Thursday, May 30, 2013

Meal Planning

This is a post I've wanted to write for a while now, in the hopes that it could help somebody out.  Way before I even get around to making a recipe there are two crucial steps- planning (which includes list-making) and shopping!  Here's how I do those.

Meal Planning
1. Getting Started- I start with a blank shopping list that I print from the computer.  I used to shop once a week, so I have a list template for that, but now I use one that lets me plan for two weeks at a time.  You can view those here: Grocery List- One Week or Two Week.  For the one week at a time version, I cut the paper in half, and for the two week version, I fold it.  It fits perfectly on my 6x9 inch clipboard I bought at WalMart- kind of like this one. (I can't figure out a way to make it so anyone can edit the shopping list templates, so if you'd like a copy to make your own changes to, leave me a comment and I'll email it to you.)

2. Dinner- The first thing I write down is anything that we have going on that would affect dinnertime (Awana, MOPS, etc.).  I also write the date on each box or line.  Then I typically see what type of meat (or other type of dinner) there is in the freezer, and start making meals based on that.  At this point I'm more concerned with filling the boxes than I am with when we have a certain dinner.  I often end up making a different dinner on my list based on what I feel like making.  We typically eat dinner out once every two weeks, so I try to plan 13 dinners. 

3. Breakfast, Lunch, & Snacks- I don't plan out breakfast & snacks; I just generally stock up on the foods we eat and go from there.  As far as lunch goes, the kids and I have a set schedule that we go by Monday-Friday.  That saves time, so I don't have to try to figure out what to make, and it also saves fights.  I'm not saying that all of my kids like each day's lunch, but it's easier to say "Sorry kiddo, today's Tuesday, I have no choice but to make turkey sandwiches.  See, the schedule says it!" He (my primary picky eater) knows I'm not going to change my mind.

Grocery Shopping
I do almost all of my grocery shopping at WinCo.  Their prices are fantastic, the food is good, and my FAVORITE thing about that store is their bulk section.  Not bulk as in mass quantities, but bulk as in they have tons of bins of food that you can buy however much you need.  This includes spices, flour, sugar, candy, rice, beans, snacks, dried fruit, nuts, etc... I love how far my money goes here!! (Here's a location finder- they're only on the West Coast) I try to go shopping on Saturday mornings, and leave the house by 9. 

I supplement my every-2-week WinCo trips with an occasional trip to Costco.  I love to buy their grated cheese, string cheese, frozen fruit, lettuce, reduced fat sausage patties, chicken nuggets, trash bags, etc!  I try to keep a price list (both in my head and on my iPod) of unit prices; that helps me know which store to buy things at.  Some things are cheaper at WinCo, some are cheaper at Costco.

[I also go on a short shopping trip on my "off weeks".  This mainly consists of buying milk and produce.]

How has this helped me?
  • Having a list helps me know what meals I have available to make.  Dinnertime is stressful enough without having to stare in the fridge and wondering what you can make!
  • Writing my list in categories saves me time in the grocery store, as I'm less likely to have to backtrack and go get an item I missed.
  • Having meals planned out saves us the extra expense and calories from having to eat fast food. 
  • The fewer trips I have to make to the store, the lower my grocery budget can be.  We all know that each time we go to the store, we end up with something we didn't really mean to buy!   
While meal planning & grocery shopping might not be your favorite things to do, I've found that making the effort to do it efficiently is so helpful in the long run.  Let me know if you have any questions about how I do it, or leave me a comment on any tips you think might help me & others!  Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. Since having Tiphanie & the boys at my house, I have been meal planning more than I ever have in my life. And I have noticed, just in the past 2 months, that it saves me a TON of money to plan ahead, rather than to just get whatever looks good at the grocery store. And having fewer trips to the store, as you said, means I have fewer impulse buys too! Thanks for the article. It makes me more motivated to keep up with my meal planning!