Alright, to continue my Saving on Grocery Bills series of Works For Me Wednesday posts, I'm going to talk this week about how I plan menus and make my shopping list. Last week I covered Clipping and Organizing Coupons, which I do on Sunday afternoons, and this week I'm going to continue my Sunday afternoon routine. After I've finished my coupon bonanza, I pull out my lists and cookbooks and plan 7 dinners for that week.
First, I look in my freezer and see what I already have in there that I want to use. I keep a large stock of meats, chopped peppers, cooked beans, and frozen veggies in my freezer, and so I generally try to use those before buying more. (Teaser: I'll talk next week about how and why I stockpile frozen foods!) Then, after getting a good idea of what I want to use, I sit down with a few cookbooks to get ideas on how to use them. Sometimes the answer is obvious... How do I want to use a pound of steak and bunch of sliced peppers? Fajitas, of course! Sometimes I want to try something new or different. So I flip through my cookbooks for ideas, or sometimes I'll just get online and google something like "shrimp and tomatoes recipe" and see what I get. I've found some really yummy recipes that way!
So as I'm flipping through and deciding on meals, I make a list of what meals I'll be making that week. I make sure to note what cookbook the recipe is in and what page it's on, or if I found the recipe online, I print it and put it in my recipe binder. I plan not only the main dish, but any vegetables or sides that will be going with it, and I write it all together.
Also, as I decide on meals, I go through the recipes and make a shopping list of anything I don't already have. Most of the time, this is only a few ingredients because I keep a stockpile of the things we use regularly. I also keep a running list throughout the week of things we need... If I see on Thursday that we're going to need yogurt soon, I go ahead and write it down even though I won't be going to the store until Monday... I don't want to risk forgetting to write it down when I'm making the list on Sunday! Since I stick to my list when shopping, if it's not on the list, I won't think to get it, and then my husband would be yogurtless all week! Tragedy! Or I'd have to make a special trip to get it later or pay more for it at a different store! Even bigger tragedy!!
Then to finish up my shopping list, I check my list to see if I have any coupons for anything I want to buy. I go ahead and pull the coupons out and put them with my list so I make sure to use them, and I note on the list that I have a coupon for that item so I can make sure to pick up the right thing for the coupon.
It REALLY helps me throughout the week to have menus planned and to know that I have all the ingredients to make everything. For us, eating out is really a treat, never a necessity because we didn't have anything to make for dinner. That not only saves us money, but it makes eating out more fun and special too! And it makes my days easier because I already know what I'll be cooking for dinner, and I was able to put the meat in the fridge to thaw the night before because I already had a plan. Saves time and energy on my part.
So this meal-planning system really works for me!
Next week: Shopping the Sales!