Winging it with a meal plan!

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.

My Meal Plan
Meal plans don’t have to have a recipe

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?).

Singles

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.

College/Varsity

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.

Instant noodles
Buying instant noodles and dressing them up with fresh ingredients is a great way to budget your food bills

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?

10 reason to grocery shop online

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.

Shopping times
Online shopping is 24/7

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.

pyjama-shopping
Image courtesy of CSN Media.

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.

Shopping with children
Image from http://whattheflicka.com/tag/shopping-101-guide/

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?

Meal and Menu Planning Made Easy 2

Just in time for Pesach! I am hosting another 3 hour workshop, to help you learn to make meal and menu planning of your weekly and monthly menus easier. Join us in this interactive and fun workshop. You will be amazed how your life can change.

A sample of my monthly menu
A sample of my monthly menu meal planning

Tools, tips and tricks on how to create a workable family meal planner and including menu ideas and how they can save your sanity and your money!
Includes tips on planning for diets, fussy eaters and medical conditions such as diabetes.

Meal and menu planning will definitely help make your life easier!  In the year I have been following my own advice, my grocery bill dropped by 10%, my food wastage is almost nothing, and hubby has lost 7 kg and I have lost 5 kg without even trying! You can too.

Included as part of the package, is a magnetic board, along with that is the monthly  and weekly menu planner and a comprehensive grocery list, all reusable and laminated. There are also items that are only available to attendees.
Seating is limited, and booking is essential.

4 April 2016
Cost is R 350.00 per person
Tea will be served
19:00-22:00
Venue: Elphin Lodge clubhouse, 222 Modderfontein Road, Rietfontein

Looking forward to sharing  with everyone. Booking form below.

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Conned by the special

Every week the Local Area newspaper is filled with stores holding ‘special’ deals.  I read through them all to see what is on special, and this week I realised I am quite lucky, being kosher means I often can’t buy what’s on special!

Specials where ever you go
Special deals where ever you go

Why am I lucky? Well, it’s easy!  How many of you go to the shop specifically because of the special deals on offer? When you get there, do you only buy the special or do you land up buying other things too?

Are you able to only buy the specials or do you buy extra?
Are you able to only buy what’s on special or do you buy extra?

Here is what you need to ask yourself. Do I really need this or am I buying it because it is on special?

Those bulk specials at the fruit and veg shop, how much of that will you be throwing away because it is too much for your family?

If you are going to that particular shop only for the sale item, how much will it cost you in petrol, especially now that it has gone up?

I know of someone who would travel to a new store opening just for their specials, sometimes the new store was 20km away!

How far will you go for an opening special?
How far will you go for a opening special?

Now that you have bought your bulk specials, where do you keep them? Do you know that hair care and beauty products have expiry dates? http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/index.php/2015/07/22/how-old-is-it-2/

Did you know that cosmetics expire? Be careful when buying special deals.
Did you know that cosmetics expire? Be careful when buying special deals.

The only time it really pays to go for these specials is when it comes to baby products like nappies (diapers) wet wipes and, maybe formula (watch that expiry date) .

The bulk fruit and veg are often only worthwhile if you are going prep and freeze (hope you have the space) or if you are having a big function.

One way to benefit from bulk specials is to share with a friend.  Get together and work out what you need and then you can split the petrol and the produce!

vegetable specials
Can you use all this? Does this special appeal to you?

So, the next time you see the specials in the paper, or on TV, or on any other media platform, think carefully, is it really going to save you money or is it actually going to cost you money?

10 Things you need to know when drawing up a menu plan

I have been ‘meal-planning’ on and off for about 6 months, but only in the last 3 months have I been doing it properly.

In that time, our food bill, with the help of online shopping, is down about 15%. The other bonus seems to be my nemesis, the ever shrinking waist bands of my skirts! I noticed this week that certain skirts which have previously been a little um ……. snug, suddenly close easier and allow me to actually take a breath. So I took a deep breath and got on the scale and I was down 4 kg. (Happy dance done here)

I am not on any kind of diet at all, I don’t really calorie count, my maths sucks!

I am more aware of what I eat, yet there is a box of biscuits in my drawer at work but they will last the whole month.

How does this menu plan thing work?  I follow a blog called Lose Weight While Eating by Audrey Johns, because, well I need to lose weight and I like to eat.  What she suggested was planning your meals and calorie counting. Okay she also suggested detoxing and other things I am not about to do, like drink plain water. URGH.

Her meal plan idea, while not easy has made life a lot smoother on the home front.

What are the 10 things you need to know?

10

  1. What do you have in the cupboard? Taking an inventory and “shopping” in your cupboard prevents you wasting food and also allows you to spend less. If you know what you have, you can plan your meals around the inventory                                                                                                    .shopping cart
  2. How many meals do you need? Are you planning for all 3 meals a day or just one? I started with school lunches – this saves time if you prepare your lunches early in the morning.  Also, if you make the lunches the night before, you aren’t usually hungry as you’ve already had supper. The downside of this is that, after you have eaten, you struggle to think of interesting lunches to make!
  3. What does your family like? Ask your family for input. What are their favourite meals? For us it was pasta, mince, soups, chicken, meat and tuna. Make at least one or two new recipes per month and get everyone to vote if you should make it again or throw the recipe away. voting
  4. Who is doing the cooking? In my house it is me, except for lunch. For the after school lunches I choose things that need assembling or adding water, but don’t require actual cooking, e.g. cream style sweetcorn on toast, baked beans on toast, tin or packet soup and toasted sandwiches. My domestic used to do all the cooking. The food was edible but we always had leftover’s which no one  would eat, or she made too much and the leftover’s would sit in the fridge and grow mould and we would waste food. I changed jobs in March from 12 hour shifts where I would leave at 6:30 am and get home at 7:30pm. On my days off I would be too tired to do anything. My new job is 8:30 to when the last patient leaves, I am never home later than 6 pm and on those days I make the quickest meals I know. So, with these new working hours I took over the cooking. Since that night we have barely had leftovers and if there are they are eaten the next day. I am a pretty good cook, mostly because I enjoy cooking and also I have the luck to have a family that will eat almost anything (P.S. mom, everybody eats mushrooms now!), also I make a lot less food and nobody starves and there is usually enough for seconds. Money saved! Keep the chef in mind when menu planning.                                                           apron
  5. Will there be time to cook? What are your children’s extra murals like? Tuesday is the one night where everybody has something on and all at the same time, in different parts of Joburg. Then on a Wednesday night I teach a beading class. On those two days I make quick meals. Last night was Wednesday so my menu was, soup (from a tin) and Nussbaum’s chicken Vienna sausages. I like to leave myself a minimum of an hour for making supper as this allows for distractions, because somebody is bound to need you when you are cooking. With a plan, if you are doing the cooking, you can get your domestic to be sous chef and do the dicing and slicing and even the peeling earlier in the day, then you put the meal together. If you have a busy afternoon and making supper is going to be rushed and stressful, then your slow cooker is your best friend, throw everything in the pot before work and turn it on low, in 6-8 hours your supper is ready. I have posted some good slow cooker meals in the recipe section of the blog. There are also very easy quick 20 minute recipes. Also you can par cook your food in the microwave and finish it off in the oven or on the stove as needed. (Saves time and money)                                         egg timer
  6. Keep a record of recipes. Keep a record of the recipes that your family like, so that you can refer back to them. Also keep a list of the books and pages the recipes you have tried out in various cookbooks page are from. I have about 100 books and sometimes I will want a recipe I remember that everyone enjoyed, If I haven’t made a note, I have to pull out and search, sometimes in vain.                                                                               recipe folder
  7. Get a calendar get yourself year planner, calendar or diary. Plan your menu’s on this.  If you’re not the one cooking, sit down with the chef and plan together. I plan for the month and write it in my notebook but only write up one week’s worth of meals on the kitchen menu. Looking at a calendar, you are able to see what you have made and how often. You need to avoid too many repeats. My kids love mince, so every  week I make a different recipe with mince, e.g. Sloppy Joes, spaghetti bolognaise, meatballs  cottage pie, tacos,  chilli con carne  without the chilli  etc. On the calendar you can then also mark what recipes the family liked and which they didn’t. You can make something more than once a month especially if you have fussy eaters and you find something they like.         calendar
  8. Shopping.  This is why I do a monthly plan. Once I have decided what to make, I do my shopping list. One list for non- perishables and freezer goods and one list for the fresh ingredients (this will be either a weekly or 2 weekly shop).  With your shopping list, shop in your cupboard first and everything on your list that is in your cupboard, cross off. Money and time saved.                                                                                                shopping list
  9. Now to lose weight with a menu plan you can plan your diet if you are dieting Meal planning is one of the things that makes weight watchers and similar weight loss plans so successful. You can work out your menu according to calories. Going out for lunch, no problem. Just plan a low calorie supper to compensate.                     loose weight
  10. Enjoy.  You’ve worked hard, you have your recipes saved, you can use your previous weeks or month recipes. Therefore, next month is easier. The recipes the family liked most get put in first on the plan for next month, then add your 2 new recipes for that month. If something is popular with family, make it more often.

I have to admit to struggling to keep track of my inventory during the month but I don’t worry too much. Keeping your shopping list will give you an idea of what you have, and what you didn’t use during the month, so these ingredients should still be in your cupboard.  It is your starting inventory that is the most important!

Do you do menu planning?  If you start menu planning, let me know what is working for you and what isn’t. I really love to get your feedback