Meal Planning

Meal Planning

Do you meal plan? Come on, answer my question, do you? If not, why not?
Here at Thrifty Towers we aim to plan out a minimum of 75% of our meals (we often dine with friends, have to visit elderly relatives at short notice or eat on the go due to work so it can go out of the window for a night or two) and it saves us a small fortune. We sit down on a Saturday morning (we know how to live eh) and plan our meals for the week ahead and then hit the shops to buy what we need. The meals for the early part of the week are usually based around our Sunday dinner. So if we have a roast chicken we’ll have spiced chicken cous cous for lunch the next day, chicken and chorizo risotto at some point and boil ourselves up some stock to make soup. I wrote about getting as many meals out of a chicken as possible last year.

It is important to us that we don’t throw anything out so drawing up a meal plan is incredibly helpful in making a shopping list and sticking rigidly to it means we rarely waste food. Here in Manchester we have food waste bins and putting more than veg peelings in (after we’ve used them for stock) makes me shudder in horror.

Last Wednesday I hopped aboard the good ship lollipop (or the Virgin Train loony bin service as some prefer to call it) to London to put a meal plan to the test with some lovely bloggers and the people at Sainsbury’s. They’ve launched a new series of weekly meal plans which allow a family of four to eat for a week for £50 (apparently the average family of four spend somewhere between £70 and £100 a week on food).
So that is, my friends, three meals for four people every day for a full week. Being a keen meal planner I was interested to see what a supermarket had come up with because I don’t know about you, I often think they’re out to get our money rather than help in anyway shape or form. I was pleasantly surprised.

The meal plans are nutritionally balanced and approved by various nutritional big wigs which if you eat on the uber cheap can be hard to do. I know that whenever we buy the discounted items (the reduced at the end of the day type) in the supermarkets they tend to be of the pastry heavy or of the ready meal variety. Whilst these are handy to have in the freezer for quick lunches (Mr Thrifty cycles 20 miles a day so a Cornish pasty for lunch every now and then isn’t going to hurt him) living off the contents of the discount shelves isn’t particularly balanced. The plan (the first is out now and more will be rolled out soon) offers 85% of your ideal daily intake so there is still room for drinks and snacks.

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Thumbs up- You get your 5 a day, everyday
– It is designed to give you 85% of your fibre requirement. Apparently most diets in the UK are woefully lacking in fibre.
– The saturated fat is monitored closely.
– If you shop online or on your mobile app you can just dump the entire meal plan in your basket in one go.
– The price point is sensible. My meal plans tend to come in very cheap but I’m the kind of person who will go to a supermarket, butcher and market to get my food, I’m not sure most people operate like that on a week to week basis. I think this is good for people that want to save money but don’t want to compromise on their time.

Thumbs down
– At Thrifty Towers we tend to use leftovers, I think it makes for interesting meals. The Sainsbury’s plan isn’t really designed to work that way. Rather than being a bad point it is just totally different to the way we go about meal planning.
– The lunches are a little bit sandwich heavy for us. We tend not to eat sandwiches everyday.

Image: Sainsbury’s

I tried out the Tuesday dinner from the meal plan (see below) when I was down in London, it was delicious, easy and no fuss, the kind of meal we tend to have on a Tuesday when I’m working late and Mr Thrifty is playing hockey. We’ll be giving it a go tonight.

Chinese Vegetable Stir Fry

Ingredients:500g easy cook rice
1 x 700g pack Basics stir fry mix
300g fresh peppers, deseeded & sliced
175ml pouch Chinese sauce
100g salted peanuts, crushed
From your store cupboard:2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped

Method:Cook the rice following pack instructions.
Meanwhile, over a medium-high heat, heat the oil in a large pan or wok and add the stir fry mix and peppers. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously, then add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Stir in the sauce and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir through the peanuts then serve with the rice.
Do you meal plan? What are your meal planning tips?

TTFN,

P.S. What’s for dinner tonight?