped or made dinner.
Do you have a little mini chef in the kitchen? Do you meal prep?
I need help! When I started my blog “Kashering Your Life”, I did not really expect the response that it received worldwide. The simple blog with which I started has grown into a company and it is now as far as it can go in this configuration.
In order for it to grow and prosper the blog needs a complete makeover. Everything from the name to the colours, logo and possibly, even the tag line needs to change.
This is where all of you come in. First we need a new name; the name must obviously reflect what this new company is all about. We will be running a competition for the name.
When you post your name suggestions, either in the comments of the blog, or on the FB page, you will go into a draw.
I will count the top three name suggestions according to the ‘likes’ they receive and the people whose names receive the most ‘likes’ will receive a prize of a magnetic weekly menu planner board.
The person who suggests the winning name will receive a planning package, which includes a magnetic weekly menu board, a laminated comprehensive shopping list, a laminated monthly planner and a set of 60 printed budget envelopes. Remember to also look through other people’s suggestions. http://www.facebook.com/kasheringyourlife
Our mission is this:
We want to help busy people make living life easier by providing education and workshops on meal planning.
We want to promote health by providing two services.
The I-plan service, which means we plan your meals for the month, supply the shopping list and the recipes where needed.
The second service is the I-cook service, where we supply ready cooked, healthy diabetic friendly meals to people who are too busy to cook but would like to eat nutritious meals without the hassle. (Starting soon in the Johannesburg area only)
This competition is open to all new and old followers. COMPETITION ENDS 15 November 2016
There are some disadvantages to envelope budgeting. I am a huge fan of envelope budgeting but, let’s be honest, there are disadvantages as not every system is perfect. 5 Steps to successful Envelope Budgeting Envelope Budgeting- money management for everyone
Here are the four biggest disadvantages which I have found
It can be tough to get everyone on board, especially if they have their own credit cards. The excuses range from it being too dangerous to carry cash, to I need this now and didn’t have the money so I used my card.
This is a constant struggle in my house. My son (AJ) and two younger children are better with it than my husband and my oldest daughter. AJ is naturally good with money and thinks about the cost of almost everything. My younger girls don’t really deal with money a lot as they do get an allowance. My youngest does seem to have got her brother’s money savvy habits.
To get the money to stuff your envelopes, you will need to go to a cash point, whether it is the till point at the supermarket, the ATM or even the banks, and this makes people nervous. You now also have to get home without spending all the money burning a hole in your wallet!
The process sounds simple enough, but what happens when you go to a hypermarket that stocks food, clothes and garden equipment and you buy from all 3 departments? This means that you will need to take money from different envelopes to cover the costs.
South African banking credit services are big on rewards on both your credit card and cheque card. When you use your bank cards to shop, you earn loyalty points but now are paying cash for everything. You may feel like you are losing out.
As time goes by my family and I are getting used to using the envelopes and the disadvantages don’t seem so great.
Why not look into envelope budgeting? Do you use envelope budgeting?
When there is more month than money.
One of the things I didn’t mention about my adventure into weekly planning is a scenario that I had almost forgotten. Never Ever Again!! This common occurrence happens when there is more month than money!
No more money!
Before I started meal planning this was a common occurrence. We would get to the last week of the month, with no money in the bank and very little food in the house, and often ran tight on sugar and milk. It was also common for us to have to scrounge around for petrol money.
Once I started my envelope budgeting, milk money and petrol money were no longer a problem; we also now had some money for fruit and vegetables all the way to the end of the month. It was still touch and go at times but we just made it to the end of the month. Then I began meal planning and suddenly there were even months where there was some money left over!
Once a week is too much
I wrote recently about my experience doing the weekly meal plan idea and how difficult it was having to do a big shop every Sunday, whether I wanted to or not.
The thing I didn’t write about was the budget aspect of this little experiment. I have written about how every time you go into a store it costs you around 10% more than necessary, and that month we really felt the extra costs.
Running on empty
Any left over money that I had been putting away in the envelopes from the previous months disappeared. We didn’t have a choice. Going into the store every single week cost us a fortune. We had both cars running on fumes because we had dipped into the petrol envelopes for grocery money.
By the last week of that month we didn’t even have money for bread! I thankfully had flour and yeast in the cupboard and I dug up the last of the sugar (I only needed 2 teaspoonful’s) and I found an easy bread recipe that use water and margarine instead of oil and didn’t use eggs, which was a good thing as by that stage we didn’t have eggs or oil left and it was still 5 days to pay day! I made my own bread.
I now make the bread daily as everyone loved the taste!
Going shopping every two weeks wasn’t all that much better and money was still extra tight.
Thank goodness we are back to normal and as we reach the end of the month, there is petrol in our cars, food in the cupboard and at least some money to go into the emergency jar! We changed the name from the savings jar to the emergency jar for obvious reasons.
If you have months like this where there is more month than money, maybe you should try envelope budgeting and/or meal planning and see how it works for you.
Tells us what you do when the month lasts longer than the pay check.
Sign up and receive a dinner plan for the week, including recipes and shopping list.
Envelope budgeting is an easy way to create a simple easily manageable plan to monitor your spending. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/2015/07/05/envelope-budgeting/
Every month thousands of South Africans struggle not to over spend. They use apps on their phones, spreadsheets on the computer, yet they find it doesn’t help.
I say well done for trying, now it is time to try something that really works!
Nothing beats cold, hard cash. When the cash is gone, the spending stops!
5 steps to beginning envelope budgeting:
- Before you venture into envelope budgeting, you need to know how much you really have to live on. Once you receive your salary, you MUST pay your regular bills first. Your rent/bond, water and lights, your rates, school/crèche fees, domestic salaries and medical insurance.
Whatever is left after you have paid all the main bills is what you will live on for the rest of the month.
- Choose your envelope categories. Choose categories where you have regular spends, but no fixed times or dates. Also choose ones where you have the most trouble staying on budget.
Here are some examples:-
- Groceries- I do monthly shopping, so I use my envelope for milk, bread, eggs, fruit and veg and a weekly treat, I know exactly how much most of this going to cost, so I only take that amount with me.
- Petrol or transport- whether you own your own car, car pool or catch public transport, you will need money for this. I fill my car at the beginning of the month and then put the amount of money into an envelope for use during the month. If you use public transport then you usually know how many trips you are going to make in a month and the cost, obviously you need a little extra trips on the weekends and travelling.
- Clothing- if you have store cards, it is time to pay them off, putting aside money to pay off these accounts is important. I know this is hard, I have kept my cards and use them twice a year, to buy winter and summer clothes, then I pay them off. I also only have cards that are on a 6 month interest free plan.
- Entertainment – This includes things like going to the movies and family outings. We budget for takeout at the beginning of each month and maybe one large pizza for the middle of the month.
- Gifts – keep track of friends and family birthdays and anniversaries also office parties and year end parties need to be taken into account, while you may not necessarily need to give a gift (see frugal gifting for ideas that won’t cost a fortune) you may need to go out for dinner with them, also the children’s classmates will be having birthdays, what I tried to do was find something reasonable and buy in bulk, since I make jewellery, all girls got watches made with beads in their favourite colours.
The tooth mouse/fairy also needs to leave money every now and then, so it is important to decide early on how much each tooth is worth and keep some money for that.
School outings- I don’t know about you, but our school goes on outing, has fund raisers and other events during the term, usually badly timed NOT to coincide with pay day. Having put aside money means you don’t have to say that your child can’t join in.
Allowances – You and your family need a little fun money, so decide how much.
- Once you have decided on your categories, create and label your envelopes. You can use plain white envelopes or download wonderful ones from Pinterest and other places on the web. I use plain envelopes, with a small income and expense note that I keep inside the envelope. This helps me keep track of where I am spending my money. This also allows me to adjust my budget according to my needs.
- Put away all your cards and learn to spend only cash. Even if you do envelope budgeting for 4 months and then go back to your cards, you will still be more aware of your spending habits. It is important that you only spend cash and do not use any cards. This doesn’t mean you have to take all your envelopes where ever you go. For instance, if you are going grocery shopping, sit down and plan what you need and only take that amount with you. Any change you get goes back into the envelope till next time.
- If there is money left over at the end of each month, you can choose either to keep it in the envelope to use it the next month, use it to pay towards paying off credit cards or other debt, or even put it in a money box or the bank and save it.
Since starting envelope budgeting, the whole family has become more aware of our spending habits and the children are learning about living within their means. Do you envelope budget? How good are you with your budget? Why not share some of your budgeting tips with us.