Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Saving Time AND Money : Monthly Menu Planning

My organization skills are a mess.

If it wasn't for my husband's Type A personality, literally nothing would ever get done in our household. Lucky for me, I married an OCD man with a Business degree...(And he's handsome too ;-) )

So, together, we have put together a system that works for both of us. 

It is organized, helps us save money, 

And (most importantly for me) 
... It's Easy.

And because it works SO well for us, I am going to share it with you today. An easy, peasy, 10 step process of keeping a monthly meal plan (with pictures!).
You're Welcome.

1. Make The Folder:
This part is important, so pay attention.

To make your meal planning folder, you need two essential things : 

A calendar page (right), and a pen. 

I personally have included the "Family Dinner Favorites" printable that I found on Pinterest from the Clean Mama Blog, and I use this reference sheet to help me decide on meals while I am planning the new month's menu.

Behind these sheets, I also include an area for coupons/flyers and my shopping lists.

2. Review The Old Menu:
As you can see, this is the menu from September. I keep track throughout the month of what meals we ate, what meals we switched around, etc. (This picture was taken on Thursday the 25th, See where it says "groceries"). Knowing when we last ate what meals, and what meals perhaps got skipped throughout the month, helps me plan my new month's menu.

3. Decide what food / recipe ingredients you still have left from last month:
I do this on a simple blank sheet or notecard. 
The top picture is a list of random foods I have left to use:

And the bottom is a list of some meals I still have all the ingredients left to make:

4. Get the new months' calendar sheet out:
I print mine off of a Word Doc template.

5. Fill out the calendar page with your obligations for the month:
This includes: appointments that effect dinnertime, obligations that would make the day too busy to spend cooking a complicated meal, days we plan on having people over and would need to cook extra, days we plan on going out, etc.

6. Pull out any coupons/flyers that you've acquired and review them:
If you plan your meals based on what coupons you have/what's on sale at your favorite stores, you will save some money.
I keep my coupons in a clear sheet protector.
We only shop at BJ's (wholesale club) or Target, so I only keep coupons for those two places.
Time is a factor in our family and I just don't have time to be shopping around.
We also have a very small home and do not do "couponing". I strictly use coupons ONLY for things that I would be buying ANYWAYS. I am NOT going to be buying in bulk strictly to save money...Just don't have the time or space!
/EndRant. :-)

7. Planning the menu:
Based on the above steps (favorite family meals, ingredients that we already have left in the house, and coupons), it's time to plan the meals! Working around your schedule for the month, plan meals that make sense for your family.

I try to do one new meal (usually from Pinterest) a week, but as you can see, we tend to recycle a lot of the same meals. We are a simple family. This month, my husband and I are both leaving town, so the menu is even more simple than usual.
(When trying a new recipe, be sure to write down on the menu where the recipe is from, so that you don't forget. Four weeks is a long time to remember where you found that crazy new chicken casserole recipe...)

8. Grocery List:
As you're writing the meals on the menu, keep track of what you need to buy and where you need to buy it from. Since we only shop at 2 stores, it's a pretty simple system for us:

Before we head out to do the shopping, I triple check the fridge and pantry to add anything else we might need, as well as bath and paper products, etc.
This list stays up on our fridge all of the time so that we are constantly adding to it as we notice things that we need to buy. This cuts down on our trips to the store quite a bit.
(Although we still find ourselves going weekly for small perishable things, like lunchmeat or fresh fruits/veggies, and things that we forget. There is no perfect system!)

9. Replace old month's menu with new one:

10. Enjoy stress-free dinner planning for the rest of the month!
Thanks to a recent gift from my local MOPS, I write the menu for the week on a little dry-erase board and hang it in my kitchen. It's an easy reference for me to remember to pull out whatever needs to be thawed for dinner that night. Plus, it looks cute! Double Win!

Please comment below if you have
any questions or suggestions! 

Thanks for reading! :-)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Meghan! This is great! I love the notebook idea and keeping a running list of the favorite meals. I also like the idea of keeping the coupons in the book (I also only clip coupons of things I need/use and don't use them to buy items in excess just to save money). As you know I am a newbie to the long term meal planning but so far for the past 2 weeks so good (I can only handle planning for 2 weeks at a time right now). I like your calendar idea. I started my meal planning on just a piece of paper and yes, I also used a lot of Pinterest meals and just made sure to pin them as I went so I would know where the recipes are. I also wrote down all the ingredients needed for each dish underneath it. Then once I had it all written down I went pantry/fridge shopping to see what I already had and crossed it off. Then I already had the majority of my list.

    Another idea I have had to keep things fresh and mixed up is to use 1 cookbook every 2 weeks and get recipes solely from that book. I have a lot my mom gave me that I never use and know they have tons of great recipes. I will write down what page the recipe was on in what book. If it's a hit then I will mark it with a post it or something.

    Something else I don't know if you do is plan for leftovers. I always make sure I have at least 1 full leftover meal from what I am making for Adam to take to work. We will go ahead and pack it up in a lunch container for him to just grab in the morning.

    I made a whole chicken recently and it was WAY too much. So I had planned at least 1 recipe from using the leftover chicken (Mexican dish) and then shredded and wrapped up the rest in 3 pouches and have frozen it to use in soups and other dishes for the future. I have a running list on my freezer of what I have frozen and the date. I will also double soup recipes and freeze half of it in either individual meal sizes or a large container for a quick thaw/reheat dinner next month.

    Thanks again for posting this!