Work schedules and lethargy can derail your aspirations of planning your meals every week. The increase in grocery items and prices can also make us look for ways to be smart in eating healthy without exceeding our budget.
Meal planning is a strenuous task when you don’t have the right menu, shopping list, and budget criteria. You may have to find different methods at first to choose the most suitable one for you. Here is the list of five different frugal meal planning methods to implement in your daily lifestyle.
- Loose Meal Plan
- 3-Day Meal Plan
- Basic Meal Plan
- Rigid Meal Plan
- Combo Meal Plan
- Loose Meal Plan:
Most of us find it difficult to meal plan for our family members than ourselves because of the varied tastes and preferences. One child may not like what you are cooking today while the other just adores it, so with meal planning for a group, always choose a “Loose meal plan”.
How to Make a Loose Meal Plan:
A loose meal plan is a simple method of making sure you plan 3 meals for a day, but with no restrictions.
Step1: Check the list of ingredients available in your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
Step2: Select a set of “Produce” and “Groceries” for the week.
Step 3: Come up with 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners for the week using the selected ingredients.
Step 4: Shop for any additional ingredients. If everything is available already, you can skip this step.
Step 5: Write the menu, place it in the kitchen, and inform everyone about the meals you are looking forward to cooking for them.
Step 6: Do not assign any meal for a particular time of the day. Keep it loose and flexible.
- 3-Day Meal Plan:
If you have a set routine for a week, then you might like to make your mid-week free of worries and complications. The 3-day meal plan will be the ideal choice for you. You can spend only a few hours on a Sunday or any other day to meal plan for the 3 days and if time permits, you can cook the meals and store in glass containers too.
How to make a 3-Day Meal Plan:
A 3-day meal plan can include a simple menu along with partial or full meal prep.
Step 1: Write 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 dinners. (if possible, use the same ingredients)
Step 2: Note the list of ingredients you need to cook the recipes. This will be your shopping list.
Step 3: You can shop and meal prep on the same day or on consecutive days.
Step 4: Set a dedicated meal prep hour. Chop vegetables, fruits, and marinate meats for the 3 days.
Step 5: You can cook and assemble the dishes in separate containers and store them in the fridge.
Step 6: Microwave or reheat the dishes on the day of consumption.
If you are not into meal prepping for the 3 days. You can cook the recipes at the time of the meal.
- Basic Meal Plan:
When we don’t have an obvious idea about how our week is going to be, we may not come up with an accurate meal plan for the week. We may need to run plenty of errands, attend parties, or visit friends in a week which may put us in a jeopardy. In those times, it’s best to plan some very monotonous and basic meals that you are 100% sure that your family will enjoy.
How to make a Basic Meal Plan:
Step 1: Shop for basic vegetables, spices, staples, meat, and dairy products for the week. If you are sure about the availability of the basics, you can skip shopping. But it’s best to shop for a busy week beforehand to save unnecessary headaches later.
Step 2: Select a handful of recipes you know very well to cook and are easy to prepare.
Step 3: Choose recipes/ingredients that you can mix and match with other dishes. E.g. having a few loafs of bread can help you make quick toasts for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and work as accompaniments for soupy dinners.
Step 4: You don’t have to cook everything from scratch during this basic meal plan week. Make a large batch of soup, sauce, or curry. Reheat and serve the same when you are running short of time.
- Rigid Meal Plan:
If you are a bachelor or a professional who follows a routine lifestyle with no flexibility, then it becomes easy for you to create a “rigid meal plan”. A rigid meal plan is the best method to implement regularly because it does not change much every week. Once you create a schedule, you can make it repetitive.
How to make a Rigid Meal Plan:
A rigid meal plan involves shopping, meal prep, and menu creation. It’s a brilliant method for meal planning beginners and aspirers.
Step 1: Write the most common recipes you would like to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner regularly. It can be 30-40 recipes which will never make you feel bored.
Step 2: Buy the basic ingredients you need to cook these recipes. For E.g. Being an Indian, I use pulses, onion, and tomato every day. If I have these basic ingredients in my pantry, I can whip up dishes for the entire week with no hassles.
Step 3: Create a menu based on the “days of the week”. If it’s Monday, you will eat the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner every Monday of the upcoming weeks. Similarly, plan for all the days of the week.
Step 4: You can meal prep the dishes on the previous night of every day because you know the standard ingredients you need for making the recipes. Or prepare and store the dishes in containers for the week. Reheat and eat whenever you can.
- Combo Meal Plan:
This method of meal planning is for people who love to wing it and just take one day at a time. If you are a person who loves to dine and not eat every day, this “combo meal plan” will work the best for you. It takes no effort and lets you be cool with cooking and making delicious treats for your family.
How to make a Combo Meal Plan:
A Combo meal plan refers to a combination of two methods together. It involves basic meal prepping with batch cooking but not having any set menu for the week.
Step 1: Have a joyful shopping day with no list. Smell, taste, and buy seasonal produce, food items on sale and splurge on some fine wine and cheese if you love midweek special nights.
Step 2: Buy ingredients of similar groups together such as apple and cinnamon, tomato, and basil. This combination of ingredients will help you when you run out of options.
Step 3: Search for recipes you can cook for two or three meals together. In this way, you will have some backup to use up at the end of the week. And on days when you feel like cooking something special, you can take the time to make new dishes from scratch.
Advantages of Smart Meal Planning Methods:
- You will always be prepared for the week.
- There won’t be any additional demands or surprises in between the course of the week.
- You will have the freedom to cook any recipe on any day because of the availability of ingredients.
- No unnecessary midweek shopping.