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