Menu Planning for Dummies

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.

This was originally posted on Money Saving Mom.


Not too many months ago, I was spending $80 to $100 a week on groceries. For two people. I knew it wasn’t quite right, that I didn’t need to spend so much; yet, how would I get to cook the things I wanted if I tried to pennypinch? Wouldn’t we end up eating macaroni and cheese and cereal for every meal?

I read many blogs on saving money and using coupons, but I could not get it to click in my head very well. I thrived on trying new recipes, exciting and exotic meals from the pages of Cooking Light and Southern Living. I planned my meals, made out a list of ingredients I needed, and zipped off to the store each week.


 

Then, in October 2008, I had my first child. Suddenly the cost of daycare, pediatrician visits, diapers, wipes, and other baby paraphernalia was eating at our loosely planned budget. In January, once I was back at work and more in the swing of things, I decided it was time to tackle my grocery spending. I thought surely the two of us could eat for $40 a week if I were more careful.

 

It’s not been nearly as difficult as I imagined. Mostly I just flipped around my way of doing things: instead of choosing meals and then making my list, I make the list and then choose meals. First, I cut out the coupons from that week’s circular that I might use at some point. I flip back through my coupon box to remind myself what I have. Then, I scour the ads of my two local grocery stores to find the great deals for the week, and match up items for which I have coupons. [Now I often use Southern Savers to point me to great Publix deals and online coupon match-ups as well.]

 

After that, I use my list of items I can get for a steal to plan my menu. I’ve found that doing it this way, I can still make many meals from those magazines I love. Some of my recent favorites have been Gnocchi with Italian Sausage and Swiss Chard, Pork Tenderloin with Shallot-Cider Sauce, and Grilled Chicken Burritos with Jalapeno Sauce. I use healthy, whole ingredients to make our dinners—with an occasional side of frozen veggies or Rice-a-Roni.

 

I never thought I would be the kind of person to go through the grocery store with a calculator, but I do now, every week. I get everything on my list, then use any extra money I have for the week for unadvertised deals, manager’s specials, or treats for my husband.

 

Some weeks I still groan at the idea of laboring through the coupons and ads; but truly, it is just an hour of my time each Sunday while the baby naps, and it saves a great deal of money. Some day I would like to stay home with my daughter, and having these habits now is great practice for the future, when I might be on an ever tighter budget!

 

Right now my $40 budget is just for the week’s groceries, but I hope as I get more and more used to it I’ll be able to squeeze my household items in there as well.

Great Resources for Online Savings:

MoneySavingMom.com

Southern Savers

Cellfire

P&G E-Saver

Upromise

Coupons.com

SmartSource.com

What’s your menu planning method? Do you have a grocery budget? A favorite budget-friendly meal? I’d love to know!

3 thoughts on “Menu Planning for Dummies

  1. I have a) what I'd like to always use as menu planning and b) the back up plan.
    Ideally, I plan ahead from the coupon mom, use coupons and get only groceries on sale and then plan my meals around those items. I plan for 1- 2 weeks according to what's going on.
    Recently, though, we have been buying food from Angel Food and have TONS of frozen yummy meats, so I am cooking around those.
    And, we just got done with 20 meals from Homemade Gourmet that I LOVED. I usually sprinkle in: easy, family favorites and new fun things during the week. And this time of year I usually do a big pot of chili/ soup on Saturday.

    Plan B) Pizza. I always have stock in the fridge. Jason just called to tell me he had a meeting tonight. So guess what's for dinner?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *