How to Make Family Meal Planning Affordable
Planning family-sized meals that are both slimming friendly and easy on your pocket doesn’t have to be a chore. By introducing a few convenient, penny-saving habits into your routine week-by-week, you’ll be able to build up a steady supply of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts that’ll always go down a treat without breaking the bank (and without taking you off track!).
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Get ahead and get organised
With a plan in place, it’s much easier to stay on track with your calories and keep an eye on your spending. Our Pinch of Nom: Family Meal Planner is a dream to have handy in your bag while you’re food shopping. With cut-out shopping lists, space to log the meals that go down a treat and a section to write down what needs using up in the freezer, you’ll never buy foods that won’t get eaten or foods you don’t need. Just think how much that’ll save in itself!
If that wasn’t enough, our new planner has 26 exclusive recipes in its nifty, spiral bound pages too, and we’ve made sure they’re all crowd-pleasers with affordable ingredients lists! Tortilla Topped Pasta Bake, anyone?
Be a savvy shopper
There are a few simple ways you can ensure your money goes a little further at the supermarket checkout. One great way to do that is to buy seasonally. Not only is buying seasonally better for the environment, it’s also better for your budget, as locally sourced, in-season produce will often be cheaper than fruits or veggies that have had to be flown in from warmer climates. Keeping track of what is and isn’t in season doesn’t have to take up too much of your time – why not make a note of the freshest fruits and veggies in your planner before you head to the shops? Our bi-monthly seasonal recipe roundups make this nice and easy for you:
Making a point to look out for reduced foods on the supermarket shelves that you know you can build multiple meals around makes a real difference. We love it when we spot cauliflower on offer because it’s such a versatile veggie. Curry, fried rice, mac and cheese, hot wings and nuggets are just a few of the dishes you can rustle up with a batch of florets handy.
When you’re in a time pinch, fuss-free dishes like our Cauliflower Cheese Gratin are a life-saver. Packed with simple, inexpensive ingredients, leave this cheesy number to bubble away in the oven while you focus on the family.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about bargain hunting without mentioning Aldi’s Super 6, where you can grab a fortnightly selection of fresh fruits and veggies at a reduced price. Our Weekly Pinch of Shopping brings you the latest Super 6 update, as well as our pick of affordable, low-calorie snacks and treats you might fancy adding to your own shopping list!
Stocking up the freezer, instead of buying fresh, is another way you can cut costs without compromising on nutrition. Grabbing a bagful of frozen green beans will leave you part-way to an easy, garlicky side dish for countless meals with our trusty Garlic Green Beans recipe.
Cook at least one meatless meal per week
Unless you’re buying in bulk, you may be spending a fair chunk of your shopping budget on meat. Try having a think about whether the meat you’re buying is at the more expensive or affordable end of the scale (cuts of beef, for example, are usually pricier than chicken!). If you can’t give up on red meat just yet, lean minced meat, braising steak or stewing steak are the cheapest ways to go – they’re usually fairly priced and perfect for slow cooking!
If you can think about introducing one meatless meal per week, it’ll cut your meat-buying costs in a flash, help the planet and give you the opportunity to explore new recipes! We have a variety of slimming-friendly vegan and vegetarian dishes you can enjoy as a family without skimping on flavour.
Take our Vegan Campfire Stew as an example that’s light on calories, freezer-friendly and packed with warming deliciousness! We’ve used tinned jackfruit because it’s affordable and has a pork-like, shreddable texture…
Love your store cupboard
It’s easy to forget about the tasty kitchen staples you might have tucked away in your store cupboard, especially if they’ve been sitting there for some time. Taking a quick store cupboard inventory can be a really useful starting point for meal planning. Keep an eye on expiry dates and prioritise the ingredients that need using up – move them to the front so they’re more visible. What meals can you build around them?
Packed with fibre and protein, it’d be a shame to let any pulses or beans lurking at the back of the cupboard go to waste. If you’ve got a tin of kidney beans handy, you’re part-way towards the makings of a classic Chilli Con Carne dinner.
When it comes to affordable meal planning, the best dishes are the ones you can give a new lease of life to. If you discover a stray portion of chilli in the freezer but don’t have rice handy, have a root around in your store cupboard. You can put those purposeless potatoes to good use and rustle up wedges or mash, or boil some pasta for your bowlful (Psst! We discovered this combo works so well, we built our Chilli Pasta Bake around it.).
Replace Takeaway night with Fakeaway night
When you’re at the end of a long week, the instant, tasty convenience of a takeaway can be tough to resist. While they’re a surefire way to gather the family round the table, they’re not the healthiest for you or for your budget. That’s why we’re all about creating slimming-friendly Fakeaway versions of our favourite recipes. From crispy-coated chilli beef and butter chicken flavours to American-style rice boxes and burgers, there’s plenty to pick from that’ll leave the whole family happy.
For a more budget-conscious Fakeaway night, take note of your leftovers from the week and have a think about how you might give them a new lease of life. Saucy dishes like one-pot spicy stews, curries and bakes are the perfect place to put stray veggies you want to use up. Fancy an Italian-inspired Fakeaway night? Our Chicken and Sweetcorn Pizza Calzone’s oozy, cheesy filling and crispy, tortilla wrap coating will scratch your pizza itch for far fewer calories. The best part about calzone is you can mix up the fillings to suit what you’ve got in – you can even make a breakfast version!
We know how important managing family mealtimes on a budget is, that’s why our Family Meal Planner is built around highlighting family favourites, staying ahead of what you need and keeping what you’ve already got organised. There’s also plenty of space to reaffirm your slimming goals, so you’ll be able to take care of yourself and your loved ones. How good is that?
What are your top affordable meal planning tips?
Share them with us over in our Facebook group, where we have almost 1 million members waiting to support you on your slimming journey!
Did you know that you can now share your hints, tips, quotes and photos in our PON Gallery too? We’d highly recommend going for a scroll through the submissions we’ve had so far if you’re looking for some inspiration…