Menu Planning - The Basics
I am going to share with you how I plan out our meals and how I do my grocery shopping. It definitely isn't for everyone, but maybe it will give you some ideas.
First off, why do I do it this way? Our income is such that we get "paid" once a month and so I do our major grocery shop once a month. Is this a perfect plan? Not in the least, but with the occasional tweak here and there, it hasn't been too bad!
My major grocery list is almost always the same from month to month and that helps with our limited budget. This menu plan does not include breakfasts or lunches. Breakfasts at our house are cereal, oatmeal or eggs. These things are always on our grocery list. Mornings here are hectic most days, as they are in everyone's home, and breakfasts are not set for a specific time like they were when the kids were little. My husband's health issues can often turn his breakfast into a brunch, and my son usually takes his breakfast to eat at work, so he just grabs a container of cold cereal and a piece of fruit. Lunches depend, again, on how my husband is feeling, and most likely it's either a sandwich, leftovers, or he will "snack" on a couple of boiled eggs (which I keep on hand in the fridge) and some celery with cheese. Therefore, my menu plan is geared 100% to suppertime, and this is how I do it:
Fridays: Ground Beef
I use a calendar-type template to write out the month's menus. It goes into a clear page protector.
I have a library of cookbooks, as well as Pinterest, so when I make up my menus, I write the recipe on index cards and put them in the page protector behind the menu. After I use a particular recipe, I file it into my recipe file box for future use.
We have our family favorites, such as homemade mac and cheese, shake and bake chicken, spaghetti, etc. I have a binder that I keep the menu plan in so, yes, I have the whole year of menus on the go all the time. I stagger the favorites throughout the year and I try not to serve one dish more than once every six weeks (emphasis on the word "try")
While I am writing out the menus and any recipes, I jot down the ingredients on a separate piece of paper and then I go through my pantry to see what I have on hand. Then, I take that list and write out the grocery lists- yes, lists. I do up one major one that includes the meats and pantry things, such as canned and frozen goods, etc. Then I do up three smaller lists, one for each week of the perishables needed for that week. I have a small notebook in my purse where I write these lists so I have them with me at all times.
I budget around $40 a week for perishables. That bill is never that high so I always have anywhere from $20 to $30 left over and I use that money to stock up on things that are on sale that week for my pantry.
I buy all my meat in the big family size packages and divide them into meal size for us freezer bags. I can get three to four meals from each big package, depending on what meat it is. Last month, I bought two family packs of steak and when I had separated and cut them up, I had 18 just-right pieces of steak. I wrap each piece in fold over sandwich baggies and lay them flat in the freezer above my fridge over night and then they get put into the big freezer bags and go into our deep freezer.
I also buy frozen veggies in the biggest bag I can and I put two cups of veggies into a small freezer bag and they go into the freezer, too. Same with any frozen fruit. We like the occasional smoothie and so I divide accordingly. I also divide fruit into recipe size portions so I can make say blueberry muffins, or waffles.
Recently, I had to revise my Thursday's seafood menus and turned it into another miscellaneous night, keeping at least one seafood item on the menu.
One of our sons always treats us to a take-out meal on his paydays, which means an adjustment to the menu plan, but that's the great thing about the way I do my menus - they are easily switched around to accommodate any situation.
In a nutshell, this is how I do my menu planning Beginning next week, I will be sharing my menus on a week by week basis.
I hope this helps you in your meal planning adventures!
To find Week #1 Menu and Recipes CLICK HERE
We'd love to hear your way of doing things. Comment below to share with others!