The Art of Meal Planning

This is an area that I’m lacking in when it comes to planning for a week worth of eating when it comes to dinner time.

I have an idea of what foods are in the pantry, freezer and fridge. I know the combinations that can do from those ingredients. I just don’t always know until the hour before dinner is to happen what I am going to make for Norman and me.

When it comes to my dad, I almost always know what I am going to make him. Why? Simple I tend to ask him in the morning if he’d like A, B, C or D for dinner and go from there for him. He doesn’t like a lot of things so his choices are Pork or Beef served with peas and carrots and potato. Or he’ll get the option of Beef Pie and Veggies, Fish and Chips or Pineapple Chicken with Rice and Veggies.

When it comes to Norman and me, we like a variety in our meals when at all possible though can and will eat same old if needed.

Pantry Staples are:

    Rice,
    Lentils,
    Diced Tomatoes,
    Rice Pasta/Noodles,
    Pasta Sauce,
    Chickpeas
    Sugar
    Cooking Oil
    GF Flour Mixes
    Flax Seeds
    Baking Powder
    Vinegar
    Basic Herbs and Spices

Fridge Stables are:

    Vegan Butter
    Vegan Mayo
    Mustard
    Pickles
    Catchup

I’ve been doing a decent amount of reading of late. Been going through various cooking on budget books. Like the budgeting books they all say you need to create a Meal Plan if you wish to keep costs down. This is something that I’ve never actually done in my life and I don’t remember my mom doing it either growing up.

They all agree that you need to…

    Take a few minutes and plan ahead
    Look through your recipes and pick the recipes based on the ingredients you have
    Make a list of items you don’t have but might need

Having recipes and an ingredient list when shopping can be a powerful tool for staying on budget. I know this because it’s how I shop in general, though maybe not with a itemized list but a mental list nun the less.

The notion of Left Overs, yes I know they are a good thing. I’ve gotten into the habit of only making as much as I know we’ll eat. Unless I’m planning on having it for lunch or another dinner. Yet all the things I’m reading say that you should make more than you’ll eat in a sitting. I’m not buying this in general as I’ve seen how wasteful it can become.

The books suggest shopping around for deals, this I’ve always done, it’s how my mom taught me to shop. Plus many mention shopping at local ethnic markets for deals on staples and the like. This is something that I’ve been doing for years for various reasons outside of the budget.

One thing I also fail at in general is portion control, not that what I serve us is large but that I tend to lump it together. As in I’ll put it on a single plate or bowl and just get a fork between the two of us to eat it. Yes, I know NOT the best idea, but it’s something I’ve gotten into the habit of doing since we got married.

Knowing what freezes good, alright and not great can go a long way to keeping the budget down, some items are:

Freeze well

    Bread (though some better than others)
    Meat, Fish, Poultry
    Cheese
    Butter
    Non-Dairy Sauces
    Booked Beans
    Cooked Rice
    Casseroles (depending on ingredients it various)

Freeze alright

    Hearty Vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, Onions, celery)
    Fresh Herbs (there is a way that works that involves oil and ice cube trays)
    Pasta
    Milk (never had this turn out alright)
    Cooked Egg
    Fried Food

Doesn’t Freeze Well

    Cream-Based Sauces
    Items that contain Gelatin or Cornstarch
    HIgh-Water content veggies (like lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes)
    Whipped Egg Whites
    Mayo or Mayo Based sauces and Dressings

Knowing what freezes well does come in handy for stocking up plus if you do make enough for leftovers you know how you can store it (since freezing tends to help extend how long you can have it around for).

Well take care everyone, post more as time does allow for it.

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