In the current economic climate there are very few households that can afford the luxury of going without a budget. Menu planning is an extension of budgeting that allows you to keep a tight reign on your food expenditure; hopefully freeing up some of your money for other needs. Here are my top tips for successful menu planning.
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- Browse the weekly specials in the local supermarket catalogues. If you plan your menu around the specials you are guaranteed to reduce your weekly spend.
Look for specials
- Buy food items in bulk where possible and plan several of your weekly meals using these items. For example buy 2kg of mince and then use it to make spaghetti bolognese, meatballs, and meatloaf. Buying in bulk often works out cheaper than buying smaller quantities.
- Let everyone in the family help plan the menu. Kids are more likely (in theory) to eat foods when they've had a hand in choosing them. In my household we take it in turns choosing what we will be eating for the week. My kids often choose items like nuggets and chips but this is balanced out by my choices of things like rissoles and vegetables.
- Keep the menu displayed in a clearly visible place. Perhaps you have a whiteboard on your fridge that you write your menu on, or a pin board on the wall. We have a chalkboard attached to our pantry. Get creative! Keeping the menu in plain sight increases your chances of sticking to it.
My simple blackboard menu
- Once you have decided on your menu items go through your fridge, freezer, and pantry to work out what ingredients you have on hand and which ones you need to buy. If you start buying ingredients you already have on hand you are defeating the purpose of your budget.
- As much as I advocate sticking to your menu when you are doing the shopping I am also a believer in shopping smart. I start my shopping in the meat section of the supermarket as meat is generally the most expensive ingredient in my recipes. If I come across any unadvertised specials or mark downs I don't hesitate to change my menu up and grab myself a bargain. Every saving is a good saving.
- Reward yourself with a takeaway night every now and then. Plan it into your menu and count down the days to enjoying a well deserved treat.
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- Match the length of your menu plan to the frequency you shop. Planning doesn't necessarily have to be done weekly. It can just as successfully be done fortnightly or monthly. I food shop weekly therefore I make a weekly menu plan.
- As always when trying something new adapt it to your needs and don't hesitate to play around with ideas to make menu planning more successful for you and your family.
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