Friday, July 13, 2012

Menu Planning 101

What's for dinner? 

That question most of us dread, DAILY!

We're going to start taking some steps toward building our menu plan with a supply of food and necessities (non-food).  This will help you know what deals you need to be looking for later as we build up our supplies a little at a time.  Doing this work up front will make it so you can eliminate that question and simplify our busy lives.  It can also save our money- no last minute runs to grab something quick (and probably less healthy) to eat!

This is just one way of doing a Menu Plan, and you can follow it or do whatever variation you'd like- just find something that works for you!  Each family has different tastes and preferences, so there's no way my plan would work for even my sister's family.

First step: List your 10 favorite dishes
Items needed: Printout page 1, pen

Get your family involved!  Have your family list your favorite meals. Explain that you are working on a list of the family's favorites so that you will know what to shop for when it's on sale to save money.  There are many cases when a food supply comes in handy- in a natural disaster or family emergency, when no money might be coming in for a short while or when someone (mom) is sick or just can't get to the store.  Decide as a family how much of the family budget should go toward building food supplies.  (Buying extras of an item when it is on sale will save your family $$ in the long run, so you aren't buying something when you feel like making it again at regular price.) 

Keep a variety in your list, cause you'll need to be able to have some nights where the preparation takes less time than other nights.  Besides entrées, also list side dishes, lunches, breakfasts, snacks/desserts.  See if you can get up to 10 in each category- this will give you a 2 week menu plan when we are done.  I'm now doing a 2nd set of 2 weeks so I'll have 4 weeks to rotate with and keep a list of the items to keep in stock.

We do leave some open days for trying a new recipe or using up leftovers (switch them up where you can to make it "like new") or for nights the family goes out.  That will keep you flexible and work with the family's schedule that week.

When our family did this, our boys suggested "green beans" as every side dish.  We definitely learned we needed to work on introducing more variety into their diets!

Next step: Assign your meals into the weekly menu HERE
Instruction on the sheet

Third step: Make a Master grocery list
Either in EXCEL or whatever works for you.
Each time you use an item for a different meal, add a tally mark so you know how many of an item you need to have for the 2 weeks.

Next to your master list items, keep track of the good sales prices you find on those items- know when to stock up and so you'll have extras to use (except fresh items have to be purchased as you do each menu).

I don't have the computer skills to do anything cute/crafty, but I did find a cute worksheet you can do your weekly plans on (7 days instead of 5) and make a separate one for each week on there. Laminate it and reuse the lined area with an erasable pen for your grocery shopping trip!

This is the point where you could get coupons involved- having the best prices listed and using coupons when those sales come around.

Each week as a family, we talk about our schedule and what is going on- lets me know what nights I need to depend more on the crockpot, or when we'll be out and I can fill in the menu for the week around our events.

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