Wednesday, March 9, 2011

meal planning 101.

Yesterday was a good day:

Grocery shopping.
Mardi Gras party with mama friends and kids.
Afternoon nap for Henry.
Afternoon nap for Liza in the Boba on my back.

Yes, grocery shopping made my "good day" list.

I love it all:
meal planning
list making
organizing my new groceries
cooking my planned meals.

This is how I use meal planning and careful shopping to stick to a tight grocery budget each month:

*General Guidelines*
- The goal is to only keep food you "need" in your fridge and pantry.
- Do you write a cash budget for each pay period?  If not, you should.....
- Homemade is better for your body, better for your budget and tastes better to boot.  As a stay-at-home mama, I have the luxury of time (did I really just write that?) to make almost everything from scratch by starting dinner preparations early in the day.
- Bulk is good.
- I do not compromise my family's health to save a buck.  I buy organic fruits and vegetables when available and I always check labels before choosing packaged food.
- This is a biggie - I don't buy snack food.  If Henry is hungry, he eats a piece of fruit, a slice of a vegetable or a sandwich.  You won't find goldfish, cereal or packaged granola bars at my house.  If I want something snacky, I bake it myself.  So yeah, I've become quite the baker because I often need cookies.

1. Look in your fridge and pantry.
Think of meals that use ingredients you already have on hand.

2. List meals and write needed ingredients.
I like to grocery shop once a week so I plan for 7 meals.  If I want to cook something for dinner that will use half a can of tomato sauce such as pizza, I make sure another meal is going to use the other half of the tomato sauce.  If we want spaghetti that week, I know that I'll use half a package of ground turkey so I need to think of another meal for the rest of the turkey.  I like to add fresh mushrooms to the jarred spaghetti sauce, I make sure there is a meal to use up the rest of the fresh mushrooms.  So on and so on.

3. Stick to your list within reason.
I always check if our staples (almond milk, flour, peanut butter, jelly, etc) are on sale even if they didn't make the list.  I am also very flexible with vegetables and fruit as I like to buy what is in season and reasonably priced.

4. Post your meal list on the fridge.
This seems like such a no-brainer but it is serious business.  If you stick to these rules, your fridge and pantry look pretty empty and it might be hard to remember what to cook just by looking at raw ingredients.

5. Make sure you give your toddler the list and the pen while shopping.
It is key that your shopping list and meal plan be as messy as possible and scribbled all over by your two-year-old to keep your head level with your newfound grocery budgeting techniques!

Do you meal plan?

Is your technique similar to mine?


Taylor Dearman said...

Of course, you forgot the number one rule of thrifty grocery shopping:

1.) Leave the husband at home!

When I go, I don't need a list. I know just what I need:
4 different kinds of cheese, those sardines that I love, bratwurst, a new hot sauce and/or a new mustard, BEER, another different kind of cheese, a salad dressing that I have never had before, Haribo Gummy Bears, Perrier and/or San Pelligrinos, Kefir, etc.....

Laura @ our messy messy life. said...

That is the #1 rule. If you shop with me, I spend a third more than usual.

You're cute for commenting.

The Whatleys said...

haha...yes leaving the husband at home is def. my #1 in thrifty grocery shopping.
I have a very similar is amazing how much money you save by cooking/baking food instead of buying pre-packaged stuff.
And like you said, not to mention, the health benefit for the fam.
I think we need to do a thrifty recipe swap among our mama friends. I am always looking for new things to try. Maybe I will organize a lunch or something where everyone brings a new recipe.

Becky said...

The only way to make it through a grocery visit with Nathan is by letting him "check off" the items we purchased on the list! And it usually resembles Henry's artwork too!

Rebecca said...

I'll admit I loved not having the shopping responsibility because it was never my fault :) And I just told Jonny, "we need..." and it magically appeared. However, since I decided I wanted a little more control and took over the meal planning and grocery budget we have healthier meals, more variety, and more money!

I keep staples. I also buy things we use a lot of if it's on sale. Other than that I make the meal plan for 2 weeks, write it out, leave it next to the fridge by the grocery list.

Ally helps me and like Hen and Nathan she must have her own list and her own coupons. I actually cut out coupons of things I don't use so she can have her own pile.

Laura @ our messy messy life. said...

Amy, good idea about a recipe swap lunch!

Becky and Rebecca, letting the toddler help is key....even if he just thinks he is helping....

Anonymous said...

You all must be the poorest, but healthiest young people around. Laura, remember on Wednesday nights after CCD we always had spagetti. Betsi asked what we were having and I'd say "It's Wednesday. Guess."

Love you, Mama

The Conner Clan said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog but I just wanted to comment that we do the same thing. We grocery shop every Saturday morning and before we go we plan a menu for the week and then make our list from that. We set aside a certain amount of money we're allowed to spend each week on different things and we pay for stuff with cash. You're right, our fridge and cupboards sometimes look empty but that's only to the untrained eye! I also bake bread and LOVE to bake other goodies. It makes me feel good to know exactly what goes in my little girl's tummy. I'm very impressed with your garden and am itching to start my own but it will have to wait for now.

Great blog! I'll be sticking around to