Deciding what you need to buy, how much and what to do when you get home
I’m a believer in allowing for flexibility and adaptability in life, this includes the food we eat. Sometimes I like planning my meals, sometimes not, but I know when I do plan my meals, it brings a sense of mental clarity and security. I know I’ll be able to focus on the day’s tasks, be present with the people around me.
We need to mitigate risk – you never know when you’ll come down with something, or the unforeseeable happens and you’re isolated at home for 2 weeks!
Knowing you’ve got a few meals ready to go reduces stress and anxiety, possibly without you realizing. We’re bombarded with last minute decisions about what to eat and reducing the need to think too much about it can have great effects on your mental clarity.
Having said this, plans do change! Things come up at work, or you just don’t feel like eating the curry you made a few days ago.
Planning doesn’t have to be perfect. Expect plans to change!
Decide what you want out of your meal planning. Having a ‘why’ helps you stick to new habits.
- Saving time during your upcoming busy week
- Spending money mindfully and working within a tight budget
- Supporting ethical, low-waste, locally sourced food
- Creating an experience around food with family and friends
- Preparing your life for an isolating apocalypse
Keep this in mind when deciding on where to purchase
Where to start
Deciding what you will eat this week.
- What’s on this week, or for the next period of time?
- What does my body (and family) need nutritionally this week? What will give our bodies the best chance and is something we can enjoy too?
- What do I already have in the kitchen that needs using up?
- What’s in season?
- What does the family want this week?
- How much time will I have for cooking?
If reducing your waste is a major goal for you, a great place to start is by making an inventory of what you’ve already got. Anything that’s forgotten about in the back of the fridge or left at the bottom of the fruit bowl has a huge chance of inevitably ending up being disposed of. We can prevent this with a simple list. It takes just a few seconds!
- Make an inventory list of what you’ve got in the fridge, freezer, pantry, and anywhere else you have key food items. We’re looking for items with a high turnover – fruits, vegetables, staples like grains, perishables – not so much the condiments.
- Think: “what can I make with the food I have?”. I look for things with the potential to form a key part of a dish. E.g. sweet potatoes and carrots can potentially be a soup. Voile! There is a huge chunk of a meal already available, at no extra cost! Got an extra 2 slices of bread now going slightly too hard? Now you’ve got croutons for your soup or bread crumbs for homemade schnitzel.
- Get it down on paper, organized of course! Now’s the time to pull out your printed meal planner sheet [LINK TO DOWNLOAD]. Jot down the meals you just created from your current inventory. If you have enough sweet potato to make 3 serves of soup and you are cooking for one, pop soup down on 3 meal slots, or, you may like to pencil it in for 2 meals and have one serve in the freezer for those unexpected days were thinking about food is just too much.
- Fill in the blanks! Work out what meals you will have. Now’s time to fill in the gaps in your meal plan. Use the questions above to work out what will nourish your body and mind, while fitting within your budget and helps to fulfill the purpose you identified earlier (budget, experience, waste-free etc.)
- Dust off those gorgeous cookbooks you have on your top shelf and get inspired! The internet is a fantastic resource for recipes, however, but don’t let yourself get into the overwhelm of “100 ways to make lasagne”. We’re working on simplifying the process here.
- Remember you don’t have to get super adventurous with your food. Sometimes I love having simple steamed vegetables (usually the left-over veggies I’ve got in the fridge) with a condiment and a protein. It’s simple, nourishing, cheap and super easy to make!
- Think about ingredients you can use across multiple dishes. A few examples are:
- Bananas for a snack with nut butter, for banana pancakes or for a cool, healthy dessert as ice cream.
- Asparagus roasted with veg as a green side to salmon, asparagus soldiers with eggs and toast
- Cauliflower for a curry or slow-cooked one-pot wonder, an abundance bowl key ingredient, cauliflower pizza, or for a guilt-free, easy chill-out snack as cauliflower popcorn.
How to decide what groceries to buy
You’ve done the hard work (the thinking part)! Now we pull together a shopping list and work out what to buy and where to get it from.
It really begins with where you shop, whether working towards a plastic-free home, working within a tight budget, going vegetarian, or creating a premium, gourmet experience is your goal.
There can be a lot to think about, especially when you’re wanting to set a good example, take your own containers, get quality produce, work within your budget etc.
Set yourself up for success by organizing your shopping list.
The good news is, we’ve simplified this process for you. Download our shopping list template [LINK TO DOWNLOAD ], which helps you categorize your food list by store – simplifying your list by shop, e.g. a bulk store list, a deli list, and a farmers market list, getting them on 1 page, reduces the overwhelm of grocery shopping.
- Add your ingredients to your shopping list: Go over the meals you’ve chosen and write down each ingredient you need to buy under the appropriate category (check your fridge and pantry again! These accidental double-up purchases cost money and could become waste!).
- Work out the packaging you need to take shopping: Most ingredients will be available for purchase unpackaged if you go to the right places. Evaluate for yourself what works with your food, waste and budget goals for the week. We’ve previously created a great guide to bulk food shopping [LINK TO ERIN BLOG POST] where you’ll find out how to get your jars, containers or bags sorted..
- List the packaging you need to take: think jars, containers, produce bags, tote bags, maybe a food pouch too.
- Pack your containers, bags and shopping list and enjoy your shopping trip ?
- Think about what you have available in your garden, or could potentially have available.
- Think about what your friends and family may have an excess of. Have they had a huge yield of a certain vegetable this month? Could you swap some of your homemade bread or soup for some fresh produce or eggs?
Now you’ve done your grocery haul, it’s time to get the guide to batch cooking!