If you want to save money on the groceries meal planning is essential. Planning meals saves you money, saves you time is healthier and makes life easier.
But what happens when our best intentions go awry and our meal plan…breaks?
In the parallel universe known as “an ideal world” – where there’s no war or climate change or techno music – our menu plans would always be perfect and as such, we would always follow them with grace and aplomb.
But back in the real world…life happens.
You have to stay late at work and feel too exhausted to cook.
You get sick.
You cut into the last onion in the pantry and it’s rotten in the middle and it’s the LAST STRAW when you’re having a camel of a day.
(Don’t you hate it when that happens?)
That’s when you need a meal planning hack: a flexible backup plan or two for just those moments.
And by a backup plan, I mean a few convenience foods in the freezer or pantry.
These convenience foods aren’t meant to make up your everyday meal plan; they are your backup foods that save you the cost and the calories of takeaway.
Meal Planning Hacks with Convenience foods
Below are three tips for having convenience foods on hand without breaking the budget.
1. Stock the Freezer With Convenient Leftovers
Not all convenience food has to come from the supermarket – leftovers are super convenient.
I have one week a month when I just can’t face the kitchen.
I used to try and fight it (I lost, Dominoes won), but now I try to plan for it in advance by cooking double meals when the spring is back in my step.
Having the convenience of a freezer full of meals is both good for your wallet and good for your sense of personal achievement (“I beat you, Dominoes!”).
The easiest way to stock the freezer full of homemade meals isn’t to batch cook over a weekend, but to double up your regular meals. I go into how to do that in this article.
The other option is to fill your freezer with homemade ‘oven-ready’ foods. Food that doesn’t need to be defrosted, so dinner at the last minute is a go.
Check out this article for ‘oven-ready’ food ideas.
2. Stock a Few Convenience Foods
But what if you don’t have a freezer full of meals to go?
That’s when store-bought convenience foods can be a real lifesaver.
While I’m a big fan of cooking from scratch, I’m not above having a few bottles of Korma simmer sauce in the cupboard either.
Or a frozen pie in the freezer.
Or frozen fish and a bag-o-salad to bung on a bread roll.
Convenience foods have a role to play in the modern kitchen and make great backup foods even if you normally prefer to cook from scratch.
They don’t need to compromise your health or your wallet. Read the labels to grab the healthiest option – manufacturers are listening to consumers and making the effort to improve the quality and nutrition of their foods. And to save money, check the catalogues each week to stock up when these foods are half-price.
We don’t have a microwave, but microwave meals can be a good back up meal, especially if you don’t have a whole family to feed. As an example: a Thai Curry and Rice Lean Cuisine is currently half price this week at $2.85 at Woolworths.
A few other convenience foods include:
- Pre-cut vegetables
- Simmer Sauces
- Pre-marinated meat
- Frozen vegetable mixes
- Spring rolls
- Frozen chicken tenders
3. Keep a list of instant meal ideas
Why keep a list of ideas?
Because it’s easier than staring into the fridge and having a brain freeze.
Easy instant meal ideas aren’t as convenient as bunging a dinner in the microwave, but the idea is you use what you have on hand.
For example, my family’s favourite dinner is toasted sandwiches. While I think I’m cheating, they think they’ve hit the bonanza. Especially if there’s bacon on them.
Noodles and fried egg is another easy favourite.
For more instant meal ideas, check out the frugal instant meals article.