Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Series: Menu Planning Monday

In an effort to keep myself more organized, I've decided to start posting menu plans here on Mondays. Inspired by I'm an Organizing Junkie, I'll do my best to plan ahead for my family based on what is in our pantry and fridge and share those ideas here each week!

Since I caught the "frugal bug" just over a year ago, I've discovered that meal planning is the #1 best way for my family to save money. Why and how?
  • Meal planning cuts spending on impulse items at the grocery store because my shopping lists are very specific now. It also cuts down on extra trips to the stores because of a forgotten items.
  • Meal planning forces me to use items that are already in my home before shopping for new items. Because I shop later in the week and start my meal plan schedule on Sundays, there are always a few days each week where I don't have the freshest produce or any produce at all. The pantry is my friend on these days.
  • Meal planning allows me to be flexible - I set up a plan for 5-7 meals I know I will cook each week, but if I don't feel like eating something I've assigned to a certain day, I can swap it out with something more appealing. This cuts down on impulse takeout purchases or restaurant meals out.
  • Meal planning allows me to easily double or triple meals if there is another family in need of a home cooked meal. We enjoy blessing other families in this way, and it's easier to make more food if I've planned to have such food in the house. Before I started meal planning, I still took meals to others but planned a separate "special" meal that involved extra ingredients. Now we have a "special" meal, too!
Some other thoughts about meal planning:
I use several tools in my home to make this work.
  • I keep a magnetized tablet on the fridge so I can scribble meal ideas as they come to mind when I'm going in & out of the fridge.
  • I keep another magnetized table on the fridge for an ongoing grocery list. I printed food categories on a sheet of paper, taped that to the back of the tablet, and easily get around the grocery store because my to-buy items are grouped together. When I'm ready to shop, I grab the list and go.
  • I keep one other sheet of paper on the fridge to track items I'll need to buy at Costco. I visit Costco twice a month for staple items and hate to forget something because I'm there infrequently.
  • I've tried several ways of cataloguing and tracking meals that we like and have experimented with ways to keep myself organized so I don't run out of meal ideas. The thing that works best for me has been an Excel spreadsheet that I started 2 years ago when I first stayed at home. From time to time I open that up and update it with our favorite meals based on our tastes and categorize it by season.
  • I have a great Crock Pot. I use the Crock Pot 1-2 times a week, and I always plan to use it on my busiest day.
  • I also have a Kitchen Aid mixer. I bake a lot, including bread, and these items are inexpensive and delicious when made at home. The dough hook on the Kitchen Aid mixer is an invaluable tool for me.
Come back on Monday to give meal planning a try!
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1 comment:

Gina said...

You're going to love it! It's so nice to spend the whole day knowing what's for dinner and having other options if you have a busier-than-usual afternoon and can't make what you planned. You already have the ingredients on hand!

You're right about using up items you already have stockpiled. Sometimes I do my meal planning while staring at my stockpile--and you get creative about how to use things up. :)