It’s the time of the month for meal planning. I like to plan a month of dinners in advance. For many new meal planners this can sound a bit overwhelming. I know it did to me at first, but I am totally converted now. I find it saves me time, money and from those “what do you want for dinner”, “I don’t know” conversations. All we have to do is look at the fridge and see what’s on there. I use this printable monthly menu planner. Each month I print it out, take stock of what we have on hand in the pantry and freezer, find recipes that use the ingredients we already have and organize any new recipes I want to try. I keep my past months and use those as a guide for meals that we like. I look at the previous month and find the meals that didn’t get made, because inevitably something came up and we didn’t eat our intended dinners for a few nights. I will still have those ingredients, so I incorporate those meals into the next month. This is just what works for out family. I encourage you to try and find the best meal planning strategey for your family and lifestyle.
Here is where I must tell you, I do not shop like most people. I am a stockpiler. When meat, canned goods, pasta, beans, rice, cheese etc. are on sale I buy a bunch and freeze or store them for later use. I buy ingredients that I know we will use or are common in our diets. This way, when I meal plan usually I just have to buy produce and a few dairy items at the beginning of the month. This keeps my grocery bills low. Granted, I do make most of our food from scratch and I purchase a very limited number of processed or boxed items. Rather, I spend my money on different types of flours and baking goods and spices to make things like tortillas, breads, buns, english muffins, regular muffins, cookies and just about anything else that can be baked.
These meals are not set in stone. If we don’t want a particular dinner that night, then we can rearrange and pick something else from the list since I know that we have the ingredients for that too. Our side dishes may change with the produce we have on hand, but that’s ok!
I also do quite a bit of freezer cooking to make my own “convenience” food. Jessica over at Life as Mom has a fabulous description on the basics of freezer cooking HERE. Crystal at Money Saving Mom has how she plans for freezer cooking and lots of free printable worksheets HERE.
This is a picture of a normal shopping trip for me. This is one that I did not even use any coupons! I went to food4less our kroger affiliate store since they were having a sale on chicken. Well, they had several of the on sale packages of chicken on managers special, meaning they need to be used or frozen by tomorrow and were marked down half price. That made it $0.50/lb!!! I also got some marked down pork chops, spiral sliced half ham for $0.99/lb and splurged on some shrimp for Dallas! This trip was definitely a stock up meat trip! There is about 25 pounds of meat here that will last us quite a while, longer than a month for sure. I have not decided completely what I am going to do with it all yet, but I will make some shredded chicken taco/burrito meat in the crockpot and some bbq chicken legs that I can then freeze for later in the month. I think I will crockpot most of the pork into pulled bbq for sandwiches to freeze and I may freeze some whole. Not sure what all I will do with the ham yet. Probably cut it into smaller portions, make some soup and figure it out later! There is also, flour, tomoto soup (for chili and sloppy joes), cottage cheese, applesauce, apples, celery and dry beans. I spent just under $45.00.
This afternoon I will be working on my menu for next month. I will scan it and post it later or tomorrow so you can see exactly what I do. Stay tuned for that.