How I plan my weekly meals – eat fresh, reduce waste, save time and money!
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019, it’s going to be a good one!
Often January is the time of year where everyone is setting goals and intentions, trying to break bad habits and implement better ones. That’s why I have decided to share with you my meal planning, shopping, storage and cooking routine that helps me save money, reduce food wastage and eat healthy, nutritious meals each week.
I have included some tips that I hope you will find helpful if you are trying to improve this aspect of your life, after all doesn’t everyone want to save money, the environment and their health? I have also included a recipe for my healthy and delicious buddha bowls, a great option for work lunches!
Planning is KEY to successfully organising almost any aspect of your life. Every Friday, I make a meal plan for the following week which includes what I (and Nathan) will eat for breakfast, lunches, dinners and snacks.
Don’t plan to cook more than you actually need to cook.
I only need to cook three nights out of the week, to give us six nights worth of dinners (if you don’t like leftovers I have some specific tips in the LEFTOVERS section below). Furthermore, I can prepare lunches for the first three days of my week (Monday to Wednesday) on Sunday, which saves me having to prepare lunch every night. Not having to cook every night means I get more time to spend doing things I love like walking my dogs, reading, spending time with Nathan etc.
Write it down.
I open a new note in my Google Keep app and title it ‘Plan for next week’ (I know, super original right?) in here I’ll type out the following headings: Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinner 1, Dinner 2, Dinner 3 and Snacks. Then I list what I am making for that particular meal for the following week.
If you need some meal inspiration try:
Alternatively it can be super helpful to maintain a list of easy healthy recipes, that you know how to make and you know you enjoy, to refer to when stuck for ideas.
So now my list looks something like this:
If you’re new to this, I would suggest creating a shopping list with the ingredients you’ll need for each meal so you don’t forget anything (because everyone knows that annoying feeling of starting to cook only to find out halfway through that you are missing a crucial ingredient!).
Structure the list so that items are grouped together according to their location in the shop, this will make your life SO MUCH easier! If you are using Google Keep it allows you to check off items as you add them to your trolley which is super helpful.
Onto the fun part! (does anyone else love grocery shopping? Just me? Okay..).
How to win at grocery shopping?
Have a designated shopping day once a week.
If you have planned your meals properly, you will save so much money and time this way rather than doing a heap of random stops at a grocery store where you are more likely to grab things on a whim (especially if you’re hungry!). My shopping day is Saturday, I get up early and have breaky, grab my re-usable bags then head to my local shopping centre. Arriving early means I beat the Saturday shopping crowd, get a great car park and can actually enjoy my time shopping without feeling suffocated!
Shop for your produce at a farmers market or fruit and veg store.
You’ll be surprised it can actually be cheaper and the produce is generally fresher having travelled less kilometres than that sold in supermarkets. Plus you will be supporting local farmers and minimising your consumption of plastic, win win. First thing when I get to the shops is order a coffee in my Pottery For The Planet reusable cup, then I head towards the fruit and veg store. Once I am done with the fruit and veg, I’m off to the supermarket (Woolworths) to get the non-produce shopping items. Finally, if I need to I’ll stop in at the health food store and stock up on anything I am running low on i.e. natural deodorant, natural skin care, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds or chocolate (you know, the essentials!).
Use produce that is in season.
Designing your meal plan around what is in season will save you money and ensures you are eating the freshest produce available. I often make salad bowls or soups for lunches, I love doing these as I can mix up the ingredients depending on what we feel like and what produce is in season and they always taste great!
Use your reusable shopping bags.
Need I say more?
While this sounds like a lot, I can have it all done in under an hour and be back home by 9 am. This brings me to the next section, storing your produce.
After you have gone to the effort of planning and shopping for your delicious food, you need to ensure you store it appropriately to make it last the week. You can’t just chuck your veggies in the fridge willy nilly and expect them to stay fresh, nutritious and juicy.
Check your fridge temperature.
Make sure your fridge is set on the correct temperature (around 4 degrees Celsius) too cold will mean your food freezes and too warm places your food in the ‘danger zone’ where harmful bacteria will thrive.
Clean your produce draws.
Remove all existing produce from the fridge, take out the draws, rinse them and dry them, I line mine with newspaper. These draws are designed specifically to manipulate the airflow and humidity to keep produce fresh for longer. So use them correctly and they’ll do just that. The draws should be about three quarters full to allow enough airflow. If you find that you can’t fit all of your produce in the draws, it might be worth investing in an additional fruit/veg storage container to keep your remaining veggies fresh.
Remove plastic and store appropriately.
Fresh produce needs to breath, if you are leaving it in plastic bags, it will sweat and spoil very quickly. Most veggies can go into the storage draw/container as they are, however some may be partially prepared first or stored separately which will help with freshness and also your convenience. For example, with big bunches of kale, I will de-stalk, rinse and store the leaves in an airtight container lined with a damp tea towel. This keeps my kale fresh all week and because it is already prepared it is super easy to grab for smoothies or other recipes. With fresh herbs, I fill up jars with water, place the bunch of herbs in there just as you would with a bunch of flowers in a vase and I store them in my fridge door. That way they are easy to access to tear or cut leaves as required and stay fresh and green for the whole week!
Use up existing produce.
What to do with the old veggies you pulled out of the fridge? Cook them up into a meal to eat that night (or freeze for later), use them to make your own veggie stock (super easy – I do this weekly!) or add them to the compost so they can nourish your garden.
Right, so you’ve done the planning, you’ve done the shopping and you’ve correctly stored your produce. The cooking part should therefore be quite easy!
I allocate an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon to cook our Monday – Wednesday lunches. I usually do hearty soups or salad bowls, this week was a salad bowl!
On the nights that I am cooking dinner (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) I get home from work and get straight into it. We have a rule in our household, whoever cooks does not do the dishes, given I am the cook, Nathan is usually on dishes duty which works great for us.
Once it reaches Thursday/Friday and I have run out of pre-prepared lunches, I’ll either grab something from the freezer which was leftover from the week before or I’ll throw together something easy like my no tuna chickpea sandwiches which will get us through the remainder of the week!
Lastly, I leave one night a week without a meal planned because we will often go out on a date night or have dinner with friends/family!
The schedule of cooking every second night works really well as we are only cooking for two so there are always leftovers, and it means we are eating the food while it is fresh and flavoursome.
So, you have cooked a nice big delicious meal and you have leftovers, now what? In the next section below you’ll find my top tips for storing leftovers so it doesn’t really feel like you are eating leftovers!
Leftovers are great! I know some people are not keen on eating food that has been cooked before, but trust me, if it is stored and prepared correctly it makes all the difference. It can also be helpful to adjust your mindset, we are so so lucky to have leftovers, because that means we have an abundance of food, we have so much that there is some left over. There are so many people (including children) living below the poverty line, not only in third world countries but even in our own country. Remember how lucky you are to have enough food to fill and nourish your body!
Got leftovers? See my top tips below for storing and preparing them!
Store leftovers in airtight GLASS containers.
Not only is plastic bad for the environment, it is also bad for our health, it is made of harmful chemicals that can leach into our food. You’ve probably noticed a lot more glass storage containers on the market these days, there is a reason for that. Invest in some good ones and it will change the game of food storage (and they’ll literally last forever!).
Store meal components separately.
For example, when storing a potato and chickpea curry with rice, store all of the curry in one container and all of the rice in the other. This stops things from going mushy and watery. It means when you reheat the leftovers, they don’t blend together into a mess resembling chunky baby food. By reheating the different components of the meal separately, when you serve them nicely on a plate topped with some fresh herbs it feels much more like you are eating a freshly cooked meal rather than leftovers.
AVOID THE MICROWAVE.
As convenient as it may be, its not great for your food and tends to make things look a little sad (not surprising as they have literally been zapped). How do you reheat your food without the microwave? Take my example of the curry above, if you have stored the curry and the rice separately, you can simply put the curry into a pot on the stove with a teeny tiny bit of water and heat it on a low heat stirring occasionally, this doesn’t take long at all and tastes way better! You could either put the rice in the microwave to reheat or in a different pot. Not keen on the stove? Use your oven! putting the curry into a casserole dish with a bit of water and covering it will allow it to heat through nicely on about 180 degrees Celsius. This will take longer than the stove, but hey, you may want to use your time while you are waiting to take a shower, read a book or do some washing etc.
Leftovers make your life easier, prevent food wastage and save you money, be grateful for leftovers!
Did you know, the average Australian wastes up to 20% of the food they buy? This equates to $8 billion worth of perfectly edible food being discarded by Australian households every year, of which 33% is fresh food and 27% is leftovers! Not only is this bad for our finances, it’s really bad for our planet! Food discarded in landfill produces methane as it rots which is 25 times more potent and damaging to our environment than the carbon produced from you car! (Facts from foodwise.com.au).
If you are guilty of wasting food (you’re not alone), I encourage you to look at the reasons why. Do you have a meal plan? Are you simply buying too much or impulse buying? Are you cooking too much? Are you not making use of leftovers? Are you not storing food appropriately? Whatever it may be, put some steps in place to help you change your behaviours and minimise your food wastage. You’ll be benefiting your bank account and the environment!
For more information check out these resources:
- Australia’s National Food Waste Strategy
- World Wide Fund for Nature Reducing Food Waste
Now that you have all of my top tips for planning, buying, storing and preparing your food, here is a recipe to get you going. This buddha bowl recipe makes about six servings, I prepare it on a Sunday afternoon and Nathan and I take it for lunches for the first three days of the week!
Have you got some top tips for preventing food waste or streamlining your shopping/cooking routine to save time and money? Share them below in the comments, I would love to hear from you!
Thanks for stopping by, until next time,
Easy Buddha Bowl
- 1.5 cups tricolour quinoa
- 1 400g can chickpeas
- 5-6 medium white potatoes
- 1 whole cauliflower
- 1 whole carrot
- 200 grams green beans
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 bunch alfalfa sprouts
- 6 whole radishes
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp ground tumeric
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
Cut the cauliflower into small florets, drizzle with olive oil and coat in turmeric and curry powder, toss to coat well
Place the prepared cauliflower on an oven tray and place in the pre-heated oven, set timer for 20 minutes
Rinse the quinoa, add to rice cooker with the stock and water, set to cook (or alternatively cook according to packet instructions on the stove)
Cut the potatoes into 2-3cm chunks and place in vegetable steamer on the stove, steam until soft to pierce with a fork, remove from heat and set aside
Top and tail the green beans, cut in half and set aside
Thinly slice the radishes, set aside
Peel and grate the carrot, set aside
Drain and rinse chickpeas well, set aside
Rinse, de-stalk and slice the kale
Finely chop or mince the garlic
Heat a large frypan over medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil, add garlic and green beans, saute for 2-3
Add the kale to the fry pan with the green beans and garlic and saute for a further 3-4 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside
Once the various components have finished cooking, it is time to assemble the bowls: divide the cooked quinoa, cooked potato, kale/bean mixture, chickpeas, grated carrot, sliced radish, roasted cauliflower and alfalfa sprouts evenly between six containers (if meal prepping)
To make the dressing, mix tahini, sesame oil, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar together, add water to achieve desired consistency. Store dressing separate to salad bowls and add when ready to eat.