Meal Planning takes time, energy, and resources, and if you’re working two jobs, raising kids, low on funds, or all three, it can seem impossible! Meal kits, take out and other options can be expensive and add up fast and, while boxed macaroni and cheese, canned soup, and other processed foods are easy to make, they don’t offer a whole lot in the way of nutritional value. With food costs projected to rise another 5-7% this year, everyone needs to figure out a solution to eat healthy while cutting costs. That’s why we’ve assembled quick and easy tips for building a meal plan for cheap, healthy, meals that the whole family will love.
Find your favourites!
This is going to sound like a pretty obvious one, but the temptation with a meal plan is to go with recipes that you haven’t necessarily tried before. Unfortunately, if you don’t like the recipe, or it takes too long to make, or needs ingredients or spices that you’re never going to eat again- it’s not worth it. A meal plan that has tried and true favourites makes it easy to stick to, reduces food waste, and lessens the temptation to opt for fast food.
One of the things that takes the highest toll on any grocery budget is the protein. Meat and seafood can be pricey, so a solution to that is to lessen the amount of meat you’re eating and choose vegetable-based meals. You don’t have to become a vegetarian permanently, or eat things that you’re unfamiliar with, but with some prior planning and a few meatless mondays you can make your budget stretch.
With the internet, finding sales is even easier than before. You can shop around and see which stores have the best deals on products from the comfort of your home and you can also search different products to compare prices from most grocery store websites. One tip: Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it, make sure that it’s something you’re going to use, and that you’re not stocking up on things just because. Plus some stores offer price matching, so check what your local stores policy is before you go.
While you might think that nothing is in season in winter, this isn’t the case. Rutabagas, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, leeks, beets, turnips and squash are all in season, and you could potentially get them for a good price at the grocery store! If you shop based on what’s in season, you can take advantage of the surplus driving the costs down, and save some cash.
If you have access to a freezer, it can be your best friend. Pre-making and freezing meals can keep you going on days when you don’t have time or energy to make something different. Plus, if the option to purchase in bulk and freeze items is there, this can save you some money in the long run.
Pantry staples are called staples for a reason. They’re the things that usually hold your whole meal plan together! Having pasta, grains, noodles, nuts and seeds, canned goods and other things are a great place to start planning your meal plan. If you have certain things in your pantry, look there first before making your meal plan. Chances are you might get some inspiration, or can look up recipes to use what you already have.
Even with these budget saving tips, we understand that it’s difficult to put food on the table some days. Contact us at the Cambridge Food Bank for more information on our programs and services, including our mobile food market, community meal and more.