Currently drinking PG Tips, black… my favorite every day tea.
Monday in our house means grocery shopping day! When I worked full time, I dreaded slugging to the grocery store on Sundays… the stores are packed, the parking lots are gladiator arenas, and, in the South, buying that bottle of wine is a no no before noon. Grr…..
Now that I’m a SAHM, one perk is definitely hitting the store on a weekday! No one is there. In fact, if I’m at my neighborhood store, it’s just me and the little old ladies. And Mondays seem to be the day the grocery stores restock after the weekend. So at least the produce doesn’t look picked over.
But, before I hit the store, I HAVE to menu plan. Ugh…. it’s my least favorite activity. I love being organized with a list to shop off of, but, honestly, do I have to menu plan??
Menu planning is something I did, off and on, since my husband and I got married 6.5 years ago. I knew it was something I had to do to save us money on our grocery budget. (Don’t misunderstand! I’m not saying menu planning is the end all for saving money. It just was for us.) When I planned our meals for the week, and bought groceries for those meals, we didn’t spend too much on food month to month. But when I skipped menu planning and decided to go in, buying things here and there, or bought ready-to-go meals, we spent SO MUCH money! Or we went out to eat a lot more.
So now that I’m not contributing a pay check to the family coffers (although, I’d argue I’m saving us money by staying home!), I need to be smart about what I buy at the grocery store.
I’m 5 months into planning weekly menus. Some weeks I go off the rails and spontaneously shop. But since my LO arrived, that became impractical. But I thought I would share how I plan my menus and how I shop.
1. Choose a plan – It took me a while to get this figured out, but I think I have a good system now. I start off by printing off these fillable menu planners. These are pretty handy. I’m trying to get 10 winter menus completed, then I can rotate. I plan on doing the same in the Spring/Summer. Should make it a little easier! I also came up with this basic formula when choosing 7 dinners:
- 2 Mexican dinners (our favorite genre)
- 1 Italian dinner
- 1 easy meal
- 1 soup (for Friday night, our tradition in the Fall/Winter)
- 1 comfort food meal
- 1 “fancy” meal (reserved for whichever weekend day my husband is NOT working, so I have an extra set of hands with the baby)
The goal with each meal, with the exception of the “easy meal” is to have leftovers. I always cook recipes as is, meaning if it feeds 8, that’s what I cook. My husband loves leftovers for breakfast.
2. Pick the Meals – This is, for me, the hardest part. I always ask my husband “what do you want to eat this week?”, and I get a resounding “I don’t care. Good food?”. Not helpful. But, to be honest, if the tables were turned, I would probably give him the same response. I obviously lean towards old favorites, like tacos (my husband’s current favorite), pizza, and vegetarian meatballs. But I also try to encorporate at least one new recipe each week. For that, and other meal inspiration, I turn to my favorite cookbook “Fields of Greens” by Anne Somerville. It’s all vegetarian. The recipes are also easy to execute, but incorporate interesting ingredients I don’t normally use. I also pull out my handy dandy recipe box and flip through that. I also look to Pinterest for ideas. I’ve been saving yummy ideas on a board. Follow it for ideas!
For breakfast and lunches, I don’t go too crazy. I basically look at any dinners that yield leftovers and jot that down as the next day’s breakfast. Lunches just apply to my husband’s lunches. He refuses to use the hospital’s microwaves, so he gets just sandwiches every day. And, thankfully, he doesn’t mind. So once I’ve chosen the dinners, it’s smooth sailing to complete the rest of the menu!
3. Go Grocery Shopping – So, all that’s left is jot down the ingredients I need to complete the newly created menu, and I’m off! Just a note on creating the grocery shopping list. I group the items by section of the grocery store (produce, pantry, dairy, etc). Then I put a * by items that I have a coupon, so I don’t miss anything.
When deciding where to do the shopping, I consider several things. If I need specialty cheeses, wine, bread, or produce, I usually choose to go to Trader Joe’s. I’ve actually been doing my weekly shop there for the last few weeks, and I’ve spent no more than $120 for an entire week of groceries! If I just need a few staples (usually because we did something the week prior that meant we didn’t eat a meal or two, and I just reuse that item), then I go to my local Food Lion. Pretty cheap as well.
Once a month, I go to Target (use the Cartwheel app for any applicable coupons!) and Costco. I go to Target when I’m out of cosmetics and toiletrees, or need a gift/card, etc. I was shopping at Target every week for a while, but realized that, even though groceries are cheap at Target, the rest of Target is too tempting. I spent every dime I saved (and spent more!) on sweaters, baby clothes, shoes, etc…. it’s a disease. Costco is the same way – go when I’m out of toilet paper, paper towels, detergent, etc. I also like to buy milk, bread, produce, cheese, veggie sausage, yogurt, and eggs when I’m there. They seem to be the cheapest in town!
So, there you go! I’m really hoping that creating the 10 Fall/Winter Menus will save me time in the long run. I’d even like to eventually laminate the menus, create a printable shopping list for each week, and get them better organized. But that’s to come.