How to save $2500 on your supermarket bill
JEN Petrovic is one of those super-organised women that many of us aspire to be like - someone who has an intelligently stocked pantry, standby meals in her freezer for busy school nights and a plan of what she is going to cook for dinner that week.
Over the years her friend, Gaby Chapman, has wished she could be more like Jen. But when she discovered that taking a leaf from Jen's book and setting out a weekly meal plan could save her up to $2500 a year on her grocery bill, she decided to take action.
She is now a meal planning convert.
"I used to phone a friend at 5 o'clock and ask what they were cooking for dinner, then either rush to the shops to buy some ingredients or see if I could cobble something together from existing ingredients," Gaby says.
"I am delighted to say that I have made a complete transformation".
The Melbourne mums are so enamoured with the benefits of meal planning that they have launched an app called PlanBuyCook ($5.99) to help others save time and money.
They came up with the concept when they were preparing food for a school fete.
"All the parents there were asking Jen (who is a chef) for advice on how to take the chore out of the evening meal," recalls Gaby.
"I realised there was something in this, as busy people like me really had no idea how to make everyday meals easier. I suggested we build an app rather than do a cookbook, as it would solve the problems of many households: what to cook, having a shopping list with everything you need to match your household size, and handy tips and timers built into tasty recipes the whole family can enjoy."
Jen's background as a chef has put her in good stead to create a meal planning app.
"A chef's life is very difficult in terms of split shifts once you have kids, so catering and cafes have been my main jobs since the kids were born," she explains.
"Being a chef involves so much more than just cooking: it is all about planning, preparation, food budgets and time management ... pretty good skills for teaching meal planning."
As mothers of two and three children respectively, Jen and Gaby have also discovered that meal planning saves a lot of stress.
"Without a meal plan, people are shopping, on average, three times a week for food," explains Gaby.
"In many cases, people spend more time shopping than cooking. The evening meal, especially once you have kids, can weigh heavily on your mind. If you add in some fussy eating and after school activities, many people are experiencing a lot of stress in feeding their families every day."
HOW TO SLASH YOUR SUPERMARKET SPEND
"Our top tips to reduce your grocery bill are to plan your meals, have a shopping list with everything you need and only shop once a week," explains Jen.
"Without a plan, you often make optimistic food purchases that go to waste if you can't remember what you were buying the ingredients for.
"Australians waste around $2500 a year in edible food, so planning and cutting down on trips to the supermarket will make a big difference to your bill."
Before you start your meal plan, Jen suggests you look in your pantry, fridge and freezer first for ingredients or previous meals you can use that week before going to the shops.
"We suggest doubling all freezable meals, so that in a few weeks you only need to purchase a smaller amount of food and save money by not reaching for expensive takeaway meals or pre-prepared meals when you are time poor," she advises.
HOW THE APP WORKS
* The PlanBuyCook app has 120 different recipes - you can scale all the meals to fit the number of mouths you're feeding, or to double ingredients for freezing later.
* The app auto-generates a shopping list that you can tick off as you shop.
* It allows you to search recipes by cuisine, ingredient or name and the weekly meal planner includes options for takeaway, dining out and leftovers, as well as adding your own recipes.
A SAMPLE WEEKLY MENU ON PLANBUYCOOK
"Summer is all about simplicity, so we have some cool recipes for hot days that won't heat up the kitchen too much. Double the freezable meals for super "fast food" in future weeks. Plan for an extra serving each meal early in the week to build up some leftovers to make a pot luck leftovers meal by Friday. Make Sunday a super easy meal or pantry meal (using ingredients stored mainly in the pantry) to give yourself a break."
Monday - Pad Thai. Quick meal for a busy night.
Tuesday - Potato and zucchini quesadillas
Wednesday - Lemon and garlic chicken marinade with couscous salad. Double the chicken marinade and freeze for later weeks. Marinate the meat when you get home from the supermarket.
Thursday - Tacos - double the meat recipe and freeze for later.
Friday - Leftover night or takeaway - use pot luck meals from meals earlier in the week if you have them.
Saturday - Herb crusted fish.
Sunday - Easy meal - Chick pea curry. Double and freeze half for later.
For lunch boxes - Semolina cake. Cut and freeze in portions.