Meal and Snack Planning
The feedback we received after last week’s budgeting method was amazingly positive (filled with a generous amount of curiousity, of course!) But it seems as though the main questions were 1) What does an average week’s meals look like on a R600 budget? And 2) What is included in your grocery budget and what goes into your “other” budget.
We will definitely be looking at the 2nd question in a future blog, but the simple answer is; basically everything you’d find at your local supermarket. Think food, shampoo, dog food, lotion, baby wipes, shaving cream, ziplock bags, baking items, cleaning supplies, milk, cold medicine, make-up, toiletries. “Other” budget will include all your non-grocery expenses. Home-décor needs, clothes, haircut, babysitting, tuck shop money, coffee with a friend, gift for birthday.
Please remember: Your budget is a WEEKLY budget. You don’t need new shaving cream every week. Or new Handy Andy every week. Plan. And buy accordingly.
Let’s look at what our meal planning in an average week would look like.
I had a dozen eggs, 2 random pieces of chicken thighs, a pack of bacon and some basic salad ingredients that I needed to use this week. We had pasta (plenty!) the previous week, and decided to attempt this whole week without bread or pasta. So after first looking at what we had, what I needed to buy, and what was on sale – our menu looked like this:
Day 1 – Grilled chicken and roasted seasonal vegetables
Day 2 – Savoury mince on rice, steamed carrots
Day 3 – Mediterranean chicken stew with rice, roasted potatoes
Day 4 – Beef stir-fry (with honey and soy sauce)
Day 5 – Cook-in-the-bag chicken with pumpkin, potatoes, mushrooms and baby marrow
Day 6 – Bacon, mushroom and pumpkin quiche
It really does not matter which days I do which meal planned. I like to arrange our meals so we don’t eat the same protein two days in a row. Also, we have a look at which vegetables might need to be cooked sooner than planned. That’s our preference.
We’re also not a big salad family, but we make sure it’s balanced enough. Our kids LOVE those baby tomatoes and carrots. Often, our “salads” will consist of those only.
Also, as you can see in our photos, we scored 50% off on selected Free-range deboned chicken thighs. SCORE! So we changed our meal plan slightly and cooked that chicken the same day. I personally try to keep my protein to about R50-ish, so this worked for my budget.
(TIP: I only seasoned the chicken with Robertson’s Chicken Spice, grilled it on each side for 5 mins, and had it rest a couple mins more – covered – while the vegetables were roasting. Perfection.)
I have to mention – we would usually buy a 2kg bag of rice that would obviously last much longer than the seasoned, flavoured rice pictured above. But I wanted to try these and it still fit into my budget. Not the best “stocking up” idea, but at least it shows we don’t always have to buy the cheapest of everything. You’re allowed to splurge every now and then – but plan. And sometimes it means putting down something else you wanted instead.
We try to balance our children’s snacks as well. And since we were doing a pasta/bread-free week, I also bought these for lunch boxes and snack time:
Mini flavoured rice cakes
Hummus chips (P.S. Really not that great…)
Strawberry fruit gums
+-R60 worth of fruit. (usually equates to 3 bags – apples, pears, bananas or similar)
Don’t worry. We also have a snack tin. It’s filled with yummy goodies that mom has to purposely stay away from. Snack times are 2x a day. 10:30am and 3:30pm
Times 4 children. Times 7 days a week… is a bunch-load of snacks. A ton of wasted cash. And a bigger butt-load of sugar.
Having behavior therapy as my background, I have greatly applied these skills in changing my children’s sweet-eating habits.
Here are some changes we made to our children’s snack-time:
- Buy small ziplock-type bags.
We usually buy two sizes, but the smaller bags get used more. Any plastic store will have.
- Smaller snacks.
The mini rice cakes I bought this week, was divided into 3 servings as a snack. (5/6 rice cakes per child) Even a full box of Astros can be divided into two small bags/bowls. (In the beginning I had to open & divide the box/bag without the kids present as to avoid the moans and groans. But now they will watch me divide to ensure equality 😉
- Sweets as snack is a privilege
The first time they groaned and complained about snacks “Is this all we’re getting??” “What? Only apple and raisins?” we explained in a firm, yet loving way how sweet treats were special and not necessary for healthy living and growing children. If they were to complain again, we will simply take the snack away. I promise you, this has only happened twice. Never again. As soon as they want to start moaning, I would quickly and firmly ask if they’d like this snack or whether I should put it back. STAY CONSISTENT.
- Fruits as snacks are OK!
They get to choose their own fruit from the big fruit bowl. Or if they don’t want any of the available fruit, they may opt for any vegetable they can find in the fridge.
- Buy wholesale sweets
I always thought wholesale meant lower quality sweets – you know, those sweets in the party pack that no one wants to eat… But stores like Giants, or Makro sell your favourite sweets in BIG packets. Try the big bag of liquorice allsort, and throw in 5-10 individual sweets in a ziplock bag. We love marshmallow fish – one or two in a bag as a snack.
- Let them be their own decision-makers
I have full control over what goes into our snack box. Why not allow them to choose which snack they feel like today? Fizzer? Marshmallow? Fruit flakes? Jelly babies? Choose one. They are also allowed to pick one sweet snack for their lunch boxes themselves. You’ll often hear them plan their sweet treats for the week; “I’m having a pack of sherbet today, but tomorrow I’m choosing a lollipop!”
Planning and shopping for your meals and snacks can be great fun if you know what you’re looking for, and how you can divide it into smaller bits. Be aware of what is on sale, but don’t be fooled into buying them unless it genuinely is a great deal. Also, be flexible to change your menu if necessary.
I hope this helps and inspires you to meal plan, budget, and most of all, SAVE A LOAD OF CASH!
Comment below if you have any questions or opinion you’d like to share.