Avoid the takeaway trap: Meal planning 101

Although a week’s meal planning might sound like a chore, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make your dollars work harder. Follow our bite-sized budget meal planner ideas for less weight around your waistline and more in your pocket.

Choose your meals

Google is brimming with recipes for every basic protein. Spend 15 minutes each weekend putting together a list of dishes for the coming week. Your searches can be as vague as ‘beef’ or as specific as ‘vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie’. A healthy meal plan doesn’t have to be expensive – use recipes suited to vegetables in season rather than something imported from Tahiti and you’ll save a fortune.

Plan the extravagance of your meal around your workload. If you know you’ll probably end up working late on Tuesday, don’t schedule a slow roast for that night. Keep most meals simple and stress-free and save the MasterChef challenges for when you’re off shift.

Write a shopping list

Knowing what groceries you need before you hit the supermarket will mean you’re not left with a crisper drawer full of rotting, wasted vegetables at the end of the week.

Get to know your local shops – some have fresh food discounts at particular times of the week. Schedule your shop accordingly and score some bargains for the week ahead.

Make a big batch

Next time you make your favourite soup or stew, double the recipe. Eat half that night and freeze the other half for next week. With no extra effort, you’re one step ahead.

This is where keeping those takeaway boxes comes in handy. Just make sure all your plastic containers have matching lids – lids tend to disappear into the same black hole as socks.

Have a back-up plan

No matter how carefully you plan, you’ll occasionally find yourself staring into a desolate fridge, void of inspiration. Never fear – help is at at hand. There are websites and apps that are basically meal planners on a budget, suggesting recipes for what you have already in your pantry. If all you can muster is a tin of tomatoes, half a bag of rice and an eggplant, head to Supercook or one of its equivalents, type in your ingredients and – Bob’s your uncle – you’ll receive a bunch of suitable recipes.

Budget meal planning doesn’t have to be bothersome. A dash of preparation mixed with a sprinkling of foresight, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of regular home cooking.


Lydia Sawyer

Lydia Sawyer is an aficionado of recycling, up-cycling, second-hand shopping and bargain hunting. She has traveled the world on the smell of an oily rag and written about far-fetched things in far-flung places.


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