We all seem to love a good domestic post here on Rock My Style, (probably me most of all!). And although Lauren posted last year about how she and James plan their meals, I thought it worth revisiting the topic from our perspective. As some of you will know, Gavin and I are trying to reduce our plastic waste and alongside that, we’re trying to reduce our food waste (and save a bit of money) too.
According to Love Food Hate Waste, the average UK household throws away 17% of the food they buy. SEVENTEEN PERCENT. It’s the equivalent of £70 per month of food for a family of four. And most of that food is entirely edible and ends up in the landfill rather than composted. Fun fact… Did you know that it takes 25 years for a head of lettuce to decompose in landfill? I used to think that food just rotted away in there and perhaps aided in everything else degrading. But no. The conditions of landfill gases tend to preserve food waste. The reality of that is quite harrowing.
Another reason for our meal planning habit is the pennies saved. We have quite a few house projects planned for this year (as well as escaping off to sunnier climes) so we’re cutting our cloth, so to speak, to make those financial goals happen. And groceries are a pretty easy way to save cash. Having shopped for many months on a whim and shopped for many months on a meal plan, I can safely say that the bottom line difference is eye-watering.
With all that said, let me show you the actual process I use for meal planning. At first glance, it seems a bit involved. But actually, it’s not as time-consuming as it looks. We tend to meal plan together as a family during dinner on a Thursday as we’re all sat at the table anyway. It gives my husband a chance to input whatever he would like for dinners/lunches and it gives the 5-year-old a chance to chime in with his new found hatred for red peppers.
Shop Your Kitchen
The first thing I do is open up the fridge/freezer and have a look at what needs to be used up. I take a scrap of paper and jot down a super quick inventory of anything that can be salvaged or frozen food I’d like to eat soon. Bendy spring onions. Half a jar of pesto. 3 eggs. Leftover potatoes. Unopened pack of sausages. Frozen salmon fillets. This allows us to tackle any food before it turns and keeps freezer food rotating. Next, I open the cupboards and do the same. Rice, lentils, porridge oats etc. What I’m left with is a list of ingredients that can be turned into (or form a part of) meals. And once you see it written down, it’s pretty easy to see how you could use up the random eggs/carrots/cheese you have lying about. A lot of the list ends up being food that would otherwise go to waste.
We have a bit of a routine that means I will often make a big pot of soup on a Sunday (different each week) that serves as lunches during the week. I also bake something with the kids on a Sunday that serves as the treat for the week (last week it was frozen banoffee cheesecake- yum!). And we will have some kind of roast on a Sunday that leaves leftovers for another meal during the week (favourites are leftover chicken making curry, leftover beef making Korean fried rice, leftover potatoes get thrown in a frittata etc.). All of this gets taken into account when we meal plan.
Plan Your Meals
With breakfasts being pretty repetitive (I shared a few ideas in this post) and lunches usually either soup or leftovers, the main focus of the meal plan are always the dinners for the week. As I said, while we’re all at the table on a Thursday night I whip out my little meal planner pad (I love this thing more than is normal) and we start to map out the upcoming week of meals. Firstly, we take into account any evenings one of us is out or needs a quick turn around after work. Then I’ll look at the list of things needing used up that can serve as a basis for meals. Bendy spring onions – chuck in with mashed potato or tuna. Half a jar of pesto – Pasta goes on the menu. 3 eggs – Scrambled eggs for breakfast. Leftover potatoes – Can get roasted for a side. Unopened pack of sausages – Freeze them. Frozen salmon fillets – Asian salmon dinner. Then we pick a soup, sweet and roast for the week and fill in any dinner gaps with things we fancy. After this, we’re left with a shopping list that is dramatically smaller than if we had just written down everything we either wanted to eat or usually buy.
Shop The Deals
I always keep a bit of grocery budget leftover so that when I’m out shopping, if strawberries are cheap and in season or our favourite tea is half price, I can buy a couple of boxes. If there’s a sale on meat, I can snap it up and freeze it. These things then often form the basis of the meals for next week. So I’m always getting a good deal and it keeps our diet varied.
And that’s it! A bit of preparation and a resourceful mindset and you can really make a difference in more ways than just your bank balance.
Do you find yourself wasting much food? Or do you do what you can to stop tipping food into the bin? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Before I go, some resources you might find useful. I mentioned them earlier but the Love Food Hate Waste campaign website is full of excellent ideas and resources. I love both the Save With Jamie and Jamie’s 5 Ingredients books for simple meal inspiration. Hugh Fearnley from River Cottage fame does a great book called Love Your Leftovers: Recipes for the resourceful cook. And our very own Becky wrote a fab post a while back on keeping food fresh.