Thursday, January 24, 2008

Menu Notebook

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!


Sharon said...

I need to get back on top of my meal planning and my recipes. I designed my own system that works good for me when I use it, come on over to my blog and look through my archives under Sept 9, 2007 or look under my Food section. I have two forms I use, one for the meal planning and one for my grocery store, if you would like them, I would be happy to email them to you.

Have a great evening! Sharon

Amanda said...

I need to get back on top of my menu planning as well. I still have the menu plan and grocery list saved on my computer. I have a four week menu and a master grocery list. When I was doing it, I would just print out the grocery list, check off what I needed for that week and head out the door. I wasn't even using coupons then and still knocked over 50% off my bill just by planning and shopping from a list.

Why or why did I ever stop?

rural momma said...

Great idea!! :0)

Anonymous said...

I just started one today! I was aggrivated because I was trying to plan and then I get on and read this and it encourages me to finish it up!

Miranda said...

Meal planning makes a HUGE difference - in budget and sanity. I feel like everything in our house runs more smoothly when I already know what we are eating that day!

50shousewife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
50shousewife said...

Sharon, would you please email your forms to me? Thank you!! I LOVE forms and lists! :) 50s homemaker @

Amanda, I know what you mean. I quit menu planning when I first lost weight because I was eating prepackaged food and just slapping something together for the family. Not good for them OR my budget! :(

Thank you Rural Momma!

Real me, oh I'm so glad this was some encouragement to you!

Miranda, you're so right. When I have dinner planned it really does make the whole day easier.

Nicole said...

50's Housewife, would you please give some extra details about your CVS/Walgreens shopping? Pretty Please?

I have just recently foudn your blog and feel like I am all most half way through your archives, you are so refreshing and cheerful! I noticed a couple references to both drugstores and was interested in teh deals you get! Thanks!

50s Housewife said...

I learned how to shop at CVS and Walgreen's from Crystal at Money Saving Mom. Her link is in my sidebar. If you'll look in her sidebar she has links to CVS 101 and Walgreen's 101 posts that will help you get started. It's sort of confusing at first, but it won't take you long to get the hang of it.

And thank you for the nice complement on the blog. I've had a lot of fun with it. :)

Devin said...

Thanks so much for this post! I compulsively re-organize everything and the menu planner and home management notebook have made such a difference. My grocery cost has almost been cut in half! And I have also been more motivated to do my chores now that they are divided up. :-)

Mrs. Cleaver said...

I have recently started planning out weekly dinners for my husband & myself and it has saved me a lot of time & stress! I can't believe that I hadn't thought of this sooner. Not only do I know what we'll be having for dinner each night, but our grocery bills aren't nearly as expensive - plus eating at home instead of going out to eat or ordering in is a lot healthier.
I'm not quite as organized as you - I only plan 1 week at a time & I don't usually plan my meals around sales at the grocery store but that might be an idea for me to consider!

Yunie ( Mrs Irontius Lou) said...

HI, I find your blog from google search, and really lovin it! I love your household book, and I hope I can read your next postings on your books..

Jesus bless you
Lou family's blog

stockholmappeal said...

You. are. my. hero. I am going to share you blog with some other ladies. Thank you! And I LOVE the photographs you take!

50s Housewife said...

stockholmappeal, thank you very much! How sweet! I'm so glad you like my blog!

Anonymous said...

I have two recipes that I use when I want to save the pennies. The first is called 'Homity Pie' and is an old English recipe. You can find this type of dish in many cultures, vertainly there is an Italian version.

Bake a pastry case - I always use wholemeal flour because I like the 'nutty' taste. Slow bake it but don't brown it - if it does get brown what the heck!

Slice and boil potatoes and onions together till soft. Quantities according to numbers I use 300grams of potatoes and one medium/large onion per person.

When they are nice and soft drain, saving the water for soup. Squash them together, don't mash. You can add flavourings here, ketchup is nice as is any leftover tomato sauce. Season to taste and pile into the pastry. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake at 200degrees serve with a nice veg. It is scrummy hot or cold and it really hits the spot when you want something to fill you up. Good for you too.

My other standby is to boil 100grams of any sort of pasta per person. Put it in a large flattish dish as you want it in quite a thin layer and put on canned tomatoes or tomato sauce - not ketchup. Put 50 grams of grated cheese on top and bake for 20 minutes at 200degrees.

If I ever ask my husband of 40 years what he wants for dinner - this is what he asks for.