The first and most important thing is to menu plan. Did you all hear that? Menu Plan. This is such a crucial step, that I honestly don't think you can skip it, and here's why.
First, menu planning gives you a plan. Wow! That was simple, but seriously a plan will save you money, time, and stress. And who doesn't want that?
- Making a menu plan enables you to use the food in your house. It's there, you own it. Why not serve it up before you need to throw it out because its spoiled?
- Grab your local store's flyer and fill in your menu plan with items that are on SALE. These meals will cost you less this week than if you make them when the ingredients are full price.
- Know what you will serve your family for dinner puts an end to the "oh no I forgot to thaw the chicken, let's order pizza" dilemma.
- A menu plan will save you last minute trips to the store. Fewer trips to the store = time saved as well as money. We al know that when we run to the store for one thing we come home with six.
- Working a menu plan will save time wondering around your kitchen trying to figure out what to make at 4:30 in the afternoon.
- More money + more time = less stress
I hope this gives you some ideas about why menu planning is an important first step to saving money one your grocery bill. And I am sure there are many more reasons, but this should at least get you thinking about giving it a try.
So now that I have convinced you to give menu planning a try (wink) let's talk about how to get started. First you need to decide what type of plan will work for you family. You can plan just dinners or you can plan three meals a day and snack. Of course there is everything in between as well. You can plan a week or a month at a time. If you are new to menu planning I would strongly suggest you start with just a weeks worth of dinners. This is a smaller tasks and one that I just know you can succeed at. Once you get the dinner menu planning down, adding in other meals will be a snap.
In order to make planning you dinners easier you need to think about a couple of things. First what does the family calendar look like? This is important because you don't want to plan to cook a roast if you are flying in the door from Johnny's violin lesson to scarf dinner and fly out the door to Susie basketball game. You are setting your self up to fail and we truly don't want that. So with calendar in hand plan quick or crock pot meals on nights that are busy and save the roast for a night you will all be able to enjoy it. Next you will do well to have a list of your family's favorite dishes. Your tried and true recipes are the ones you want to put on your meal plan. Beginning meal planners should NOT fill their plan with all the mouth watering recipes they have been clipping and dying to try. Sticking to what you family knows and likes will make success well within reach. Once you get the hang of meal planning you can add in those new recipes, but I strongly suggest adding just one a week. Nobody wants to eat a week's worth of somewhat strange or disappointing meals. Familar meals = comfort food. that's a good thing to remember.
Now in order to save the most money, you will want to add meals to your menu plan that you already have in the house. This is what I term SHOPPING FROM YOUR PANTRY. So if you have a chicken in the freezer put roast chicken on your menu. Remember to then add a second meal that uses up the leftover chicken - think soup, casseroles, pot pie. Keep adding meals using up the food you have in the house. If you still have days without meals, grab your store's flyer and see what's on sale and fill in the remaining meals. Hopefully you will be able to plan 7 dinners with what you have in the house and what's one sale. If not, no fear. You will still have saved money and time. Work your plan and enjoy the savings and peace that a menu plan can bring.
As most of you know I post my menu plan here. It is also on my fridge. I love that everyone knows where it is so no more having to anwser "what's for dinner?' and if I get called away Sarah can easily and successfully take over dinner.
As a little gift for all of you, I thought I would share my menu planner. It has a place to plan breakfast, lunch and diner to the week, as well as a column for your shopping list and baking list. Enjoy!
We will talk more about building your pantry and grocery shopping in future posts.