Since I know we're all still thinking about resolutions for the new year, here are some awesome menu planning ideas from Jennifer that will help you get organized and save money. This would work great in conjunction with our weekly dry erase menu board! Our family usually eats at home every night, we only eat out once a month or so. Here is how I plan my menus to save time and money at the grocery store.
Menu planning saves me money at the grocery store. I love grocery shopping. I especially love going to upscale grocery stores like Whole Foods and Central Market. My favorite aisle is the fruit and vegetable aisle, I love seeing how they are displayed. My love of grocery shopping usually overcomes my food budget and I gather everything that looks good to me into my cart. Recently my budget has been protesting about all the extras that I bring home. Sometimes I have so many fruits and vegetables that we can’t eat them all before they go bad. Something needed to change. I have tried several different meal planning methods over the years, but this time I found something that the whole family could live with.
*To have seven meals worth of dinners I discovered that I needed to cook 5 nights. The other two nights were leftover nights.
*I chose themes for our meals, something broad enough that everyone in the family would like it. The themes that we are using right now are: breakfast for dinner, Mexican, Chinese/Thai, soup (winter)or salad (summer), and beef or chicken.
*I organized all of our favorite dinners into one of these categories and put them all in a tabbed notebook.
*When its time to go grocery shopping I look through my notebook and choose 1 meal from each category. I add what I need my shopping list and voila, I have a week's worth of menus planned and a shopping list in about 10 minutes. I used to have a night for each theme, but I discovered that I needed more flexibility. Now I just have a list of meals for the week (sometimes I do two weeks at a time) and I usually decide in the morning what we are going to have that evening.
I have found that just this few minutes of meal planning saves me tons of money by buying only what we are going to eat this week, not what looks beautiful. This method gives me plenty of flexibility to try new recipes. I usually try something new at least weekly and sometimes several times a week. If we love the new recipe, I put it in my notebook behind its tab and we eat it again. If we didn’t like it, I just throw the recipe away. A couple of tips:
*When someone loves a recipe I write on the recipe who liked it and the day we ate it so I can make sure to have it again and put it in the notebook. This has brought several new family favorites into our dinner rotation.
*I usually clean out the fridge and check the freezer and pantry just before I choose my menus. This gives me a better idea of what I already have on hand so that I don’t buy things I already have. I stock up on things that we eat all the time when they go on sale. Things like beans and pineapple tidbits. I know that they will get eaten and they taste better when they are on sale.
*Leftover nights are really fun at our house, I either take all the leftovers out of the fridge and put them on the table and let everyone make up their own dinner or I tell everyone that I am too tired to cook and its “nuts and berries” night. On “nuts and berries” nights they forage in the cupboards and the fridge and come up with their own meal.
We hope this system will help you reach your goals in 2011, or at least save you a little more time and money for crafting!
Our family usually eats at home every night, we only eat out once a month or so. Here is how I plan my menus to save time and money at the grocery store.
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