Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Budgeting and Menu Planning

I recently had a friend who asked me how I planned our menu and what I did to prepare our food.  I had some time over my break from school to think about it and I decided to blog about it.  It goes much farther than our menu to embrace our whole lives and what we do each week.

  1. I look at our calendar and plan our menu around our weekly activities.  In this season of life we have wrestling two nights a week, gymnastics one night a week, and at least one other night when we are busy!  So I plan to cook at least 4-5 nights a week.  I adjust leftovers and pizza night around our lives.
  2. I stick to at least 2 things I already know how to cook and don't make plans to learn new things until I'm ready... so weekends are times I try new dishes!  I adjust my schedule so the EASIEST things to cook (crock pot meals) are on my busiest days or the days when I know I will be tired... Mondays and Thursdays usually win!
  3. I plan the meals.  I examine our pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what we have on hand.  After I have taken stock at home I make my grocery list.  Sometimes I plan my menu around what we already have on hand.  I am trying to develop the habit of using the foods we have instead of trashing them...   Sometimes I notice that I already have a whole meal on hand (spaghetti noodles, sauce, and venison in the freezer) so I only have to buy a salad and bread.
  4. I make my grocery list for meals and recipes.  I also take stock of the kids' lunch stash and their breakfast items.  I like to make breakfast on the weekends, so I look at that too.
  5. I know this all sounds like a LOT of steps, but I think I probably spend 20 minutes doing this whole process.  I bring my laptop into the kitchen, pull up my Google calendar, and compare it to the wall calendar.  I begin my Walmart grocery pickup list while I'm in the kitchen!
  6. Once the menu is made and my meals are planned, I begin the process of prepping for them.  Sometimes I make freezer meals ahead of time, but mostly I prep the day before or the day of.  If I have a lot of leftovers I make a freezer meal... or have it for lunch that week too!  :)
  7. I put away the groceries after the pick up day and then write our dinners for the week.  I adjust the menu as needed once the week starts.  Sometimes what I planned for Tuesday actually works better for us on Wednesday, etc.  Either way, I have all the ingredients on hand to make the meals for the week.
  8. Sometimes I have to adjust plans as the week unfolds and we have to move a meal to the next week.  I try to be flexible.  I also try to keep my grocery budget to $100 a week or less.. that includes the household goods and the cleaning supplies...
  9. "Shopping" in my pantry, fridge, freezer before going to the grocery store or even making a list helps me save money AND time!

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