Tag: meal planning

3 Tips to Planning Efficient Home-Cooked Meals

A few generations ago, dining out was an experience reserved for special occasions. However, until recently, when restaurants were shuttered in the wake of the public health crisis prompted by the spread of COVID-19, many people were dining out multiple times a week.

Hospitality solutions provider Fourth surveyed 1,000 American adults in 2019 and 56 percent reported dining out at least two to three times per week. Ten percent said they ate out four to six times each week, while 6 percent said they dined out everyday. People accustomed to relying on restaurant for meals multiple times per week may be unaccustomed to cooking many meals at home, which has become the norm thanks to restrictions placed on restaurants and other food-related businesses as part of COVID-19 social distancing precautions. Learning how to shop for food and prepare items by maximizing available ingredients can reduce trips to the store and help people reduce food waste at a time when food is not as readily available as it once was.

1. Plan meals/browse circulars

Meal planning and shopping lists are vital tools for people preparing meals at home. Without doing so, individuals can be left floundering in the supermarket, spending more money than necessary and making impulse purchases (all the while forgetting items they truly need). Use sales circulars to browse weekly discounted items at stores. Build a week’s worth of meals off of these sale items — going so far as to write out a cursory menu — then fill in any extra ingredients or staples needed on a shopping list. Leave a day or two for leftovers. Try organizing the list to follow the natural layout where items are arranged in the store.

2. Shop smart

With paper and pen in hand or a digital list compiled on your phone, go aisle by aisle and check off items as they are added to the cart. If you are shopping for food you hope will last a week or more, consider substituting canned and frozen foods and other nonperishables for fresh items because they can be stored for longer periods of time. “Club size” or “family size” packages of foods may cost less per volume and can be sub-divided and stored for later use.

3. Minimize waste

Cook only as much as is needed for the household. Generally speaking, a meat or poultry serving of three to four ounces per person is adequate. That means a roast or steak of 11⁄2 to two pounds is fine for a family of four. Use up older frozen or perishable foods first. Store foods properly and use them before the use-by date. Wrap up leftovers and turn them into new meals.

With proper planning and smart thinking, homecooking can be more efficient and less wasteful.

Weekly Meal Plans May Save Money

Meal plans provide a clever way to save money on food. Knowing the meals that will be made and which ingredients need to be purchased for these recipes eliminates floundering and impulse purchases at the supermarket.

Knowing exactly what to buy and when also can eliminate food waste and spoilage. According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, people who can avoid impulse spending can save up to 23 percent on their grocery bills.

Planning meals in advance can also provide a host of health benefits. When meals are planned in advance, shoppers have more control over the ingredients they choose and can tailor them to specific dietary needs or healthy eating plans.

Fortunately, time-pressed individuals have a number of resources at their disposal to help them plan and shop for meals. A quick online search for weekly meal plans will yield many results, including recipes and complementary shopping lists. People also can download apps that help with meal planning to their smartphones. Such apps include Yummly, Pepperplate and MealBoard, among others.

Another way for individuals to plan meals more effectively is to take a few moments on the weekend to think about which meals to make during the week ahead. Compare the necessary ingredients against those you may already have in your pantry. The rest can be purchased and saved for subsequent meals. Buying a week’s worth of groceries in one shopping trip is more efficient and can help to conserve fuel.

When planning meals, try to use the most perishable items first. For example, prepare to use seafood, some dairy items and fresh vegetables early in the week, and more durable foods, such as frozen, boxed or canned goods, later in the week.

When buying foots at the store, buy proteins in bulk and subdivide them into smaller packages to save money. Properly repackage foods so they will not spoil or become freezer burned, leading to waste. Other budget-conscious shopping tips include trying store brands, building meal plans around items that are on sale that week and making use of coupons or coupon apps.

Post a weekly meal plan on or near the refrigerator so items can be thawed and ingredients prepared as needed. Building meals around slow cooker recipes also can help those who like to prep foods in the morning and then come home to completely cooked meals. On busy nights, arrange for fast meals, such as sandwiches or one-pot creations.

By planning meals in advance, home cooks never have to stand in front of the pantry wondering what to make.