As I've already told you, I'm a planner by necessity. If I didn't make a menu plan, we would literally have nothing to eat. I do not have the talent of pulling a decent meal out of bits of nothing from the pantry and fridge. I do have a talent for ordering pizza and going through the drive-through--both of which are not helpful to our budget or our health. Therefore, I plan.
Towards the end of the month, I print out this menu form available for free download from Motivated Moms. I fill in all the dates/days of the upcoming month and check my calendar for days we will be eating away from home. I fill that in on the menu plan.
Now I need approximately 28 breakfasts, lunches and dinners to fill in the menu. I keep our breakfasts, lunches and snacks simple and the same each week, so I really only have to come up with 7 of each of those (or less) and just repeat them for the following weeks.
That leaves me with dinner. As a general rule, I do not like to repeat dinners in the same month, so I put the meals into rough categories.
Monday - Soup or Salad
Tuesday - Beef
Wednesday - Mexican
Thursday - Pasta
Friday - Homemade Pizza or Grilling Out
Saturday - Chicken or Crockpot
Sunday - Sandwiches
I only need four meals for each category and I'm set. We have our favorites, so I just choose those and maybe add in a few new meals for variety.
Once I have the menus, I just write all the ingredients I need for the entire month. I put a star by the ones I'll have to replace weekly. I buy everything I can and freeze it, but we like our fresh fruits and vegetables, so I go back weekly for those.
I look at the sale ads for that week and I can usually buy most of it on sale if I shop between my 4 - 5 stores. I can access all of them online in case I forget to save them from the mail. On my shopping list, I make a column for each store I'm willing to travel to (depends on my energy levels and time constraints for shopping day). I put each item on my list under a store and write the price that it is there. That way, I can figure up ahead of time about how much my bill will cost. If it's an item not in the ad, I figure the best price I can usually get it and the store at which I can get it the cheapest. I can also pull any coupons that I might be able to use although I rarely use them.
I sometimes use ziplist.com if I'm feeling techy. You can put your whole list online, specify stores and print it out. You can even keep your recipes on there and it pulls the ingredients from your recipes for your list. You don't even have to print it out if you have an Iphone or other smart phone. However, I'm a paper and pencil type gal, so I often just use plain old notebook paper and pencil.
That's it! I have my list and I'm ready to go. The time invested in the planning stage isn't really that much longer than I would have done for weekly shopping and that's all I have to do for the month.
Next, I'll take you to the store with me, and show you how the shopping goes!