Welcome to Meal Plan Monday, our weekly feature where we talk all things Meal Plan. This week I’m handing over to Eleanor from Savings 4 Savvy Mums.
To Plan or Not to Plan – That is the Question!
It is widely advertised that we should all make meal plans if we want to make savings when it comes to our food bill. However, many of us do not (me included) but why not? Is it the child in us stamping our feet, saying I can do it my way? Is it that we can’t be bothered to think that far in advance? Is it simply we don’t have time or are there other reasons why we don’t create meal plans?
The reasons for creating a meal plan are well known. Reasons like, it is healthier, it is cheaper, it gives you the opportunity for a more diverse diet, make it very appealing. I for one have on may occasions sat down and spent a while creating meal plans. I am by nature a creature of habit so I have only ever worried about the main meal because breakfast and lunch are always the same. Since having children I started off with good intentions but still we have the same things for breakfast and lunch. As with every change I try and work with myself in the vain hope that something will stick. For example when trying to loose weight there is no point me banning all chocolate as I would never be able to do that. I had carefully thought about meals I wanted to try and make and meals that we often had so that we had a bit of variety throughout the week. With my meal plan created, my shopping bought, I was ready to put my meal plan into action. So what went wrong?
Quite simply life did! When cooking I follow one simple rule – nothing that takes longer than 20 minutes. That is about the length of a recorded Postman Pat, Octonauts etc so I know that my daughter is not getting up to anything she shouldn’t. I find the problem with a set plan is that it does not take in to account my daughter’s mood or what we have done that day. Obviously, when all goes to plan, no traffic, no tantrums, no emergency stop for the toilet, the meal plan works a treat and even takes away the stress of the treaded questions, ‘So what’s for dinner?’ But as those of you with toddlers know those days are few and far between. With limited time, a suddenly ravenous toddler and a baby, who has somehow decided tea time is the best time for her bottle, I usually end up reverting to form and cook whatever comes to hand first – I’m sorry to say it usually comes out of a jar.
Most people use meal planning as a way to lower their food bill. Trying to reach the elusive £50 weekly shopping bill escapes me every week. Even with a meal plan, I did not find I was able to get under £50, let alone under £40 – the ultimate goal! Ignoring other essentials such as nappies, detergent, cat food and dare I say it a couple of bottles of wine, I still cannot get my shopping bill to £50. What is more frustrating is I am not a huge ‘see an offer and buy it’ person, so the main reason for having a meal plan does not seem to apply to us as I don’t save any money.
Finding time to put the meal plan together can be difficult as when I am not with my children, I am working. I suppose as soon as I have one put together I can then repeat it until we get bored. I have found programs like ‘Eat well for less’ helps coming up with meal ideas that look really tasty on a small budget and have tried a few. The problem with some of the recipes is that they always assume you have some ingredients already in the cupboard, as I am no great cook this is never the case so I end up buying packets, tins and jars of things that I then only use the smallest amount from. My other problem with planning all these homemade meals is that when I don’t get round to cooking them or the ingredients have gone off before I have used them, I feel like a failure. As with all mothers, mummy guilt occurs enough without me adding to the problem.
My general attitude to what to cook comes under two headings, what have we got in and what will my daughter eat? I can see how a meal plan would help with this, it would ensure I always had the correct things in and I could plan in advance meals that my daughter likes. However, meal planning is just not for me, I am not being a petulant child thinking I can do better, nor is it really that I cannot be bothered to do it. Quite simply when I have created it I find that life gets in the way, I then forget all about the meal plan and just revert to the cooking I find quickest and easiest. As with every other aspect of parenting my mantra at the end of the day seems to be – must do better! So it is with meal planning, I must do better and sticking to it and when it all goes wrong and I have run out of food there is always beans on toast!
I’m Eleanor, one half of Savings 4 Savvy Mums. We are a parenting based blog that offers money saving tips, tricks and bargain deals, with a dash of parenting advice thrown in. As well as our blogs, we have a growing community of Penny Pinching Parents who like a good bargain, and who share their own tips within our Facebook group.