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How to plan meals for the week ahead

Cupboard essentials and meal planning

Cooking tasty, easy meals for your family doesn't need lots of time or money. Better still, you’re likely to have plenty left for the next day or two. If you have freezer space, you can always pop leftovers in there for those days when there’s just no time to cook a meal from scratch.

Take a gander at our top tips for meal planning.

Top tips to try at home

Tip #1: Check the cupboards

Check what’s already in your cupboard before you go shopping. Can you make a meal from the ingredients you’ve got? Have a look at our recipes to see if you can cobble together something delicious.

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Tip #2: Dry food

What on earth is a dry food? Your cupboard’s probably full of them - things like dried lentils, beans, peas, rice, noodles, flour and plain breakfast cereals. Oil and reduced salt stock cubes are also good things to keep handy for when you have to whip something up quickly.

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Tip #3: Download a meal planner

Try a weekly meal plan to make planning the week ahead a bit easier.

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Tip #4: Plan on the same day every week

Set aside some time one day to plan your family meals. Write out a list of ingredients and get the kids to help so they know what they can expect for their dinner that week. Try not to get side-tracked by all those sneaky, junk food promotions at the supermarket - it’s easy to slip these things into your basket but they’re not doing you or your family any favours.

Get the kids more involved by asking them what meals they like best. You can do this more easily by sticking to food groups. Get them to pick out 4 pasta dishes from our healthy recipes or 2 pizza toppings etc. Click here to use our free food lab.

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Tip #5: Balance the plan

Use our meal planner to have a good mix of meals for the week. These could include meat, fish and vegetable dishes to give you variety in your meals as well as making them tasty.

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Tip #6: Frozen helps you plan

Buying frozen veg means you'll always have a few different options, and will also help you cut down on waste - you just use what you need. It’s also just as good for you as fresh veg! Fruit and veg tinned in their own juices is also a great way to store food.

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Tip #7: Store Cupboard Essentials

Try using more tinned foods, like tinned tomatoes or beans. They'll last longer and reduce waste at the same time. You only need a few simple ingredients to make a quick and great tasting meal. For more inspiration, check out our recipes page.

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Tip #8: The freezer is your friend

Soups, chilli, stews, casseroles and potato-topped pies all freeze well. When you know time will be against you, they can be enjoyed with minimum hassle.

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Tip #9: Keep your veggie peelings for stock

Store your vegetable peelings in a bag in the freezer until you have enough, and then shove them in a food processor. Add a teaspoon to 240mls of hot water, along with some pepper and parsley to taste.

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Tip #10: Using herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are a great way of adding flavour to any meal, and a small amount goes a long way. Build up your collection over time, and buy from supermarket own brands to save money.

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Tip #11: Plan around your family

When you're planning meals, don't forget to consider the evenings when your kids have classes, or you and your partner are working late. This will help you plan for quick dishes when you just don't have the time.

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Tip #12: Batch cooking

Why not try making meals from scratch, and then batch freeze them to save time and money. It works wonders, especially when you have growing kids to feed. Of course it isn’t easy to do this every time, so why not aim to do it once a week and see how you get on.

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Tip #13: Shop online

To save time and money, try to plan your meals and do your shopping online. Why not try buying tinned fruit and veg on special offer so you are not tempted to buy junk food! You might find shopping online saves you money as you only buy the things that you need.

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Tip #14: Plan to prepare

When planning meals, always check if something needs to be prepared the night before, or on the morning you're planning on cooking it. For example, you may have to take the chicken out of the freezer to allow it to defrost first!

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Tip #15: Flexible foods

Buying foods that can be used for several dishes like chicken, rice, and beans gives you loads more options to create different meals.

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Want to see if there are other things you could save money on?

Did you know that lots of parents in Scotland aren't claiming the benefits or grants they’re entitled to and are paying too much for bills like gas and electricity? That’s why the Scottish Government and the Citizens Advice network in Scotland have teamed up to launch the Money Talk Team – a free and friendly advice service that you can call to see if you can make a claim. Give them a call on 0800 085 7145.

This article was created as part of

Eat Better Feel Better