Do you plan out a weekly menu? In years past I never gave it any thought, we would simply go grocery shopping and grab whatever looked or sounded good. We were also going grocery shopping every single week and our monthly grocery bill was outrageous! Sometimes it even felt like we were going to the store every other day because we never had anything in the house to cook for dinner. I knew something had to be done, we were tired of going shopping so much and I had to get our grocery bill under control. Living on one income means our budget is often tight, I had to cut costs anywhere possible the the grocery bill definitely had room for some big cuts.
My biggest disadvantage was my lack of knowledge and skill in the kitchen. While I had learned to cook more over the years (when hubby first met me I could make Hamburger Helper and Mac & Cheese, that was it) I still very much lacked when it came to dinner ideas. Being able to cook the big family holiday meals was a great accomplishment but it didn’t help when it came to every day meals. Lucky for me, Pinterest had arrived and gave me plenty of ideas. I spent hours searching for easy meals that I felt I could attempt, meals that used just a couple of ingredients both to keep cost low and because I figured I had less chance to mess it up if there weren’t many ingredients, and of course I searched for crock pot recipes. My crock pot is seriously my best friend! I also turned to family and friends, asking for simple recipes that I might could try.
Once I had recipes to try, I sat down to plan out a menu. I decided to tackle two weeks at a time since we get paid every two weeks. Now I don’t plan it down to exact days or anything, I just plan meals for a two week period and we can decide what to cook when we want to. Including meals that made leftovers was a huge plus since they covered two days instead of one, if not enough leftovers for a second dinner then enough for hubby’s lunch was just as good since it cut the cost of buying items for his lunch. I tried to include as many crock-pot meals as possible since those are the ones I can make and save just a couple for hubby to cook on the weekends, I include our “lazy” nights of just deli sandwiches or something else super simple.
After I had the menu done, I go through and write down each ingredient needed to prepare each meal. Then I head to the pantry and mark off what we already have on hand; if we have it on hand but only have one (for example a can of cream of chicken soup) I’ll go ahead and get more since it’s something I always use and like to have on hand for those nights of tossing something together last minute. After I know for sure what I need I sit down and make out my grocery list making sure to include the exact number of each item I need. I also go through and add in the extras like oil, milk, eggs, tea, cereal, the stuff we use daily and not just for cooking dinner. Once I have my list I go through my coupons and prepare for my shopping trip.
We usually head to the store on Sunday afternoon, after my Sunday coupons arrive and before hubby’s work week begins. Having such a long list does make the trip last longer which can, at times, be a nightmare with an impatient toddler but this system has definitely worked out better for us.
Since starting menu planning I have managed to cut our grocery bill in half! We no longer have to run out to the store almost daily just to get something to take home to cook, now I can have dinner cooking for when hubby makes it home from work. Granted we don’t always stick to the menu, sometimes I substitute or try something different. The great thing is I’ve been able to have a little extra in the house at times now so if nothing sounds good there’s now another option instead of no options like it once was. For February I even decided to try and tackle three weeks at once, I wanted to make sure to have plenty in the house for when I had my surgery. We went grocery shopping at the very beginning of the month and we are just now needing to go again! That is definite awesome in my book!
If you don’t already menu plan I would definitely give it a try, it worked for us and it really helps eliminate tha whole “what’s for dinner” problem. Now I can just walk to the kitchen and the only problem I have is figuring out what I feel like tossing in the crock-pot! And cutting our bill in half was such a huge help! Now if only I could keep Abby from stealing my menu/grocery list notebook, she likes to use it as her drawing pad!