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I love meal planning! It is something I started doing at the start of this year when I realised that our grocery spending was out of control and so was our food waste. I had started doing a regular week shop online through Tesco just before my youngest was born. But every week I was realising that I was ordering the same stuff and the same quantities of stuff without regard to what was being consumed and what was left.
Not only were we wasting food and money but we were completely stuck in the “Spaghetti Bolognese and Pesto Pasta” food rut. We were flip-flopping between these two meals with some other extravagances like steak thrown in to break the monotony. With the smallest member of our family about to start her journey into solid food we began meal planning in January 2018.
A dietary shake up
In April/May I had a minor (I made it far worse than it was) health scare and decided to take back control of my health. I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in November 2013 and have been lactose intolerant even longer, possibly 13 years or more. However, I was having recurring bowel problems and, long story, short there’s nothing really wrong with me, but I do have IBS. A doctor I have never met before told me over the phone to try a low FODMAP diet (don’t ask me what it stands for) and I did. To say that it changed my life might be an overstatement, but it is up there with having as drastic an effect as when I removed gluten from my diet.
Meal planning implications
So here is a list of food that I now don’t eat:
Gluten (wheat, barley, rye)
Lactose (dairy products)
Peas, beans and lentils
And there’s probably more. Now try and think of meals that contain none of these things. It is quite difficult. Naturally, this had implications on our meal planning and variety dropped significantly in the first couple of weeks. Gradually we are adapting recipes and introducing new ideas which brings me hope that I might be able to eat some of my favourite foods again.
The food budget
The monthly food budget is £350. This breakdowns into £80 a week with a bit left for anything I forget. This includes things like toiletries, personal products and cleaning supplies. It does not cover takeaways and eating out as these are budgeted for separately. When shopping, my aim is to come in under £80, but sometimes it does not go to plan. When this happens I will try to make sure that the next week costs a bit less. There always seems to be one week when we run out of all the things that I usually buy in bulk such as rice and peanut butter so have to pay out for these all at once. Therefore I make it a priority to spread the cost of these items over the following week’s budget.
Where to shop
I shop at Tesco. I am aware that this is not the cheapest place to shop and it is on my agenda to review this and try to shop elsewhere. With many dietary restrictions it is hard to shop for new products as you need to spend time checking the ingredients to ensure they are safe to eat. Hence laziness creeps in and I find myself returning to Tesco where I know what I can and can’t eat at a quick glance.
I do however always order my food shop online. This has proven itself to be a great way to keep spending in check. The reasons for this are:
- I can keep a check on my total spend as I go. Seeing the price of your shopping go up allows to you to plan future choices accordingly. If I think that I have spent a bit too much I will edit my shopping to contain cheaper alternatives.
- I can compare food by price per quantity. Supermarkets are designed to make you spend more money. They have various offers that are intended to make you buy more stuff. I don’t need this in my life so I shop online and ensure that I get the cheapest price for the amount of food I am buying. Sometimes this means that I end up buying more of something than I need. If this is the case I make plans to freeze/store it and use it the following week.
- I am not swayed by emotions, hunger or my children. I avoid shops at all costs. Temptation is everywhere and if I’m tired or hungry I am so easily persuaded to part with my beloved cash. My children suffer from this even more than me. My eldest will want something just because she has seen it. Shopping online avoids some of that temptation and I can control when I do it. Timing this carefully means that I pick a time when I am happy and well-fed.
The week ahead
We have a slightly unusual week this week. It is the summer holidays so that means that I’m off work and my eldest has no nursery. It does mean that my husband has upped his hours so is working full time this week. On top of that we have my parents coming to stay Saturday night so they will need to be catered for too. The reason for their visit is that they are babysitting the kids whilst I participate in my first running race. Therefore I’m planning celebratory bacon sandwiches afterwards.
Normality continues in the form of our chips night on a Friday where we have “something and chips”. This just gives us a bit of a break from cooking and we can just shove everything in the oven and hope for the best. I also cook a whole chicken once a week. We eat most of this as a roast midweek but I aim to spread it out over a couple of meals. This week I will be using the leftover chicken to make chicken fried rice and will make stock to use in the parsnip soup.
This week’s meals
We all have different wants when it comes to breakfast. My children will mostly eat cereals, toast, fruit and yoghurt with a milk drink. My husband has granola and yoghurt, and I: oats and yoghurt. As a treat we may have pancakes or eggy bread when Daddy is off work.
Jacket potatoes with beans and cheese
Cheese and tomato pasta bake (leftovers)
Ham and cheese pinwheels (swap for gluten free pastry)
Cheese and tomato pasta bake
Chicken fried rice
Ham, egg and chips
Satay Chicken Skewers (an adaptation on this)
This week’s spend
A couple of weeks ago the food bill was high so the last two weeks I’ve made sure that I come in well under budget. This week I spent £67.49 which was all food aside from a tube of toothpaste which cost 50p.
Plans for next week
Things should be a bit more “normal” next week as we have no visitors or extraordinary plans. However, I think that some bulk-bought items are running low so these may have to be purchased next week. But there is no reason why we shouldn’t come in under £80 again.
How do you plan your meals? Do you just buy what you fancy or do you think in advance?
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.