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17 January 2014

Frugal Friday: How to Make a Menu Plan.

It's that time of year where we make (and break) resolutions.

And we all know that one of the top resolutions is to save money.

Today I going to try to convince you that menu planning is worth the time.

I used to hate dinner time.  Not only because I was tired and didn't want to cook, but because I hated trying to figure out what we were going to eat night after night.  By sitting down once a month, I can plan out my menu for the next four weeks and be done with it.  I'm saving time, money and stress in my life. 

Here's how I make a menu plan:

I print out a copy of our google calendar for the next month so I can see what days are busier that others and all of our plans for the month.  Then I pull up my list that I made of our favorite meals, as well as my Pinterest boards. 

Before I put anything on the calendar, I take a peek in my freezer, pantry and cellar to see what I have and make note of it.  (For example:  ground beef, steak, whole chicken, chicken breasts, carrots, beans, pasta).  Then I head to the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, my lists and my calendar.  On a scrap piece of paper, I write down meals that I can make with what I have in my food storage - making notes to the side of anything I may need to pick up.  For example, if I decide to have tacos, I'll put "tomatoes" out from it so I know I need to add tomatoes to my grocery list for the month.  I try to make sure I have at least eight crock pot or quick fix meals to cover the days I work and have homeschool co-op. 

The next thing I do is add them to the calendar.  The calendar is important because I have be realistic in what I'm fixing on days I work or we have plans and it helps me to make sure I'm not going overboard on one type of meal.  I try to not have beef two nights in a row or chicken two nights in a row and I try to do at least one meatless meal a week.  Use a pencil, because you'll change things around as you go. 

On the side of each week, I also write out lunch ideas and what kind of snacks and treats we'll be having.  This goes along with once a month shopping.  For the two weeks right after the grocery trip, I make sure to note that we need to eat the things that don't last as long - grapes and lettuce before apples and carrots.  That kind of thing.  It helps to keep food waste down. 

This whole process takes around a half hour.  It's worth the time.

Once the menu plan is made, it makes it so much easier to make my monthly grocery list.  But that's a post for another day.

If you've not done menu planning before, start small with just planning your dinners for the week.  Not only will it save you money, but it will save you aggravation.  So worth it.

Hope this helps take the mystery out of menu planning. 


Megan@DoNotDisturb said...

I too like to menu plan and had such a rough year last year that I failed miserably at it. I've started this year well and plan on continuing as it is saving me so much money and stress. It also feels great to feed my family something that will actually nourish their bodies and eating together as a family nourishes our souls.


Charli said...

I agree. You're less likely to grab freezer food loaded with preservatives or run through the drive thru when you have a plan. Which also saves money.

Selena Campbell said...

I have been trying to get a 4 - 6 week menu plan going, but I haven't done so well yet. I'm not giving up, tho! Thanks for the encouragement! :)