In order to prepare healthy, cost-effective meals on a continuing basis, it often helps to plan in advance. Here are some tips which will help you plan your meals in order to save time, money and frustration.
- If your family lives with a busy schedule, then menus will be a tremendous help. Each week, sit down and plan the food for the week. Consider what you have in the freezer as well as in the pantry. Then decide which meals will be prepared during the week and write a grocery list accordingly.
- When making a menu, think about the freshness of your groceries. What groceries you buy for the week will determine which order they should be consumed. First, always start with fresh fish or seafood. Next move on to packaged meat, then cured meats and finally frozen food and pantry staples.
- Keep an eye on sales prices in your local grocery store. Once something goes on sale, don’t hesitate to stock up and fill your freezer. If meat goes on sale, then cut/divide into smaller portions and store in containers or plastic bags. If vegetables go on sale, you can either slice them raw or blanch before freezing. Just make sure to date each frozen pack.
- Once or twice a week, cook double portions of lasagna, soup or whatever meal you’re making. Then freeze this food either in larger packs or single servings. After a couple of weeks you have built up a nice storage of food which you can eat at times when nobody feels like cooking. Again, make sure to date each frozen pack.
- Bags of precut vegetables are often unnecessarily expensive. It makes more sense to buy regular vegetables and prep them yourself. This works especially well with carrots, onions, celery and cabbage. Blocks of most cheeses also work well to shred. Store the prepped food in plastic bags in the fridge and use within 4 – 7 days, or store in the freezer up to 1 to 3 months depending on the ingredient.
- Make it into a habit to use all left-over food. If a recipe calls for 2 pounds of ground beef, but you can only find 3 pound packs to buy, then form the remaining meat into hamburger patties and freeze. If there are leftover pork roast from dinner, then make pork sandwiches the next day etc… Remember that all the food that gets thrown away ends up being the most expensive.
- Make sure to arrange the food in your fridge as well as your pantry properly. Keep the freshest items in the back to make sure that older food gets eaten before they go bad. This also applies to cans and dry goods since they do expire after some time. A tidy pantry and fridge makes it easier to see exactly what you have on hand, so nothing gets forgotten in the back.