Tips for planning budget meals for large families

Lots of mouths to feed but not much money? Here are some top tips on how to keep your weekly food bill down.

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Meal planning when preparing for the weekly food shop can seem daunting if it’s not part of your routine. But if you have a large family, it can be a great way to keep your weekly food budget under control. Here are some top tips to help you plan ahead and keep those hungry mouths fed.

Plan your meals

One of the best ways to keep costs down when food shopping is to make a weekly meal plan for you and your family. It helps to consider what you are doing each evening and then chose meals that will fit in with your plans and lifestyle. That way you are more likely to stick to your plan. Once you have a meal planned for each day, write a shopping list based on the ingredients that you need. Then, the key is to only buy what is on your list when you are doing your food shopping. Don’t be tempted to buy other items that may not get used and could end up being wasted.

Check what’s in your cupboard/freezer

The first point of call with any sort of meal planning is to check what you already have in. Scour your food cupboards and freezer to see if there are the makings of a meal there already. Sausages already in the freezer? You’re one step closer to making a toad in the hole. Can of kidney beans and chopped tomatoes in the cupboard? What about a chili? Knowing what you already have can influence the meals you plan for the week ahead and saves you doubling up on ingredients.

Go frozen/tinned

Use the power of frozen food. Vegetables are frozen as soon as they are picked, locking in freshness. If you are looking to keep your budget down and reduce your food waste, investing in frozen food is a great way to go. You don’t need to worry about food spoiling as quickly, and you have a base from which to work when you are thinking of new meals to cook. The same can be said for tinned food. If you have some tinned staples in your cupboard, then you have options to work from, and once again you don’t have to worry about food spoiling as quickly. 

Cook/buy in bulk

If you are feeding a family, it is often best to cook in bulk. If you roast a whole chicken, it could feed the family and provide leftovers for another meal. It makes it far more economical than buying individual chicken breasts. You could make extra of a family favourite and put it in the freezer for another day. Cooking a large batch of a recipe at one time can often work out cheaper. 

Similarly, look to buy in bulk. Large bags of pasta will often work out cheaper than multiple smaller bags. If there is a whole salmon side available, buy it and chop it into fillets yourself to freeze for later use. This often works out cheaper than buying individual pre-cut fillets.

Love your slow cooker

If you have a slow cooker, plan a few meals using it for the week. If you have family members that eat at different times, it can be a great way to still cook one meal, but keep it warm for a later sitting. What you should aim to avoid is cooking multiple meals using different ingredients, as this will only push your grocery bill higher.

Slow cookers can also handle cheaper cuts of meat better. They cook on a gentle heat for a longer time, making the meat more tender and flavoursome.

Shop online or use scan as you shop

Doing your food shop online is a great way to stay on top of your budget. You can see exactly how much you are spending, and you have the opportunity to take your time comparing prices. Most supermarket apps will also highlight offers on certain products, such as buy one get one free or three for £10.

If you do end up shopping in-store, try to use ‘scan as you shop’ if available. Most supermarkets in the UK now offer this service, although you typically need to hold the loyalty card for the supermarket you plan to use it in. It means that you can scan each item as you place it in the trolley, therefore seeing exactly how much you have spent before you reach the checkout. It is a great way to make sure that you keep to your preset budget.

Check the reduced section

You may have your shopping list with the ingredients all written out for your carefully prepared meal plan, but it is always worth checking the reduced section in supermarkets. You could potentially find something that was on your list anyway, or you could find something you can freeze and use in the upcoming days.

Go veggie

Meat can be expensive, especially if you are feeding a large family, so look to introduce some veggie meals into your repertoire. It doesn’t have to be every meal, but even a couple of vegetarian meals a week can make a big difference. Doing so is also better for the environment, so it’s win win!

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