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Menu Plans

April 22, 2012

Over the next week I plan to be working on creating my May meal menu.  I encourage you to do this, not only will you save money, you will find life is just much nicer knowing your daily battle of “whats for supper?” will no longer be there.  At the end, I am going to share my April menu, since my May calendar has not been started.  I only started this monthly meal planning mid-April, so April is not 100% completely filled in.

It can be very overwhelming to think of planning an entire month worth of meals out, yet if you take a few of the steps I used it should help.  This is how I started my month at a time meal planning calendars.  I decided I need to make meals work for me.  I found that if I created theme nights it would help a ton.  It would narrow down the list of recipes I needed to process to come up with meal ideas.  Take some time and think of the meals your family eats and see how you can classify your meals.  Some recipes can and will fall into different categories (Example: lasagna would fall in pasta and casserole night for me).  From one family to another your list will be different.  Some will have a list based upon country of origin, some will have it based on meats and some will have other categories.  As you do this think about all the meals you can put in those categories.  I did not write them down, but did make mental notes of this.  For ideas on where to start here is my families list, it will change from time to time as we proceed with making monthly meal menus.

(click to enlarge)

Once you have this, whats the next step?  Start your calendar.  That means take a blank calendar that you use specifically for meal planning.  Then proceed and put minimal information on the calendar regarding your schedule.  Only information that will interfere with meal plans.  Example: My son turns 4 next week and his birthday party is this upcoming Saturday.  His party will interfere with our normal Saturday supper.  Or if you will be on the road all day you don’t want to plan a meal that will require 2 hours of cooking time.  Remember keep this part simple, too much information is never good and can make this process more overwhelming.

Once you have the above complete, identify days of the week you struggle the most with finding time to cook or most likely to order out.  Which days do you need quick and simple meals and which days do you believe you have more time to make a meal that takes a little longer.  For our family we find, we tend to eat out on Friday evenings or order pizza.  Well Friday is now a night I need to plan a simple meal or make homemade pizza.  Once I identified this, I filled in every Friday with what I thought would work.  Next would be Wednesday night.  Wednesdays we have Bible Study and Pioneer clubs, which means it has to be simple or at least ready around 4:30 or 5:00 pm to eat.  I do not babysit on Wednesday, which means I still can make something that will require a longer prep or cook time.  Yet I have to remember that I tend to do most my housework that day.  I proceeded through the rest of the days, weeks and then the month like this.  Once I wrote theme nights on each night, the next step is to plan the actually meals out.  I would take one day at a time and look at the theme.  This would automatically narrow the recipes I have to process to a much smaller list.   Not only do I plan the main dish, I plan the side dishes as well.

Once I have completed the month, you need to review the month and make sure you are not duplicating too much and not forgetting anything.  I print it out and use this menu in planning my grocery list for the week.  I also compare the current week recipes to the grocery sales flyer.  How do I do this?  I review the meals for the week and then look at the store fliers.  If on Thursday, I planned to make Chicken Cheese steaks for supper, yet ground beef is on sale and chicken is not, I might substitute hamburger BBQ for chicken cheese steaks.  Both are still sandwiches, yet I will save money having hamburger BBQ.  Then I have to proceed and review the rest of the month and see if I had hamburger BBQ on the menu.  If I did have hamburger BBQ on the menu, I would switch it to chicken cheese steaks.  This insures that I am able to keep my grocery budget as low as possible.  After this I would make my grocery list for the week.

Each and every morning I review the menu and make sure I get what ever I need out of the freezer and figure out what time I need to plan on starting supper.  Once I do that, I no longer need to think about supper until it was time to start cooking.  Instead of the rush at the last-minute to figure out supper, I find I spend 5 minutes a day planning my meal until it is time to start preparing my meal.  I do believe my life has been much more organized feeling by doing this.

Why plan a month at a time vs weekly?  Well who has time to plan meals out weekly?  I know I do not.  Not to mention, I am more likely to skip a week.  If I spend 30 minutes a month, planning my meals and 10 minutes a week while making my grocery list, reviewing and modifying my meals as needed, I am more likely to stick to it.  Not to mention,less likely to eat out each month.  You can also take advantage of sales.  Last week our grocery store had whole roaster chickens on sale for $0.58/pound, that is a crazy low price.  I have never seen them here for less than $0.78/pound but typically they go on sale for $0.88/pound.  The normal price is $1.58/pound.  Once I saw this, I reviewed the rest of April and found I needed only one for April, yet because of the price low, I figured I would buy five of these and put them in my freezer.  Now I have enough whole roaster chickens for at least two more months.  Now as I plan my May meals, I am able will remember that I can plan on whole roaster chickens for two meals.  With the added bonus of  de-boning the remaining chicken to make a second meal for week or freeze the chicken for a future meals.  The chickens averaged $3.00-3.50 each.  How awesome to have 2-3 meals worth of chicken for $3.00-3.50.  That is truly money-saving.

As promised here is our April Menu: (for May I will use a font that will be easier to read)

(click to enlarge)

Upcoming post/s:  Update on My 2012 Goals, One Step at a Time to a Smaller Me Update, How to Save Money on Meat.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. katie permalink
    April 22, 2012 7:49 pm

    every-now-and-then i get enough energy… time,., courage, whatever it may be, to plan about 2 weeks of meals. i do well then fizzle… let me know how you do and what helps to not fizzle out b.c i agree it is def beneficial to pre-plan… we were VERY VERY VERY close to going over our food budget this month (we have a google document that lists all of our spendings in categories). we also shop at aldi once or twice a month (with mini shops for milk and eggs, etc) so we super save in that aspect thanks for sharing. PS… the font is fine to read as long as you click twice to enlarge 🙂

    • April 23, 2012 11:39 am

      I will keep you posted. I hate to say it this way, I do believe extra money in the back account for lack or eating out will help keep the fizzle away. Not to mention the health benefits. With a $60 weekly grocery budget it forces us to stick to it. If we go over our budget is blown for the month and we will have to tip into savings. We have done that way to many times and I officially am sick of it. Time to be putting some more money into savings not taking it out for food or bills. We have an Aldi near us, but I personally am not happy with their prices. Others in our area love them, but for me, I would rather drive 1 hour to BBs (the Amish discount grocery store), I find much better pricing and products there. But I do understand each and every Aldi is different.

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