Finding The Magic in Meal Planning.
Let’s face it, we could all use a little more help in the kitchen.
Inspiration is hard to find during the “dog days” of summer.
It’s hot, maybe you don’t feel like cooking,
or you’ve simply had one BBQ too many at this point!
Factor in things like increasing costs at the grocery store and the thought of wasting any food is unimaginable! We’ve got some tips and tools for you this summer to help get through the heat, manage the grocery budget, & make your life a little easier in the process.
There is magic in meal planning, trust us!
Bulk is not always better – know your prices AND whether you will really use the items. Consider the amount of storage space you have and the perishability of the item you are buying. A 20lb bag of flour is great if you bake often but might be a waste of money and storage space if you rarely break out the measuring cups! As well, if stocking up on canned goods, make sure you are rotating the pantry and nothing gets pushed to the back, forgotten about and then becomes stale dated. In other words, managing your pantry and storage is an important factor when buying in bulk.
Resist the urge to “buy more and save” – grocery stores will try to hook you with sales like buy “3 for $” when you really only need one. Unless it’s something you buy and use regularly, avoid these common sales tactics that have you filling the cart (and your cupboard space) unnecessarily. Note too that grocery stores often attach these kinds of promotions to items most of us don’t need three of in our homes to begin with, like chips and pop and cookies.
“In store” brands are good deals in disguise. Often made by the same big name manufacturers you’ve come to rely on, a store brand usually costs significantly less and has all the flavour – experiment and see what works for your family.
Convenience is costly but if you plan ahead, you’ll realise it’s not necessary. Here’s what we mean. Buying premade frozen breakfast sandwiches or even frozen dinners is more expensive than buying the individual components. Sure, it’s easy to grab, heat and go – but with five more minutes in your day – how hard is it really to toast an english muffin while you quickly pan fry an egg? Throw a slice of cheese on it and you’re ready to walk out the door quicker than the drive thru stop you would have made and cheaper than the frozen box of breakfast sandwiches you were going to buy. Plus, you now have the rest of the English muffins, eggs and cheese for another day and another recipe too.
Shop savvy. You don’t have to clip coupons these days – everything is on your smartphone! There are apps for everything, including grocery store savings and practice price matching. It’s really not that much work – again, it just involves a little bit of pre-planning.
Meal Planning Tools:
Speaking of planning, let’s talk about meal prep and planning for the week. Now is the time to manage your kitchen, and your expenses, like the boss you are!
Grab a pen or break out the computer to create an excel spreadsheet,
(or use a Meal Planning App-- stay tuned our next blog)
Whatever works best for you, here’s what you need to think about:
What do you already HAVE? Source the pantry for staples like sugar, flour, spices, and common baking items too. Replenish what’s necessary to ensure you always have the basics at hand. This applies to sauces, vinegars, cooking oils and tomato sauce too. Pasta, rice, and noodles are always good pantry stock.
What do you NEED? We have a friend who feels like she’s at the store every other day and when she tries to make a list her husband just says, “buy one of everything.” That’s not helpful! You should ALWAYS have a list when you go to the store. It serves two purposes; first the obvious, that you won’t forget a much- needed item and the second, that you will STAY focussed on what you need and avoid distractions like “buy one, get one free” or the chips or ice cream aisle! A list is particularly helpful if you are shopping while hungry where your tendency really might be to buy one of everything!
Determining your meals for the week, ahead of grocery shopping, ensures you WILL have all you need to make these meals.
Determining your meals for the week also allows you to plan accordingly for leftovers for lunches saving you both time (in the mornings, not making lunches) and money (no need to buy lunch) every day!
Set aside some time for cooking too! We’ll talk more about this in our next blog when we explore tips and tools for making life easier in the kitchen – tips that will also help save money on your grocery bill!
The magic of meal planning doesn’t appear all at once like
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother who shows up just in time for the ball.
Rather, you will have to put a little bit of time and effort
in to reap the real rewards.
Trust us though, it’s time and effort well spent.
You might consider consulting with the family and engaging them by designating a dinner night to each family member. In other words, let everyone have a turn at deciding what’s on the menu and that’ll serve several purposes: helping you with the planning, helping the kids feel engaged in the process and perhaps even enticing them to join in the cooking too!
Alliteration is your friend. “Make Ahead Monday’s,” where you cook for the week or “Wok Wednesday’s” where everything gets thrown in one pan for a quick stir fry make cooking sound more fun for the whole family. It doesn’t all have to be just your responsibility. You may feel like Cinderella when she’s the slave to her stepsisters but watch the magic happen when you plan ahead.
Even better, if you’re just not interested or able to –
have someone else do it for you – like the team here at thE Concierge.
We can plan, shop, organize, deliver and more.
Talk to us if thinking about groceries has you feeling overwhelmed.
We can help!