“Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” -Proverbs 3:6

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Menu Planning (This is LONG)

Ok, so I have had too many people to ask me about my menu planning and grocery shopping... so I figured I might as well do a blog about it. That way, I don't repeat myself and everyone can get an inside view.
First things first: YES, I plan my menu for the WHOLE month. As in, every night of the week for however many weeks there are in the month. The whole month. Second: YES, I only go to the grocery store ONCE a month. Yep.. ONCE a month. I know, I know. Some of you think I am crazy. Some of you have told me, "There is NO WAY I could do that. I have to go every week...." I'm telling you, it's possible. It just takes time, effort, discipline, and habit. Those are hard to do at first, I know. It took me a while to figure it out totally. And this is not a science.. It's just how you do your own family and what works for you. I have a "budget" that I stick by. Now, I don't always stick to it exactly. But I will stay within my means of what we can do monthly. It works for us. Now that I have it down pat, there's no way I could ever go back. 
Menu planning for the month and only shopping once a month keeps me sane. I don't have to think about supper every night. I don't have to run to the store all the time because I need something to cook. I don't have to just end up eating something fast or popping corn dogs (now we do love corn dogs, but they aren't on our dinner menu) because I am in a rush and don't have anything to cook. Supper is either cooked, thawed out to cook, or ready to cook/when I get home every day. It takes me less than hour everyday (yes, everyday) to cook my meal and  have it ready. So many people have asked... so here's how I do it.

I sit down at the end of the month and make my menu. I use a menu planner sheet from Mommy Tracked. You can get it HERE. It looks like this: 

This is my first week's menu for this month. I use Kraft Food and Family books ( I get them in the mail, pay $12.00 a year for 5 books) about 75% of the time. I look in those first... then I fill in with Pinterest, online, and just other places that have recipes. I haven't repeated a meal since October. Now, we might have spaghetti one night. Then a couple weeks later have Spicy Meatballs and Pasta. Yes, that's almost spaghetti.. but it's a totally different recipe and tastes totally different. I always have a crock pot meal on Wednesdays. I work until around 4 on these days, so it is nice to come home and supper be finished. (I usually am home by 3:30/3:45 most days and start cooking a little after 4) Weekend meals vary depending on what we're doing or events on the calendar. This month, we have NOTHING on the calendar. We have decided to do a no eating out month to help jump start the year. Normally, we have one night out a month. I would write "eat out" on whatever night this is. 
After I make my menu out, I start my grocery list. I gave my last grocery list to a friend, so I don't have a picture. But, that too, is organized in it's own way. I start with my meats. All the meats are listed that I need to buy. I count how many, say, chicken meals I have. Then I write out exactly how many packs I need. I do the same for other meats. I buy fresh tilapia and salmon. I make my meat list like this first. Then I go through my recipes and write down ingredients that I do not normally buy and how many I need. Say, I need cream cheese for 4 meals. I would write down: cream cheese- 5 blocks. This keeps me from over or under spending. I know exactly what I buy is what I need for the whole month. I continue my list and then I make my own list (things that I need monthly or household items needed.) This is where your own personal family needs/wants comes in. Your budget might be different from ours. We are on a pretty tight budget. We don't have a lot of "extras." Now, I do buy snacks and cookies and drinks. But when they're gone, they're gone. I don't go out and buy more just because the kids ate a whole bag of chips in one day. And we don't drink sodas and stuff. We drink water, juice, milk, and I'll make Kool-Aid once in a while. Kyler has drinks for his lunch,
 but he doesn't get them at home. 
After making my list, it's time for coupons. I am not one of those crazy coupon ladies who buys 60 bottles of toothpaste and 75 rolls of toilet paper just because I have a coupon for it. I use the coupons I need. That's it. I look for coupons that I need for items on my list. That's it. Nothing more. But, I will say this: coupons DO save money. Especially if you shop at Kroger. They will send you coupons of things that you buy (from receipt history). I LOVE this. 
Anyway.. I get all my coupons together and I make a check mark or a star out beside that item on my list. This helps me remember
 I have a coupon and to use it. 
Then, it's just going to the grocery store and buying it all, putting it up, and keeping your menu where you can use it. Mine is hanging on the fridge where I can see it daily. 
It's not really that hard. It just takes discipline to only spend what you have allowed yourself. And then the habit of actually cooking what you have written down and not straying from it. Here is my menu plan for the whole month of January (and the first day of February): 

If you follow me on Pinterest, most of the recipes are on there under my board EAT. I usually put "pinterest" or "online" out beside some of my plans so I know where to look when I'm cooking.

This is not for some people. I know that. And some people can go to the store every week and spend $300 on food. We can't. On a teacher's salary and only getting paid once a month.. Money management is a big priority in our house. But planning and saving money on our food helps us save money to go watch a movie, go bowling, get an ice cream  every once in while. 

You can sign up to get the Food and Family books HERE.
You can follow my EAT board on Pinterest HERE.
You can get the menu planning sheet HERE.
Everything else, is just YOU. 

Happy Planning and Shopping!

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