When you’re younger it’s all sorted for you, mum does a weekly shop, cooks up something amazing, drags you away from the TV and all you have to do it eat it.
Then when you get older and move out you discover it’s actually a bit of a drag when you have to plan what you’re going to eat, go shopping for it (and it’s blooming expensive), and then cook it yourself! You could resort to microwave meals, but no one can survive forever on that forever. Ok, maybe you could, but you might also start to look like a microwave meal!
When I first moved out as a student I skimped on food, buying own brand tins and packets, my specialty go-to meal was chicken super noodles on a potato waffle. If I was feeling adventurous I would add some baked beans or a fried egg on top! Things generally were quite unhealthy but I thought I balanced things by hitting the town most nights and dancing it all off. When I left Uni things didn’t improve greatly but I had a bit more to spend on food, so I bought more meat and jars of sauces and made Spaghetti Bolognese, chilli, curry and shepherd’s pie thinking I was a pretty good little cook. Almost every meal still involved a jar with very little fresh food or vegetables. Fortunately those days are long gone, I’ve taught myself to cook better and that good food doesn’t have to be expensive. If I had known how little fresh veg costs when I was at Uni I might have been swayed to venture away from my fried cheese sandwiches (who knew… a baking potato costs around 30p, an onion 16p and a carrot 8p!)
So what’s changed?
Now, I’m far more conscious about what I’m eating, I’ve cut out the processed pre-prepared food and sauces and I try to cook fresh food every day. I work out what I want to eat for the next 5-7 days. This is hard to start with and I often get struck for inspiration, but if I get my recipe books out, or spend a few minutes on Instagram or Google I soon come up with some ideas. I like to vary it each week but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll have plenty of ideas in the bank to mix and match. I plan my breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the whole week and work out what I need to buy. I then either do a weekly online shop on a Sunday, (if I don’t manage that, I do mini shops for fresh food a few times a week). The bulk of my shopping is now fresh fruit and veg, lean meat and wholegrain carbohydrates like quinoa, whole wheat pasta and herbs and spices to keep things interesting.
It could be homemade chilli on a Monday with a baked sweet potato, a superfood salad on a Tuesday, mushroom and courgette quinoa on a Wednesday, chicken kebab skewers on a Thursday, Prawn curry on a Friday, cauliflower crust pizza on Saturday and a roast on a Sunday! I then pick around 3 breakfast and lunch options that are really simple to prepare and have them on alternate days.
So what are my tips?
1. Make a schedule/meal plan sheet.
2. Write a shopping list, check what you already have in your cupboards and stick to it. Order online if you can – it saves you being tempted by the chocolate fingers and biscuits that are oh so conveniently on offer.
3. Prep as much as you can in advance, freeze portions if necessary.
What are your meal planning tips?