Friday, August 27, 2010

Planning a Menu

I know that planning menus and making grocery lists saves money, time and headaches, but somehow year after year, my planning and good intentions fly out the window in late summer. I find myself making way too many trips to the grocery store and wandering down the aisles trying to decide what's for supper.  But now that we are back on a schedule, it's time for me to get back in the menu planning groove.

Some people like to plan menus for a month at a time, but it makes more sense for me to plan once a week because I shop once a week (hopefully not more than that).  I don't have room for more than a week's groceries, plus if I bought food for a whole month, my family would have it eaten within two weeks.  Apparently there is something about seeing lots of food in the pantry that makes husbands and teenagers even hungrier than usual.

I start by looking in my pantry and fridge to take a quick inventory and see what I already have. Then I pull up a list that I have saved on my computer of all the meals that I could come up with that my family likes. I have about 40 meals listed including breakfasts. I like to print some pretty menu planning forms to write my menu on, and then I can keep it and put in in my menu notebook to use again later.

Next I consider my budget for the week. If the budget is particularly tight, I can focus on the more frugal meals that I have listed and look through my coupons. Then I gather my recipes so I can write down every item I need.  Once I've made the list, I can pencil in the prices (from either my price book, or past receipts), subtract coupons, and then I'll have a good idea of what my groceries will cost before I head to the store and I know which coupons I'll be using. If I need to shave a few more dollars off I can make adjustments before I leave. That works better for me than trying to do math in my head while pushing a grocery cart or getting flustered trying to change up my menu on the fly and then forgetting what I changed it to by the time I get home.  Don't forget to include any non-food items that may need to be included on your list.  Sometimes I get these things at CVS or Walgreens, but sometimes I need to pick them up at the grocery store.  We wouldn't want to run out of toilet paper or shampoo (yes, I've been there and it's not cute)! 

Do you have any menu planning tips?  How do you stay motivated to stick with it?  Please share!