Skip the dread, cook ahead
Between work, social and personal lives, it can be hard to find the time to cook. Taking just an hour each week to plan ahead can save you both time and money, and means you'll always have healthy food to hand.
Check out our handy hacks for mastering meal planning . . .
1. Plan ahead
At the beginning or end of your week, take an hour to plan your meals for the coming days. Think about choosing recipes with similar ingredients to avoid food waste; using leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day; and meals that are quick to make. Make a shopping list from your meal plan will help you buy the ingredients you need and avoid buying food you don’t need.
2. Go to recipes
3. Batch cooking
Batch cooking is a great, time-saving way to make sure you have a healthy meal ready each day. Choose a day to cook in bulk, take a recipe and double the ingredients (make sure you have a big enough pot!), then store portions in individual containers and pop them in the freezer for later. Soups, casseroles, curries and stews are great for batch cooking.
1. Shop savvy
Save on cost of ingredients for your meals by opting for store brand products and alternatives. And where there are offers to buy in multiples, take advantage of the discounts (provided they were on your shopping list and you have the space to store them). While you might not need several cans of chopped tomatoes now, you will probably use them up quickly and make a saving!
2. Buy frozen vs fresh
Fresh fruit and vegetables, even when stored correctly, don’t have a long shelf life. Buying frozen fruit and veg is just as nutritious and lasts longer, meaning nothing needs to go in the bin.
3. Cook with your housemates
Getting your housemates or friends involved in a group cooking session is great for saving both money and effort – and can be a bit of fun. Planning a recipe together means you can divvy the costs of the ingredients, speed up the process and share the workload.
Finally, planning and preparing meals ahead usually involves freezing food. So, here are a few tips to freeze, defrost and reheat your food safely so you enjoy every dish:
- Cool food before freezing
- Wrap food properly or put in sealed containers to avoid freezer burn
- Do not freeze any foods after their use-by date
- Check the package before defrosting for manufacturer’s instructions
- Defrost your food in the fridge, and if you are thawing meat, make sure it is placed on the bottom shelf of the fridge
- Only defrost food in the microwave if you are going to cook and eat it straight away
- Make sure poultry is completely thawed before cooking
- Do not refreeze food that has been defrosted
- Frozen berries must be cooked before using – boil them for 1 minute before adding to smoothies or consuming
- Never reheat food more than once
Read more about planning ahead with your food shop