Planning your meals ahead of time can save a great deal of money and make your life a bit easier. No more stressing out over what to make for supper. No more realizing at the last minute that you have nothing to cook and then resorting to that money-waster called fast food.
Before I got into the habit of planning our meals, the process of getting groceries and cooking was a HUGE chore to me. I dreaded it. Our monthly grocery bill was at least $400, usually more.
Now making meals isn't that big of a deal and I actually enjoy getting groceries. And because I plan our menus, I'm only spending $250-$300 a month on food. Major improvement.
There are several ways to go about planning menus, some are more complicated than others. In this post, I will describe the way I do it, which is one of the more simple ways. I'm all for simple and efficient.
I only plan our suppers. Around here, breakfast consists of granola, cereal, yogurt, fruit, or leftover pancakes/waffles. Sorry, but I am not going to get up at 5:00 a.m. and make a monster breakfast for everyone. I have more important things to do....like sleep. Lunch is usually just sandwiches or leftovers. No need for me to "plan" those meals.
First thing's first, get a notebook. If you lived in our house, you would have to write "Mom's Notebook, DO NOT TOUCH" on the front of it because of the little paper thieves who also live here.
Make a Master Menu List. In your notebook, start a Master Menu List. This is simply a list of all the meals you are willing to make. I have around 75-100 meals on my list. One of my goals is to add at least two new meals to this list every month. When you are making your list, be sure to ask your family which meals are their favorite.
Choose your meals. I do two weeks at a time. Some people find that planning for the whole month is easier. Do what works best for you. Choose two week's (or a month's) worth of meals from your Master Menu List. On a separate page in your notebook, write the starting date and ending date of those two weeks on the top of the page (example: Feb. 1 - Feb. 14). Then write your list of 14 meals below. You could assign meals to specific days, or you could just look at the list each day and pick which one sounds good to you.
Next, make your grocery list. Look at your two-week meal list and decide what groceries you'll need. It's always a good idea to check your pantry, fridge and freezer as you make your grocery list. I hate it when I purchase something at the grocery store only to come home and find out that I already had it.
Now, follow your plan!
And that's basically it! Now you know exactly what you will be making for supper the next couple of weeks and you have all of the ingredients on hand.
Get in the habit of thawing out your meat a day in advance. Part of the after-supper-clean-up is to take out tomorrow's frozen meat and put it in the fridge to thaw.
One cute idea - you could get a chalkboard or whiteboard and hang it in the kitchen. Write the weekly menus on them. Then everyone will know "what's for dinner."
If you prefer, you could print a blank calendar and fill it in with your menu plans. If you don't feel like making a calendar yourself, you could print one of these:
Menus 4 Moms
The Project Girl
Cooking For My Family
Monthly Menu Planner
Do you plan your meals?