Saturday, January 28, 2012

Menu Planning for Dummies

One of the things I get teased about the most is how meticulously organized my house is. I am ubber organized in everything I do and I am a firm believer in routine. Matt says I probably would have made a great dictator and I believe this is true.

I also get the "what the fuck is this??" when people come to my house and see the "Menu" header on my bulletin board with the calendar. I then explain how I plan all of our meals, and that dictates what I buy at the grocery store, and it's all organized and awesome. And every single person says "Oh, that's a pain in the ass" or "I can't do that" and I always ask, why not?

Because it's really easy and it saves you a ton of time during the busy week and it saves you money on your grocery bill.

Here's what you need:
*A calendar or a piece of paper
*A brain
*Grocery Advertisement for that week

I usually do this on a Saturday night while watching Dr. Phil reruns. (Don't judge me, asshole.) I plan my meals for a bi-weekly session and get all of those groceries in one trip, which is why I work off of the ad. If you are one of those people who say that you can't commit to eating pork chops on Tuesday because what if you really don't want pork chops on Tuesday? There are two options: 1. Make a list of 14 meals that you are going to buy and have them in stock in your house. Each morning, decide what off of that list you're making, and bam, you're done with that. OR, 2. You can just commit to whatever meal you planned for that calendar day. If it's Tuesday, and it's pork chops and you aren't feeling it... you won't eat as much, will you? Hello, weight loss.

So get your calendar or your list and plan out 14 meals. Check to see what is on sale at your grocery store and use that as your basis. I also look to see what I have going on different days, because if I'm working late or have a lot to do after the kid's come home, it's a Crock Pot meal or something easy like tacos, fajitas, stir fry, etc. As you write down a meal on your calendar/list- have a separate grocery list going and write down the ingredients you need. (Tip: If we are having spaghetti one night, I make sure to have extra sauce that I can re-use to make meatball subs another night. I try to utilize my left overs as much as I can to cut down on my grocery expense.)

Once you get this done, take your grocery list into the pantry/kitchen and see what you already have on hand. If you have something, cross it off your grocery list so you don't buy more than you need. OR, go ahead and buy that so you have something on hand to make your grocery bill less another time.

After I get a finished list, I go online and look for coupons. I try to match up as much as I can before I get to the store. I also look in the ad and if they have noodles or easy side dishes on sale for 10/$10, I make sure to add a few of those to my grocery list because that could help me out later on.

For breakfast meals it's always cereal, waffles, and/or toast. Except on weekends then I usually make pancakes, eggs, cinnamon rolls, etc. So I make sure to get enough to last me two weeks. Lunches for Olivia consist of a sandwich, a side, a treat and juice. My grocery store recently had 4 packs of pudding for $1 so I ended up buying 10 of these because that will last awhile. Lunches on the weekends I try to make them hot meals so I do chicken nuggets, fish sticks, grilled cheese, soup, etc and so I make sure to stock up on these things when they go on sale.

I've gotten it down to a science where I only spend $100 for two weeks of meals for us. I use coupons, take advantage of every sale, and plan. I don't buy junk and extras and I only get what is on my list. I'll be honest, it takes me maybe a full hour to plan my menu, make my list and coupon. But I figure one hour of my time when the kids are in bed to save that much money on my groceries? Worth it.

Then every morning when I get up, I check my calendar to see what's for dinner and I take the meat out to defrost and set what ingredients I can on the counter so everything is ready to go when I get home. It makes my life a thousand times easier too.

Do I cook every night? No. Stuff comes up and we end up grabbing a pizza- but that's OK. I just save that planned meal for my next biweekly schedule and we're good.

So there you go. Do you have questions? Let me know- I'm happy to answer!


Shirley said...

So the first 163 times I tried meal planning I failed miserably. But now I have a handle on it. My dumbass was trying out a new recipe EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! Now I use Plan to Eat. It was a pain in the ass adding all my favorite recipes but after two months it makes my life unbelievably easier.

Ruth said...

I did menu plan when I bought everything. Now we have a garden and I can and freeze so much and my husband hunts so I don't do that much anymore.
It does help a lot.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I would plan meals when my girls where little but now that it is just me and Tim most of the time I don't bother...........

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

I do 14 day plans as well but I don't assign them to specific days, apart from things like serving the braised pork loin & veggies on the weekend when I have more time midday to set it up, but I always do two shopping trips. We can't store enough milk or fruit/veggies in the fridge for two weeks so I have go back & restock them & bread

Catherine said...

Menu planning is on my list of things to learn to do this year! I am going to follow your instructions and see yhow I go! Thank you :) (

Unknown said...

I suck at menu planning, even though I've been trying to do it for years. We spend way too much on groceries. At least now I can put every bit o fruit in a smoothie so nothing goes bad. The problem is that my husband won't eat dinner or leftovers a lot of the time, and I never know what to plan that's healthy, high in protein and contains vegetables that he'll eat. I really need to get my shit together though. Can you post some of your menu's?