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?
How does meal planning fit in with get sorted?
We’re getting sorted is all about clearing out the junk however, one of the most important ways to prevent the clutter from returning is to develop new habits.
This week we look at meal planning, this topic is one of my favourites. I have an entire blog about it. I offer online support on the topic. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/booking-form/
Try this little exercise, write down everything you think you need to buy for your next 7 meals. Now go and look in your kitchen, the fridge, the freezer and the cupboards. What was on your list that you already have? Did you have more than one? Are there things that you had forgotten you even have?
Meal planning is about more than just knowing what is in your cupboard, it is about saving money, saving time and saving your sanity.
Planning your meals in advance is about taking control of another aspect of our homes and lives.
You don’t need a recipe book to meal plan, it is not set in stone.
What to cook?
Next week we will be sorting through our recipe books. Meal planning will give you a better way to know what cook books you want to keep close at hand, which ones you want out of the way and which you will be getting rid of?
An important part of meal planning is knowing what the family enjoys eating. If you don’t think meal planning is for you, why not try something simple? Take a piece of paper and write down everything you know your family loves to eat. You now have the start of your voyage into meal planning.
The most organised space in my house is my kitchen. Meal planning also renewed my love of cooking.
Gone are the days of coming home tired, opening a cupboard or fridge looking inside and closing it, then putting pasta on the stove, because it is easy and I am too tired to think or I forgot to take something out the freezer.
Now, even though I still often come home tired, meat is ready to cook because I took it out in the morning to defrost. I didn’t have to think about supper, my thinking was done when I had energy and put the meal on the menu.
There are still days where I look at the meal plan and think, ‘I don’t feel like this today’ and we land up with pasta of some type.
I am more likely to cook what has been defrosted than not as I don’t want to waste it and let it go off, so the family is eating much healthier Take out more than once a month is not in my budget.
Do you meal plan or do you wing it?
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?
One of the aspects of meal planning that people often find difficult, is recipe searches and looking for ideas on what to make.
Modern technology can help you out here.
There are a lot of meal planning apps out there for you to use, some are paid for and some are free. All are useful in one degree or another.
Today I am writing about some apps that I have tried out either paid or free.
The first one is on my computer, not my phone
Plan to Eat
This is a click and drag app that allows you to plan 3 meals a day plus snacks. I use the snack option to plan school lunches. It also creates your shopping list.
The only problem I really have is that they only have American stores listed. Obviously they can’t list from the entire wold. They do have a blog that goes along with the app, so that you can read more on meal planning.
One of the things that I have had to do is create ‘recipes’ for school lunches which enables me to click and drag, otherwise you need to type in the ingredients for every single item in order for you to generate an accurate shopping list.
You can share you recipes with friends who are using the app or keep them private if you wish. You can also import and save recipes from your favorite websites (except mine for some reason). Not to worry though most of my recipes are on my profile and are accessible to the public.
The app is $5 a month and for me it is totally worth it. https://www.plantoeat.com/
The next app works on both your android phone and computer. This is a free app
You need to create a profile on the computer and then sync it to your phone to use it.
The biggest problem I had was that I could only import a recipe from one of their supported sites. This meant that any recipe that was from another site had to be manually inputted.
Once you have your recipes uploaded you can then plan your monthly meals and the app generates your shopping list. Since the app syncs to your phone, you will always have your shopping list with you.
My favorite feature is that if you are having a special event or gathering, this app allows you to plan the menu, starters, mains and desserts, once again creating your shopping list. https://www.pepperplate.com
This phone app is great for converting your recipes from Imperial (US) to metric (most of the rest of the world), whether it is fluid or weight that needs converting. It is also great for when you need to use a recipe that feeds for but there are six of you or only 2 of you.
I have only been using it for a short time but I have found it very useful. You can find it in the play store on your phone
There are two other apps that have good reviews but I cannot test them out as they are only available to iOS phones via the iTunes store and aren’t supported by android.
This app is apparently more of an inventory app than a meal planner app. I love the idea of having an inventory of my kitchen on my phone. You would avoid buying something you already have. Found on iTunes
This is the second iOS app that I found which had great reviews. It is apparently a combination of Pepperplate and Cloud-Freezer. It takes time to set up, but it is apparently worth the effort. Found on iTunes
Disclaimer: I have not been paid to review any of these apps.
I would love to hear if you are using a meal planning app, which is it and what you like about it.
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?
How often can you answer the question “what’s for dinner?” when you haven’t even started? If you are a meal planner, this should not be a problem at all.
Meal planning is not going to stop the question, it is just going to give you the ability to answer.
Planning for dinner
I have been meal planning for a while now and I even write the weekly plan on the board in the kitchen and, yet, invariably I still get asked ‘what’s for dinner?’ by at least on family member on an almost daily basis.
Meal planning boards
My family know that I update the board every Sunday and that it not only has what’s for dinner but also, what the school lunches are for the week and what the lunch when they get home is going to be and yet they still ask.
In the past the answer was usually, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it yet’ or ‘it depends on what we have in the cupboard/fridge/freezer’. Life is so much easier on all of us now that we know what will be served.
It is not always so easy though as with a family of 6 there are times where at least one or more is not happy with the option of what’s for dinner.
It’s a family decision
Since I included my family in the meal planning decision when I first started and got them to tell me what they would really like to eat, I often try new recipes which the family then votes to decide if we have this again or not. This way everyone gets to eat at least on meal a week that they really like.
I do have some standard meals that I have every week and month, such as spaghetti bolognaise, spaghetti and meatballs, tuna/vegetable lasagne, cottage pie, tacos, sloppy Joe’s, chicken stir fry and every now and then I cave in and add probably the easiest recipe ever – spaghetti, tomato sauce, cheese and tuna. This is one of my children’s favourite meals.
I also us a template to help with the meal planning. this tells me what types of meals I am making on a particular day i.e. fish, meat, chicken, mince, vegan/vegetarian.
Do you know what’s for dinner in your home this week?
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
Meal planning for couples and singles is possible!
It won’t work for me
I often hear people say that they don’t think meal planning is going to work for them. They are only cooking for themselves, or it’s just the two of them, so it’s not worth it.
I actually think meal planning would work better for them in some ways, than for a large family.
Not only would it save money! It would also be very easy to have nights where you won’t have to cook at all and are still able to eat a good healthy meal.
Bulk cooking for 2
Bulk cooking for couples and single people is very easy. Most recipes are enough for four people, which means you always have left overs. If you cook every night for 5 nights then you will have enough meals for 2 people for the next week or for one person for 2 weeks!
A suggestion of mine would be to cook only the main ingredients, like mince, for instance. Cook up 500 g and then portion it up and put the labelled portions into the freezer. That way you can make pasta or mash potato, a portion of frozen vegetables and just add a portion of cooked mince.
I remember the days before I got married when I was working 12 hour shifts as a nurse and the last thing I wanted was to come home and still have to cook! I ate a lot of unhealthy meals at the time.
Here are 6 steps to make it work
- Find recipes that feed 4 or more people. Each recipe then is enough for 2 or 4 meals.
- Know which foods freeze well and which don’t. Starchy vegetables like potato and butternut need to be partly cooked before freezing.
- If you are feeling energetic, why not make most of the meals on a weekend and then you are free after work for the rest of the week. Just reheat and eat.
- Take the food out of the freezer the night before and put it in the fridge to defrost. This is important as you would like your food properly defrosted. Leaving it out to defrost on a counter the morning before work, to eat that night, could be dangerous as bacteria can grow and give you food poisoning. If you have a microwave, you can defrost and heat all at once, so you can decide that night what you want to eat. Having a variety of frozen meals gives you choices.
- Buy disposable but reusable containers in different sizes, these containers stack well in small freezer spaces and cost less than more expensive food storage systems.
- Always label the food and the date before you put it in the freezer so that you can see what you have stored away.
Meal planning allows you to save time and money. It gives you the opportunity to eat healthily and follow eating plans on practically any diet you want.
Why not give it a try?