Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Making life easier - menu plan and shopping list

Love food - hate waste?
Love shopping - hate spending?

I really hate throwing food away, and try to do it as little as possible.  I genuinely believe that if you plan your menu and make a shopping list, there should be very little need to throw anything out because it's gone past date.

Planning your menu and doing a shopping list doesn't need to be complicated.  Mine for this week is shown below, it's a piece of A4 scrap paper, folded in half, one half is the meals for the week and will be pinned up in the kitchen, the other half is the shopping list.  

For your menu you can draw out a table with a box for each meal if you like, but I prefer a simple list (at the moment!).  Up until lately I've only really planned the dinner menu, and lunches have been adhoc whatever is hanging around in the fridge.  Now that three members of the family are having packed lunches though, I thought I should think and shop more thoughtfully for them, and make sure that they know what's available for lunch, but I've just done a list for the week rather than specifying days.  For breakfast we usually have cereal or toast during the week and something different on the weekend.  I made a breakfast column so that I didn't forget to account for it in the shopping list.  Dinners I tend to stick to a similar pattern of meals each day, but not slavishly. 

My week is usually:
Monday - stir fry
Tuesday - something with potato
Wednesday - curry
Thursday - something with pasta
Friday - something with chips
Saturday - Hubby cooks, so whatever I think he might like
Sunday - roast or casserole

Always start by checking out the current contents of fridge, freezer and cupboards.  What have you got in there and what meals could you make with it?

This week I found: a joint of pork in the freezer that didn't get cooked last weekend - roast pork this weekend; some frozen chilli con carne that I made about a month ago - we'll have that tonight with nachos; some frozen casserole that I made a few weeks ago - we'll have that with mash on Monday instead of stir-fry.  I also brought back an armful of carrots from my garden in Scotland this weekend, so I'll make up a big batch of carrot and coriander soup.  There's some ready-made puff pastry in the fridge waiting for me to make some divine cheese straws too, so that's a lunch option sorted.

Next, fill in your gaps based on your loose plan for the week.  Ask the family for their input, especially if you want them to get involved with the cooking and eating.  If you need to, get out the recipe books for inspiration.  Roast pork was C's suggestion last week, as long as there's crackling.

Now make your shopping list.  I divide mine into categories of: fruit and veg, fridge, freezer, bakery, store cupboard and general household, to make it easier when I'm walking around a supermarket or smaller shops or markets.  Check your recipes and add anything which you don't already have in the store cupboard or fridge to the recipe.  I also have a list on the whiteboard in the kitchen.  Everybody knows that if we are running low on a store cupboard staple such as cereal, coffee or ketchup it should go on the list and I'll add it to my shopping list.  To be honest I do still check the cereal boxes, the tea and coffee, toothpaste, loo roll and shower gel, because Hubby very rarely remembers to add them to the list until they've actually run out - and then they are too urgent to wait until the next weekly shop!

Seriously though, if you make your shopping list based on what you are actually going to eat, and only buy what is actually on your shopping list, you'll save quite a lot of money, and will waste a lot less food.  I do still buy bargains, special offers and treats when I'm shopping, but only if they will fit into the menu or will keep or can be frozen for the future.

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