Planning ahead helps to manage costs and energy levels. If you are an office-bound carer, plan ahead of the takeouts for healthier family meals. If you are a family carer that works from home, a support group helps cultivate the habit of making weekly menu plans.
I wanted to write about preparing budget fast meals but realised I had not yet counted the costs of each ingredient of my recommended meals hence not sure if the recommended meal is ‘budget’ or not..haha so…must do homework first then I share 🙂
This blog entry is about how I started menu planning recently, more regularly, and am very glad I kept at it because now after 4 weeks I am beginning to see the benefits.
I attended a workshop on health at a non-profit organisation recently.
At the Health workshop, the participants had to plan a healthy menu based on our food vision chart (pic below) – this meant that we needed to consider the kind of food we ‘saw’ ourselves eating many years down the road.
Into my fourth week, I felt VERY VERY pleased as I was beginning to develop a habit of planning healthy family menus (*grin*). I had tried to plan weekly family menus before but it never lasted beyond two weeks as ‘something’ would always crop up to disrupt it.
As a result of the course, I have realised the Advantages Of Menu Planning:
1) It forces me to shop from my pantry first before running out to the nearest supermarket or mini-mart to buy any ingredient
So, if I spot a can of tuna lying around in my cupboard pantry, tuna sandwiches are in order. If there is a little can of tomato puree, I can make my own tomato sauce for spaghetti.
2) It also makes me use all the recipes I have been ‘storing’! I had been ‘saving’ all the healthy, thrifty, tasty recipes. If it had not been for menu planning, I would have just kept ‘collecting’ but never tried any of them!
3) A menu plan gives me peace of mind as I know what I will be cooking for the rest of the week! No need to ‘sang nao jing’ ( =angst) every day what to cook!
4) The most significant advantage to me is it lowers my food costs$$.
For example, any ingredient leftovers after cooking one dish can be used to whip up another one or two other dishes.
As I plan menus weekly, and not in a random way like before, I am able to optimise each ingredient and stretch my household budget.
Lesley Cooper at www.thriftylesley.com calls it meal planning ‘centred on’ a few ingredients and ‘building up’ from it some “budget-savvy” meals.
5)I only need to cook once or twice a week!
As I know the menu for the week beforehand, I can prepare all my ingredients beforehand and just cook once or twice a week. Conserve personal energy, save time, save on electricity and water bill!
As an example, let’s say after marketing on Monday, I will come home with all the ingredients and prepare three or four days of meals and store them in the fridge. (Therefore, I only switch on the appliances once, do all meal preparation at once and wash dishes just once).
I do consider the reheating in the microwave and slightly undercook my pasta or green vegetables so they still taste and look good after being reheated.
I tell my family they must finish the soup or gravy so that that they take in all the dish has to offer no need to worry about a lot of salt or other artificial seasonings as it is cooked at home and as far as possible I manage the use of herbs or spices or just allow the ingredients to flavour the entire dish.
The next challenging bit is to figure out the Meals to Include in the menu plan.
1) Consider your family’s favourite foods
By now, there will be some ‘Family Favourites’ that your family will eat every week – and finish all within minutes! There can be 3 to 4 boxes packed in the fridge -within two days or even one, those boxes vanish – that type of meal!
What if you still don’t know what your family’s favourite meal is (because they will eat whatever you cook for them)or their favourite meal is instant noodles with some meat and greens? (because it is fast to whip up and tasty!)
Then you must have a goal!
For several years, I had wanted to figure out how to EASILY cook HEALTHY, DELICIOUS, INEXPENSIVE meals my family would in an instant gobble up.
Once you clarify your goal, and your goals align with their likes, you’ve got a ‘family favourite’!
So..keep cooking..keep working towards the type of family meals you would want to cook for everyone and you will uncover that ‘family favourite’^^
2) Cook different themed meals during the week
An example of how this is done is taken from moneysavingmum.com
Her themes go like this:
Monday-pasta; Tuesday-soup salad and /or sandwiches; Wednesday-stir fry; Thursday-crockpot; Friday-pizza; Saturday-something new; Sunday-something easy
Mine would probably look like this:
Monday-fried rice; Tuesday-new dish; Wednesday-curry; Thursday-noodles/pasta; Friday-salmon/fish; Sat-leftovers; Sun-hawker favourites (buy food from hawker centre..yum yum)
I only recently gleaned wisdom of what my family’s themed meals might be after scrutinising the most recent four weeks’ menu plans I had been doing for the Health Course’s homework….wah eureka!! After so many years of pondering this, overnight it becomes crystal clear! Hah! Good things come to those who wait – I really believe that!
For this tip, there are some things to note.
The themes/categories don’t change but the days might vary: it’s really good to know these groupings so that you don’t get stuck during menu planning and have a guideline to follow.
Also, when you are on the lookout for new recipes, you can directly search this category and increase the variety.
Lastly, you also know how to group your recipes in the ring file (or whichever ‘soft copy’ organising method you use to store your recipes)
WILL I CONTINUE MENU PLANNING AFTER MY HEALTH COURSE COMES TO AN END?
Yes, I will because it does eliminate the daily hassle of deciding what to cook and I have saved a tidy sum from my food budget at end of the month just by being more intentional in my marketing (I cut out unnecessary purchases) and shop for ingredients from my pantry first!