A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how much easier life is when I menu plan. It helps keep me on budget, stops mindless eating (mostly), also looking at my diet and diary in as whole each week, helps with healthy choices in what’s going in my mouth and what my social life is (or isn’t) like.
There are lots of different ways of doing it and I would imagine that it’s harder for couples and families to do but this is how I do it. Menu planning and food shopping goes firmly into the ‘housework’ list and I like to do most of the houseworky stuff on the weekend, I know some people like to spread out through the week and not touch it on the weekend but I require most of my energy for the daily drudge that is going to work on the tube each morning and then working. During the week, I like my my evenings to consist of dinner and leisure. I do wash up, make the bed and some basic stuff, but I like to get the bulk of household duties done by Sunday.
The way that has worked out is that I generally have a day for myself and a day for the house over the weekend and that includes grocery shopping. This is a very long winded way of saying that my menu plan goes from Saturday lunch to Saturday breakfast because in an ideal world I would clean the flat and do the shopping on Saturday mornings. Obviously that doesn’t always happen but it’s the aim.
2013 is also my year of fiscal responsibility, so I have a fairly tight budget after all bills are paid of about £200 a month (it isn’t anything like poverty but it’s tight enough that I have to be aware of what I’m spending or it could all go horribly wrong) so I like the weekly shop to be somewhere between £15 to £25 (and the nearer to under £20 I can get the better!)
Anyway, back to how I do it. Normally on Thursday or Friday, I’ll have a look at my diary for the next week. The first thing I do is mark when I’m out and therefore don’t need to feed myself. Then I’ll check the fridge and freezer for what’s in there and what needs to be eaten. I also keep a list of the basic things that I need to buy because I’m running low, which last week included yeast, toothpaste, baby wipes and rubber gloves. That way I can factor the cost of those things into my plan. If there’s veg in the fridge that is on the turn, I’ll make soup and normally that’s fills two to three of my ‘soup’ pots, so Saturday lunch and a weeknight will go down as soup with another tub going in the freezer. Friday nights at home are pizza nights. I try and have easy breakfasts for the week and more elaborate ones on the weekend. This is also the point that I’ll have a flick through recipe books or recipes that I’ve printed from a blog for some inspiration.
Then I fill in the blanks decided what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As I fill it in, I make a list of what I’ll need to buy and what I’ll need to do to make it happen through each day in the week, with the bulk of the prep work being done on the weekend (the ever present applesauce, hummus etc).
Then I review it, cost it out and make any changes to it, so I might have the bean stew on the list and that will do two nights in different forms, if I’m having the black bean and corn tacos, then I’ll eat the leftovers for lunch. I might decide based on what’s happening at work that actually I’m not going to have the energy to cook, so that will be a soup night and so on. I’ll also count up the fruit and veg content in each day and adjust to make sure I’ve had at least my five a day. I try to plan a couple of meals from the freezer so that if plans change, there isn’t food sitting in the fridge rotting!
I go on the Sainsburys website and cost the shop. That way I’ll have an idea of what it’ll cost. At that stage if it’s too expensive, I’ll revise it again.
Then comes the shopping. There’s a Sainsburys, a Lidl, a Waitrose and a small market stall in West Ealing. I normally start at Lidl and see what’s there that’s on my list and looks ok, I don’t like their baby tomatoes and their Greek yogurt is Greek style and has starch in it to make it thicker so I avoid those. I don’t buy much meat anyway but I do buy that from Sainsburys, ’cause I like to buy the Freedom Foods stuff, so mostly it’s fruit, vegetables and chocolate! I then go to Sainsburys and get the rest. I get herbs and spices from one of the local shops because they’re much cheaper there. The only deviation is if Sainsburys’ bags of peppers have green ones in. I don’t like them and I will not buy something I won’t eat, so I’ll head to M&S because their peppers are all yellow and red!
This is what last week’s shop looked like. There was a last minute change of plan because John came for dinner and Sunday I was due out but we changed it to Monday night.