One of the best ways of staying organised and sticking to a budget is meal planning. It may take you 15 mins of prep on a sunday night to draw out and decide what you are going to eat for the week, but it then saves time every day as you don't have the whole 'what are we having for tea' quandry and hunt through the cupboards, or multiple shopping trips, Not to mention helping with stock rotation and ensuring everything bought gets used up. This is my meal plan for this week.
How to make your own meal plan
Step 1 - look in your freezer, fridge and cupboards and see what you already have that needs using up. In my case this week I had a lot of sad looking veg unused from the christmas period and a whole sack of potatoes. In my freezer I already had some packs of sausages I had previously bought on sale and a pack of mince, so when writing my meal plan out, I incorporated all those things, meaning everything would get used up and I didn't need to shop for more additional food than was necessary.
Step 2 - write your meal plan based on what time you have available on what days. For example, i knew I had our dog trainer coming on wednesday evening, so a meal I can prepare earlier in the day and then just bung in the oven is ideal for that night. And on Thursday I have to go out in the afternoon and won't be back until teatime, so on that day, just sticking some sausages in the oven and using the leftover veg (made specifically for the purpose the day before) means i have a meal ready pretty much as soon as we walk in at 5pm.
Step 3 - make a shopping list of anything you will need to complete your meal plan that you don't already have. I usually find that it is then a much smaller (and therefore cheaper) list than on a week when I don't draw up a meal plan. This may free up a bit of cash to buy anything on special offer which can then be frozen or stored for future weeks.
Step 4 - Pin your meal plan up somewhere noticeable in the kitchen, so you (and the rest of the family) can see what you are having on what day. At tea time each night, just check what you are having the following day and do any extra meal prep or get things out to defrost etc.
Mixed Vegetable Soup
Soups are one of the easiest recipes to follow when you are just starting out making things from scratch. They are very forgiving and you can change up the ingredients if you have something that needs using up. I make this pretty much every week for lunches to use up whatever veg i have left over.
- 1 onion or leek
- 1 celery stick
- 1 large / 2 small potatoes (can be leftover roast/mash/boiled or raw) OR handful of rice
- Any mix of veg ie. carrots, swede, squash, mushrooms, peppers, peas, sweetcorn, parsnips (can be leftovers or raw)
- 1.5 litres of veg stock (can be chicken or meat stock if you prefer)
- salt and pepper to taste
Peel and chop everything up small. Fry the onion and celery in some oil until browned, then put the rest of the veg in the pan with the stock and rice if using, season it and then simmer for 30-40 mins until everything is cooked. Once the veg is all cooked through, remove half and using a stick blender, puree the rest to make the soup thick. you may need to add a little water at this point if it gets too thick. Then add the veg you took out back in and you are all done! Serve with some crusty bread or toast.
As you get more adventurous, you can add some herbs in, or chilli peppers to change the flavour.