Hello and welcome to a brand new Tenner Week budgeting challenge! Today is Menu Monday and we’re going to make a menu plan to save money.
Let’s start by tackling that weekly food bill, because groceries are taking up a larger proportion of our outgoings than ever before. This is mainly due to food price inflation, increased import costs and farming costs, and a rise in duty charged on some drinks.
Today’s activity is all about making yourself a great menu plan for the week, because it’s easily one of the most powerful ways to slash your food bill. A smart menu is also the best way to prevent food waste, which is better for the environment as well as saving you money.
How to do a great Menu Plan Monday
If you didn’t do the optional Sunday Stocktake for food and drink, have a quick look around your home to work out exactly what you have to work with. Make a special note of any leftovers, or any other ingredients that need using up quickly. Then check the fridge, veg basket, fruit bowl, or whatever else you have that’s perishable.
Next, take a good look at your diary, and anyone else’s in your household if you’re cooking for them. Think about working hours, study, social events, exercise and hobbies. Who is at home for each mealtime, and who is going to be out? Will anyone be home late but still need a quick meal? Who might need a packed lunch, if anyone?
Start creating that thrifty menu
Now look at the food that you already have, starting with anything that needs using up soon. Come up with an idea or two for meals at the start of the week where you’re using these fresh ingredients or leftovers up. If you can’t use them up straight away, perhaps because it clashes with something in your diary, work out whether you can freeze them to use later.
Move on to longer-lasting ingredients you have in stock. Have a look in your kitchen cupboards and freezer, and think about cheap meals you can make from low-cost staple ingredients and/or things you already have. Maybe you have some cheap and cheerful personal, household or family favourites. Note down these thrifty meal ideas too.
Then focus on your quick meals. You’ve already worked out which evenings you know you’re going to be home late, or tired after work or exercise, so now it’s time to think about your favourite speedy dinners. Do you have any go-to meals you love, like an omelette, a big salad, or beans on toast, or anything else?
Now think about longer-cook favourites. Everyone has a few personal or family favourites that take a bit longer to prepare or cook, so think of a few of yours that could be made with ingredients you already have. For example, these could be the sort of meals that you make if you have more time at the weekend, and might include pies, bakes, lasagne, casseroles or curries.
If necessary, you can make a small shopping list and buy some extra ingredients using your Tenner Week budget. Don’t forget that you only count your personal share of the food towards the total spend, so for example if you spend £6 making a pie for four people and only serve yourself a quarter of it then your share of the meal is just £1.50.
Now finalise your menu…
Finally, decide on your meals and snacks, and write it out. Choose all your main meals for your menu – for most of us this means dinners in the evening. You can also plan to have leftovers from certain meals so you don’t have to cook the following day (for example if you have roast chicken on a Sunday you could make chicken noodle stir fry on Monday.) Then plan any breakfasts, snacks, lunches, desserts and drinks you think you’ll need.
Once you’ve written out your menu plan, remember to put the list where it can easily be seen. You might need to remind other people in your house to stick to the menu as well, to prevent them from raiding the fridge.
More useful resources
- The Tenner Week Challenge rules
- 12 tips for a successful Tenner Week
- Get my free printable menu planner
- How to save money with menu planning
That’s Menu Plan Monday all sorted out, and bon appetit!
What are you putting on your thrifty menu for the week?
I’m doing a lentil and spinach curry with rice, plus a veggie sausage casserole to use up whatever’s lurking at the bottom of the veg drawer in the fridge.