Thursday, January 24, 2008
Menu planning has helped me SO much in trying to lower our grocery bills. I can tell you from experience how hard it is to stay within your budget if you don't have a plan!
The notebook in the picture was originally my Home Management Notebook, but now I have two notebooks. This one is devoted to my menus, recipes, and coupons. One section is for menus and grocery lists, one for recipes, and one for the latest Walgreens and CVS sales flyers and lists of "deals". In the recipe section I keep all those handwritten recipes from friends and family and recipes I've printed off the internet. The plastic page protectors keep them from getting wet or stained while I'm cooking.
A great place to get menu planning ideas is Hillbilly Housewife. She has lots of great recipes (many of which are in my notebook), a $45 emergency menu that will feed 4 to 6 people 3 meals a day and a low cost $70 menu that also feeds 4 to 6. I've used both of these menus and they are great.
I also keep 4 weekly menus in my notebook. These are just fairly simple, low cost menus for weeks when I just don't have the time or the "want to" to come up with a new menu. I keep the grocery list for that menu on the computer so all I have to do is print it up, add any extras we might need and head out to the store. This is probably the single thing that has most helped me stick to my grocery budget and avoid those last minute trips to McDonald's.
When I DO have the time, I try to plan my menus around what's on sale. Say there's a good sale on potatoes and chicken, then I'll look those up in my cookbook collection and come up with some menus based on that. There are also tons of recipes available online. If the sale is really good, I will sometimes go over my budget so that I can stock up and then later I can come in under budget.
Another great resource is Money Saving Mom. She has lots of great tips on saving money on groceries and menu planning. I've been menu planning and feeding a big family for years and I am newly inspired by her ebook.
It's also a good idea to look at your calendar when you're planning your menu. If you know one particular day is going to be extra busy, plan to cook something in the crockpot that day. I have 2 meetings tonight so I have soup in the crockpot and homemade bread rising.
Do you have any menu planning tips or notebook ideas? I would love to hear them!