I have had lots of questions lately about menu-planning and was about to start writing some tips, when I came across a series that Crystal over at Biblical Womanhood started last week as her Frugal Friday post on ” How I Plan Our Menus “. As you know, I am not one to reinvent the wheel, so I will be highlighting her posts here over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!
One of her readers sent in this question which started off the series, a question I have had many times.
Before you go grocery shopping, do you plan a menu for the week, or do you just buy the things on sale, and plan a menu after you shop?
Each Monday I post my menu plans for the week and each Friday I do a Weekly Wrap-Up and share my grocery trips that week. I HIGHLY recommend writing out a menu plan each week, this will save you so much time and lots of money at the grocery. There are many different ways to approach menu planning, but the goal is to start somewhere and as you read Crystal’s tips on getting started you will begin to learn what works for you.
A few tips I have found helpful in my menu planning are:
Include at least one crockpot meal: I have at least 1-2 really easy meals planned each week that can be dumped in a crockpot or into a stockpot just for heat up. Or, I will pull something out of the freezer. For some great ideas for the crockpot, go here to Crockpot 365 for great ideas!
Use Leftovers: For lunches especially, I usually eat leftovers or morph it into a quesadilla, salad or something. You can also go here and see my ideas on making 2-3 meals out of one big one, my Cooking 101 Series. If we have a lot, I might have a smorgasboard night, where I put everything out and we get a little of everything. A great way to make and use leftovers is to check out Robin Miller on the Food Network. I love her concepts on “cooking once, eating twice.”
Keep a running list: I have found it very helpful to keep a running list of meals we like, and even things we love, but don’t have on hand. That way when I am at the store I can keep an eye out for those ingredients on sale.
Check your calendar: I have found that I usually don’t need a full 7 dinners each week, because of other obligations. Also, it allows me to see where to put what meals. For instance, if I have a grocery class one night, that night I want an easy to make and clean-up meal, so I can get out the door fast.
Know what you have: One of the most important things to do is have an inventory of what is in your freezer and pantry. That way, you are not digging in the freezer or through the pantry to see what you have. For instance, on my freezer (Thanks for the idea Jill!), I have an “In & Out list”. It gets updated each time I open the door to put something in or pull something out. I will go to my freezer to begin my meal planning, by seeing what we already have to work with.
Go here to see Crystal’s full post. It is a great place to get started. Her two big points in Part I to begin your menu planning process are:
- Take inventory of what you have on hand.
- Look through the local store ads to see what is on sale and what items would be a good deal based upon the coupons you have.
Do you plan a menu each week? If so, what kind of menu-planning system works for you (monthly, weekly, just dinner or breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks)? Do you plan based on store sales and what you have on hand, or what you like to eat or are in the mood for?
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