Meal Planning

I'm sorry if this post is a complete snooze-fest, but I have nothing going on besides mounds of homework and I love talking about organization. So here's how I prepare for our monthly grocery shopping trips:

Kitchen Counter
  • Recipe Arsenal. For months, I would leaf through my recipe binder to figure out exactly what our meal options were and what ingredients were in each recipe. It was annoying and time-consuming. So, I eventually created two Google Docs to makes this process easier. One document is just a simple list of all my tried-and-true recipes, divided into beef, chicken, pork and meatless categories. The other document expands upon the previous one by listing every ingredient in each recipe. I only have a few baked goods on these lists - things we make all the time like blueberry muffins and oatmeal cookies. Since we have such a variety of desserts, I just look up those recipes when they're needed.
  • Recipe Searching. I try to make between two and four new recipes every month. Throughout the month, I find inspiration from blogs and magazines. I also just think about what I'm craving {& ask Adam too} and then search on Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Food Network, All Recipes, and Tasty Kitchen. What we have coupons for and what we already have on hand play a role in recipe searching as well.
  • Coupons. I started seriously couponing in February and so far we've saved $25 off our grocery bill each month. Once a week, I check coupons.com, smart source, and red plum. I only print out coupons for items we actually use. We recently started getting the Sunday paper because we found a Groupon to get a year's subscription for $14. The newspaper circular has a lot more and a lot better coupons, so I'm sure we'll increase our grocery savings even more. When we're out shopping, we always make a stop at Target for cleaning supplies, toiletries and other miscellaneous items. We have a Target credit card which knocks 5% off every purchase. Over the course of the year, we'll save at least $60 just from using that card.
  • The Menu. Once I've found new recipes and got all my coupons collected, I open my Google calendar and click to the menu tab. First, I figure out which days that we won't be eating at home {church functions, date nights, and vacations}. Then I start plugging in recipes, week-by-week, for the remaining days. I try to keep a few things in mind as I'm figuring out each week:
I want a variety of protein sources {chicken, eggs, black beans, etc.}
I want a variety of cuisines {Mexican, Italian, Asian, etc.}
I want to factor in how much meal preparation time I've got each evening.
  • The Shopping List. Once I've got the menu planned, it's time to make the shopping list. First, I write down:
Breakfast and lunch supplies.
Vegetables to have with dinner.
Just-in-case dinner supplies {pierogies and spaghetti}.
Dessert ingredients.
  • Then I just plug in the recipe ingredients, from my handy list, for all the meals on that month's menu. I put a star next to every item that I have a coupon for and make sure I note what size/quantity the coupon specifies and how much the coupon is worth {because sometimes the store brand is still cheaper than the name brand, even with a coupon}. It saves me from having to dig through my coupon file at the store. I also organize my list based on the design of the store, just to make things easier.
So, that's my meal planning system. I know it seems really complicated, but I really only spend about 30 minutes a week couponing and two hours a month planning the menu & shopping list.

1 comment:

  1. That is extremely impressive. I'm overwhelmed already. I've been trying to get better about the planning aspect of meals, but our day to day and night to night is too unpredictable to plan a month in advanced. I'm so impressed by you! I've gotten slowly to a week by week system. But, I'm so old fashioned...I have to use pen and paper. There is something about me writing it with my hand. Weirdo. I know.

    But, you've got an impressive system down. I might need to reread this like every.day.


You are awesome.