an army wife's guide to life

food and homemaking goodness

Menu Planning (Like a boss)

on January 28, 2013

I’m a planner. I like to have a plan in place, I like to know what’s happening next. And I’ve gotten really, really good at planning our menu. Like, really good. I don’t just plan week-to-week anymore, because I’ve found that doesn’t really work as well as I’d like. Instead I plan paycheck-to-paycheck. This lets us not worry about money for groceries once I’ve gone at the 1st and 15th of every month (with a few exceptions), plus it seems to save us money because we’re not blowing it on impulse purchases. Below, you’ll see the first half of February already planned out:Image

That’s just dinner there, but I do plan breakfast and lunch as well, just not all at once. Here’s what I do.

  1. I number the day on a piece of paper. For this planning session, it was 1-17, but the next one will be 18-28. Also on this one, I included the 27th through the 31st of January, so I could see this week in its entirety, even though I already had everything I needed for the January meals. 
  2. I decided how many of what kind of meals I wanted. I.E. I decided that our food plan for each week was going to be two meals that were mostly meat (to satisfy the hubby), two vegetarian meals (so I’ll feel good about myself) and three meals that are mostly veggies, and some meat (this year is about balance, and for February, that’s balance). I marked those meals on the calendar I’d written, not necessarily where they were going to fall for real, though. I marked out each week individually, and put the two meat and two veggie meals right at the beginning so I knew to fill those slots. 
  3. This is where Pinterest comes into play every time. I go through my boards, decide what I need to try and pull up the recipes (this will be important later), and fill out the calendar completely. Don’t get hung up on where you put what, the dates don’t matter yet. If it really bothers you, just figure out how many days you need and number it that way, but don’t get caught up on that while you’re recipe hunting. One thing that will save you big bucks is to find recipes that you can use more than once. If you look at my menu, you’ll notice I have a few things up there twice, plus, my big meaty meals have their leftovers used as the “taco” meals. I always make way more soup than I think I’ll need, so we can have two meals and sometimes even a lunch from it.
  4. Decide on breakfasts and lunches. With these, I’ll end up running back to the store for a few things. But all of my side trips tend to be $20 or less. Usually less than $10, really. I’ll run back to the store after the initial run for eggs, milk, frozen pizza (Dan’s weakness) and bagels. We might run out of little things here and there, but I’m not trying to create a stockpile. 
  5. Figure out what you’ll need. I generally do this by writing out everything that goes into each meal. If you’re like me and know what’s in your kitchen, you can leave out the things you know you don’t need to buy. If you don’t just list everything, which is why I open the Pinterest recipes, so I know what I’m going to need. If you don’t know what you have, check your pantry and cross off what you didn’t need. This will easily turn into a grocery list with everything listed by how much you need. This is also where you want to add your snacks for the week! This is important, because otherwise you’re going to end up making impulse buys while you’re there, or just not buying any and feeling frustrated later on.
  6. Organize the menu to your liking. Mine is never seriously set in stone. I organize it so we’re not having too many similar meals all in the same week, but I also just throw in something completely random sometimes. This is supposed to make your life easier and less stressful, don’t set it in stone at all if you don’t want to. I find, though, that I’m way less overwhelmed if I at least pick the seven things I’m going to make each week and write them on my chalkboard. I can mix and match all I want from there and not feel like there’s too much to choose from.

That’s it. Six steps to making grocery shopping easier. I can generally get through a few weeks on about a hundred dollars or so, planning ahead. Part of it is the planning and part of it is shopping on post, but planning really is the key to saving money.



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