Meal Planning & Cooking On A Budget

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I've made some big changes in my life over the last couple of months. Not only have we upsticks and moved over 100 miles away, I've also made the move from full time employment to freelance working. As you can imagine, initially this means a big pay cut. With less certainty on how much I'll be earning each month, now more than ever, feels like the right time to be getting back to meal planning, batch cooking and generally being a little bit more frugal with what I eat.

So I sat down yesterday with a pen and paper (and some felt tips - yes I know... I'm 31) and worked out what I could cook with what we already have in.


I started by listing everything edible in the house and crossed things off as I found a meal I could cook with them. All that needs adding this week is a few fresh bits - salad, milk, bread. I'm pretty chuffed at the amount I've managed to carve out of our existing supplies - 11 meals in total. It just shows that if you give it some thought, meals can come from almost anything.

Monday 

Sausages with sage & butternut squash.

I love leafing through old Olive magazines and often find things I want to make. This dish was in the April 2014 magazine but it's also online here.  I have a pack of 10 sausages in the freezer which I'll split down to make two meals from.

Image from Olive Magazine 

Tuesday 

Salmon in coconut broth. 

This will be done in the slow cooker for ease as we both have a busy day scheduled. I found a recipe in my Slow Cooker Simple book which looks great.  Everything comes from the store cupboard or the freezer, perfect for budget cooking! We'll have it with rice to soak up the broth. 

Wednesday 

Pasta alla Puttanesca. 

I cook this type of pasta quite often and love Nigella's description of it as 'Slut's Spaghetti'. I always thought it was food cooked by poor Italians because you didn't need anything fresh but actually, the translation is closer to Nigella's description: "the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don't go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins". Either way, it's a good one - spicy and full of flavours from the black olives and anchovies. Plus, I love capers, the more the merrier. You can find Nigella's version here.


Image from Nigella.com 

Thursday 

Paruppu Dhal Curry

I just about have the right ingredients to make this delicious looking curry from one of my favourite books, Green Kitchen Travels. This book has some stunning photography in it and if you;re looking for vegetarian recipes with a world flavour, it's the one for you.

One of the fortunate things about having an embarrassingly large selection of spices, herbs and other condiments is that you can create a good curry without having to buy too much.


Friday

Fishcakes with broad beans & minty peas

This is a freezer dinner if ever you've seen one. Fishcakes make a fab quick weeknight meal and the melt in the middle ones from Waitrose are really tasty. Broad beans and peas are staple freezer vegetables and this easy recipe is a great way to serve them. I've got some new potatoes to go with this too. Yum!


Weekend

We are off to Yorkshire with a group of friends. We'll be out walking and staying up late with wine and boardgames. As often the case, we're staying in a YHA Youth Hostel with self catering facilities so no idea what we'll be eating yet but probably something in a big pot like spaghetti bolognese or chilli!  Can't wait. 

Do you write a meal plan? I'd love to hear how you organise yourself and any top tips you might have.  Please share them in the comments below! 

I've teamed up with the Meal Planning Monday linky hosted by Mrs M's blog. Head over there to see a whole load more meal plans for this week! 

19 comments

  1. I sat down and did this yesterday too. I decided to tackle the build up of tinned tomatoes in the cupboard so this week's meals are planned out. And it means I can use up the contents of the freezer before next week's big shop.

    Ruth Writes | https://ruth-writes.co.uk/

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    1. Why do we always have thousands of tins of toms!? Hehehe.. Actually, I only have three right now which isn't too bad. :-)

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  2. I am a bit of a meal planning addict. I love seeing how much I can make from just what I have in my cupboards, and its saves so much money each week on food! I blog my meal plans each monday, which I find helpful and often refer to it.

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  3. These all sound yummy! We are currently emptying our freezer and even had pea soup last week to use those up. Now we are down to yorkies and bags of ice! xx

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    1. There is nothing wrong with pea soup! :-)

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  4. I love the idea of listing everything you have in the house before starting a new shopping list. I'm terrible for that, I always think of what I want to cook before actually looking in the cupboards! It leads to a lot of waste and cupboards that are fit to burst!

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    1. I'm the same though, this has been a conscious effort! I have so many bloody random spices and sauces from the result of choosing a recipe before a shop!

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  5. I love a good meal plan! We are normally really good, but have been a bit slack recently. Need to get back onto it as our cupboards our full!

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  6. I have to do a bit of planning as I cook for work, but when it comes to what we eat at home I can be a bit "oh I fancy making blah blah" and then getting the ingredients for it rather than using up what I have. I am getting better but could do better. You have a great week of meals to look forward to. Enjoy your weekend with friends!

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    1. Thanks Kellie - I am super looking forward to a weekend away - 6 of us in Bronte country for hiking, board games and gin :-)

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  7. Loved reading your meal ideas - the salmon dish sounds delicious! I plan my meals usually on a morning, so if I need an ingredient I've still got time to pop out and get it. If I don't think ahead, I end up eating something rubbish and feeling sluggish for the rest of the night!

    Rosie / www.rosieromance.com

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  8. Great article. I might be making the jump to freelance work in the coming months so tightening the budget is going to be of major importance. Great article!

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    1. Thanks Mica - glad you enjoyed it! My only advice going freelance is to make sure you know you can cover your rent and be brave! So far I'm loving it :)

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  9. I do meal plan. I gather my recipes-I-have-to-try list and fit them into days on my calendar. From there, I make a list of groceries needed. I'd be lost without my meal plan!

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    1. Great - yes it's a good way of making sure you try new recipes too!

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  10. I work sort of in the other direction - I make sure I always have things in the freezer and pantry to make a meal, and then make sure I use them regularly! (Along with fresh vegetables - also a rotating supply.)

    I don't always know how much time and energy I'll have for cooking, come dinner time - but I do know that tonight it will be ham and zucchini...

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    1. That sounds good too! Love it, a reverse meal plan :)

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  11. Great idea! I'm afraid I'm not as organized as you. I look in the freezer in the morning and try to come up with something I have all the ingredients for, lol!

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    1. I'm not always organised! I have to work hard at it! Hehehe

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