Menu Planning

Almost since the beginning of our marriage I have been menu planning.  In the beginning it started out by routinely {mostly on a monthly basis} purchasing the ingredients needed to make the most common and favorite meals.  Driving 2 hours a day three days a week to school AND working two days a week didn't leave a lot of time for "gourmet" meals, so most of them were quick and easy.  And quick and easy is still what I do most of today...three kids, a husband, part-time job, etc., etc. means we have to get dinner on the table pronto!

Over the course of 9.5 years I have refined my style to suit the way we live now.  This year I am really focused on saving money and I thought some of you might be as well and would like to see how I go about saving $$ on our grocery bill!

So here's a how I do things. 
First off you need to gather a few supplies.


1) Your calendar
2) A place to make your menu
3) A grocery list - this can just be a notebook like I use or now you can find notepads that have room for a menu on one side and list on the other.  I purchased a digital download to use and I think I will like it because this way I can see what I am going to use each ingredient for...because I sometimes forget while I am at the store!

Your first step is to look at your calendar and see what things you have going on for the week and if you are going to be gone during any of the meals you are planning for that week.  For example, when I was planning this week's menu I knew that we would be going to the Christian Church soup supper on Wednesday night, so I wrote that on my menu in the Wednesday slot.  Now I also look to see if we are going to be pressed for time any other days during the week and plan those meals first.  For instance, on Tuesdays I will usually make a quick meal because I like to attend the home basketball games.  Then, I pencil in a breakfast item for our Friday Breakfast Night {we always have breakfast for supper at least one night a week and generally try to do it on Friday}.

Now is the time you want to check you store ad if you are using one.  I will say that I used to do it every single week when the ad came in the mail.  But now that we have to go and get one, I don't always remember.  Our local grocery store ads run from Wednesday to Tuesday, so I need to get one sometime between Wedneday and Friday since I usually do my shopping over the weekend {more about this later}. 

The next step is to fill in the rest of the days.  I usually plan a main dish, vegetable, bread and sometimes a salad or other side-dish.  Really there are no hard and fast rules, just whatever seems good that day.  I also only plan for dinner, because we eat leftover for lunch the next day.  Once I have all the days complete I check the pantry, fridge and freezer to see if I have the ingredients for things on the list.

Another way I sometimes do this is to go to the fridge, freezer or pantry first and see if there is something that needs to be used and will put that on the menu to make sure we use it before it goes bad.

After the check of what I have here at the house and the ad I add the rest of the things to the grocery list.  I am a little Type A and I write my list out in the order of the store.  For our store that means, Fresh fruits and veggies, condiments, dairy....you get the idea.  This not only makes my trips go faster, but generally keeps me from forgetting to get things on the list.  Here's the benefit of using the ad and a list...you won't get sidetracked by things, wondering if you could use them and if you see something that you use often/a lot of on sale, you can put it on your list.  There is something extremely gratifying about taking a list and ONLY getting the things you have on your list.

The rest of your week should run smooth because you have everything you need for your meal prep and you won't have to make 5 trips to the store for supper that week!

I also use coupons, stock up on sale items, shop alone (most of the time), and use a calculator...another post though, because I am running out of time right now....the kids only leave you alone for so long you know?!


Becky said...

OOOhhhhhhh Sara. If you only knew what you had just started!! =) This has become almost like a game to me!! Anyway, this gives me a good place to start, so I am sitting down this weekend and getting busy!! Thank you so much!

mom said...

Why don't you just do this for me!!!!LOL