I thought I would share my menu planning/grocery shopping strategy today. It is something I have seen other blogs/people on pinterest share and I thought maybe my way could help someone out!
First, I think it is important to have a list of meals that your family will eat. This took a little bit of thinking on my part, but now as we try new recipes I can just keep adding to the list. By making a list of all possible dinners we will eat I am able to quickly find dinners to add to the menu. Some meals that we have at least once a month include tacos, spaghetti, brinner, and pizza. Currently my list has 70 possible dinner selections.
Second, I sit down with my monthly calendar and start looking at what is going on during the month. I plan around Jason's pay periods which means I meal plan and grocery shop every two weeks. I know that on Wednesday's and Saturday's we go to church. On Wednesday's we eat before church and need something quick and easy and on Saturday's my sister and her family usually come over to eat. I also take into account anything Jason has going on at work like late or out of town meetings and any Mary Kay appointments I may have. I also make sure to look at what I can make that will have leftovers or things that use some of the same ingredients in order to save money. I would never put steaks, veggie pasta (which has some expensive cheeses in it), and mexican lasagna (which has a million ingredients) in the same week. Too expensive.
Next, I plug in my meals. September 1st-15th looks like this:
3rd-Pizza and Salad
4th-Chicken Pot Pie
5th-Cucumber, Corn, Avocado Salad
6th-Chicken Noodle Soup
7th-Crock pot Ranch Chicken and Rice
8th-Zucchini, Rice, Black Bean casserole
9th-Broccoli Cheese Soup
10th-Out to dinner with friends
11th-Chicken and Dressing
(Side note, this two weeks is more meat heavy than we have eaten the past two months! Mostly due to the fact that I am making three meals that all use pretty much the exact same ingredients.)
After making the menu, I sit down and start my grocery list. I keep my menu in front of me in order to be able to write down all of the ingredients I might need. I try to make some similar items so I don't waste any food. Like I mentioned, the chicken pot pie, chicken noodle soup and chicken and dressing all use the same veggies and chicken so I will be able to cook the chicken together and be sure to not have celery and carrots go bad in my fridge!
Now here's the thing....we don't necessarily eat what is on each day. I like to take into consideration what sounds good on a given day. So, basically what I am planning is 15 or so different meals, but they aren't always eaten on the day where they are written. Some people say meal planning isn't for them because, "what if what I have planned doesn't sound good?" This plan is for that type of person! We are never locked into a certain meal if it ends up not sounding good (unless of course it is the last day and we don't have any other groceries!!!). I also keep ingredients on hand that I know could come in handy for a quick dinner in case I find I don't have time to cook one night. I always have black beans and tortillas ready for black bean tacos or quesadillas and we always have plenty of sandwich stuff available.
Final step is grocery shopping. This is the part I hate the most. I have switched where I shop and then switched again, and then again and despite my loathing of them, Target is where I now do my grocery shopping. They have a good amount of organics, aren't too far from my house, do price matching, and since I use my redcard I get 5% off. I still find that I have to go to Walmart and Whole Foods to pick up odds and ends (though Jenks just got a new organic grocery store..whoo hoo!!!) but usually Jas does those shorter trips for me!! Shopping for two weeks at a time helps me save money because I am not going to the store everyday or every other day.
So there you go, my menu planning/grocery shopping strategy. I know it is dorky, but I love this kind of thing. I enjoy planning and organizing and knowing what I am having for dinner in the next two weeks. I am weird and I know it.