Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monthly Meal Planning and Shopping Pt. 1

The other day I decided to give monthly meal planning a try.  I've read various things about the benefits of monthly shopping but that was not what I wanted to do.  I simply wanted to plan all my meals one month in advance and in one big trip get all the extra ingredients I needed for them.  This works (in theory) for me for a variety of reasons:  1. I always have 20-30 (at least) recipes running around in my head that I want to make.  Pintrest has only given me more ideas and motivation to try new things.  2.  I am a very organized person by nature.  3.  I thought this way of meal planning-as opposed to weekly planning which is what I've been doing for years-would help me to eliminate waste and/or make better use of ingredients.  (For example I am making a buffalo chicken dip this week.  I bought wing sauce for it.  Rather than have that remaining bottle sit in my fridge, unused for the next 6 months, I put on the calendar a recipe that would use up the remaining sauce.)  So I sat down to give it a try. 

First I found a template online.  I simply googled "montly meal planning template" and choose my favorite.  The one I picked starts on a Monday, which I would not use again.  I thought that since in my head my week starts on Monday it'd work nicely to have my calendar start on Monday.  Turns out it's too confusing when looking at it as a calendar. 

Once I had my template I made sure I had some time set aside.  Since I already had a list of all the recipes I wanted to try thanks to Pintrest I need about 30-60 minutes.  Since I was "working" hubby was more than happy to keep the kids out of my hair.  Bonus.  60 minutes of peace and quiet!  First on my calendar I wrote down all the things we had going on that month-church events, Girl Scouts, dates out, etc.  That way I would know if I needed to cook something quick on certain nights or not.  Then I went through the task of putting meals on the calendar.  I have to admit, it was a lot harder than I thought.  Hopefully I can fall into a system and it becomes easier and more streamlined if I keep this up.  One thing that will be helpful is if I had categories that I knew I wanted to cook each week.  Examples would be: pasta, soup, chicken, beef, Mexican, kid friendly, etc.  That way I can know that I want to make a soup every week and just pick 4 and put them on the calendar.  The finished product looked like this:

Once I had my calendar it was no extra work to make my list of things to buy.  I personally do it recipe by recipe-I look at all my recipes (again a breeze thanks to pintrest) and write down all the ingredients I need that I didn't already have.  I tried to find a good shopping list template online but I didn't like any of them.  So I separated my list into common categories that work for my family.  Dairy, produce, canned goods and dried goods.  Your family may need more than that-freezer, breakfast, etc.  Whatever works.  The only thing I would change about my list next time would be to double check what I have at home.  I usually don't mind buying a can of black beans even if I think I have a can but since the purpose of this experiment is to use up stuff and save money I should have used what I had instead of buying extra.  (This was pure laziness on my part-not being in the mood to check.)  Here's what my list looked like:
A few days later, on a weekend, I made it to the store.  Again hubby watched the kids.  I managed to get everything I needed for the month in only 2 hours and 2 stores.  And one of the stores is a 15 min drive so half an hour of those 2 hours were driving.  I only spent $160!  (Oh, I should note that my "month" of meals was only 3 weeks since I started it after a week in.) Now again, this was simply monthly meal planning not monthly shopping.  So while I did buy some extra things I knew my family would eat that month in no way was this an exhaustive trip, covering everything we'd eat the entire month.  However, the goal is that rather than going to the store 4x in a month I can go this one time and hopefully only once or twice more to buy perishables.  And hopefully those perishable trips wind up being less than I'd normally spend in an entire month.  So we'll see how the rest of the month goes with shopping but I'm very hopeful this new system will work.

Stay tuned for another post on how it all went and another one on monthly household goods stock up.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

Love it. So excited for you!

I'm totally going to try this for January. Since L has been sick & cannot have any dairy, (and of course, I had just bought a full gallon of milk for him), I am trying out freezing milk which I've never done before. I also had bought 12 yogurts but have to do some research about freezing that...I feel like it's a no.
Thanks for sharing!!