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Friday, January 14, 2011

Menu Planning

Our goal for our family this year was to be better with our budget and menu planning. I have never been able to get into clipping coupons. Someone ruined the idea for me so I do not subscribe to pinch your pennies. Maybe someday....

Back to the menu planning. We are trying to eat healthier and lose some weight before the big family camp-out for 4th of July weekend. That is why you see chicken on the menu A LOT. I start with the first day being the day we get paid and go until the day before the next payday, so a full 2 week period. I also planned meals that are a mixture of very quick and simple, and more extensive meals, so that depending on my mood I could pick a meal. Make sure when you plan to plan fruits and vegetables, etc so when you make your list that is taken into account. One thing to keep in mind is flexibility. For example, tonight we are having stuffed shells. Tuesday, I didn't feel like eating stuffed shells so we had chicken stir fry. As you go along, mark off which meals you have already done so that you can narrow down your choices for meals.

(Click on photos to see a larger image, then click the back button to return to the blog post)

Next step once you have your meals planned, is to write down your grocery list. Put down the food you need for your meals. Account for snacks and meals for work, etc. With the meals above I planned out ones that I could make extra of, for Spencer and I to take to work, thus saving money (and calories) by not purchasing extras. (Make sure when planning extras for work meals that you and your spouse have microwaves and refrigerators readily available.)

As you put items in your cart, write down the cost of the items. I keep a calculator in my purse for quick math. If you purchase more than one, quickly do the math and only write down the total amount for that item. (i.e. if you purchase 2 cans of green beans write down $1.38, instead of 2@ 69 cents). Writing down what the items cost and keeping a running total will help avoid surprises at the cash register. Writing down what you spend will also help you realize where you are spending the most money for your items. Make sure to always compare prices, and remember to not disregard store brands verses name brands (i.e. Kraft vs. Great Value). Great Value will not always be cheaper than Kraft. You want to look at the price per ounce to compare. It is usually cheaper to buy in bulk, but the thing to remember when buying in bulk is to make sure it is something you WILL EAT. If you buy in bulk and most of it goes to waste, it was not a good bulk purchase.

** A few things to remember:
  • Keeping a running total will help you budget for future months.
  • Don't throw away a list once you are done. Keep it until at least the next meal planning to help you compare.
  • Stay strong!! On a night when you would just rather order a pizza, remember the quick and simple meals you planned. Even if you planned a soup and cheese sandwich night.
  • If you are trying to build up your food store, budget for it, and build it up slowly. Buy one or two extra cans of green beans. Make sure the foods for your storage system have an expiration date that is at least a year in the future, and will be good foods to keep in food storage.

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