Making the most of your food, eating well but reducing food waste saves time, the planet and money in your pocket. Far from being a frugal ideal. Being savvy with what you buy, use and plan makes complete financial and environmental sense. Most people go through periods in their lives when they need to make savings, being prepared or starting now to allow for a build up of funds for later is no bad thing, or simply wanted to divert funds elsewhere.
There’s truth in the saying fail to plan and you plan to fail. The reality is however if you plan your meals for the week and then get the shop for the week, you are less likely to overbuy create waste and end up throwing food away and basically your money too! You can also often double up on meal prep, leftovers, stretch individual food items to go that little bit further and easily swap options about.
I have tried several ways but find it easier to just keep a month at a time calendar in the kitchen specifically for main meals. It also helps to look back if your stuck for ideas, enables others to write a favourite meal request in for the future, as well as a guide for the week.
If something has come up, or for some reason we are having something different for dinner, everything just gets moved by a day, or an item that may be in the freezer might get moved to the following week. It’s a guide, but its flexible, and enables advanced food prep or the welcome of a hot meal waiting in slow cooker for when you come home after a long day!
Bulk With Legumes & Vegetables
Adding lentils, beans, peas and/or other seasonal cheaper vegetables particularly to casseroles, bakes, pies, curries and risotto’s especially ones including meat, can really help to create a much larger amount, therefore creating another meal for another day or reducing the amount of meat required. As meat is often the most expensive part of the meal, this can create considerable saving, particularly if you are having dinner guests.
I always add lentils, leftover veg and a tin of chopped tomatoes to my lasagne, cottage pie and chilli, when using minced beef/steak as well as when creating vegetable versions. I find it gives greater flavour, and greater volume with surprisingly little meat. My team are not keen on kidney beans so I use mixed beans or baked beans instead.
Casseroles and curries can easily contain more vegetables than meat with nobody really noticing. Even with a shop bought sauce adding more vegetables and legumes will not only add nutrition, it will add volume. You can always add more water or stock, gravy, a tin of tomatoes, or baked beans to stretch the sauce content, if it seems too dry.
Reduce Meal Or Plate Size
Not everyone likes a mountain of food on their plate. I know several people for whom a loaded plate is the quickest way to put them off their food. Reducing food portions can help with reducing volume consumption and therefore overall cost. Using a slightly smaller dinner plate can also help give the impression of a large plateful of food, if that is your enjoyment.
Weekly Leftover / Fridge Crawl Meals
Allowing for one night a week when you have leftovers and/or fridge crawls is a great way of using up food that otherwise could be heading for the bin in a few more days. A friend of mine used to call it bits and bobs night. Its amazing what you can create when your forced to! I find Its kind of nice to have a buffet on the table if there are several left over dishes, you can create a few sides, left over veg, salads, pickles or even fruit and some bread. Does it really matter if things don’t go that much? Everyone has enough to eat and your less likely to have something that’s gone off in the back of the fridge, or iced up in the freezer.