The Frugal Gourmet's meal planner

Meal planning for the month will only take up a few hours of your time. Take the recipe books out and start planning your meals for the weeks ahead.

I usually sit down with all my recipes surrounding me and a 28 day, weekly planner. Usually late at night when the kids are all in bed.

Points to remember:

  • Stick to ingredients that are AFFORDABLE and in season.

    Remember being frugal is the main objective, so keep it simple.

    And try to use ingredients you would normally keep in your pantry. Now is not the time to plan all sorts of fancy meals and desserts that will cost you a small fortune.

  • Add dried beans and pulses to your stews, mince dishes and soups

    This will help them go a bit further. I'm especially a lentil fan - it blends beautifully into mince dishes especially, making it go so much further.

    I also try to make a lot of these dishes during the month as they are nutritious but also affordable. I find that I can "hide" vegetables very successfully in them too. (what a sly mama)

    Beans are a great source of protein and is not only very affordable but also very economical and there are many great bean dishes out there.

  • Portion control

    If the recipe is for a family of 6 and you have a family of 3, then halve the recipe - I look at a number of things, the amount of meat needed for example is a good indication of the portion sizes.

    I have managed to reduce our portions significantly and for my family of 4 only use about 400g mince, one piece of chicken each (one extra for dad of course) and if anyone is still hungry, they can grab a piece of fruit or bread to fill any gaps left in hungry tummies.

    How much is enough? A hint I was given - protein such as fish or chicken breasts should be the size of the palm of your hand; One serving of starch is usually a handful of rice, 100g of pasta or a medium-sized potato.

  • Use store brands

    Store brands are often, but not always, cheaper. So instead of automatically reaching for a specific brand product, next time you go grocery shopping - look at all the prices first. A few cents saved here or there will benefit you in the long run.

  • Stick to the menu

    I try to stick to my menu for the month. If I suddenly change my mind and make something completely different than planned, then I steal from another meal's ingredients, which again will mean that I'll have to go into the shop at some point in order to replace it and this I don't want to do. So stick to the menu. You can of course change your mind and instead of making Spaghetti on Friday, rather make the stew you planned on making Wednesday.

  • All righty then. Now that you've got all your recipes for the next 28 days lined up, take a look at an example of my meal plan or use this blank copy if you prefer using your own recipes.

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