Meal planning pays off.
There’s a bit of time and effort that goes into planning what the family will eat for the week. To get the most out of your time and food budget, you’ll want to put a little time in planning your menu. Many of us have easy access to grocery stores and markets which allows us the luxury of picking up dinner ingredients daily. The problem with making stops daily is that it becomes easy to pick up extra items. “Do those cookies look good.” “What a deal on dishpans.” “Look at that handy dandy gizmo gadget.” Now, I’m not against impulse purchase. Believe me, some of the coolest things I’ve bought were purchased on a whim. A look in my cupboards and closets will testify to an inordinate accumulation of *stuff*. I’m afraid many of those purchases turned out to be a waste of money, since I rarely use them. That’s the big trouble with impulse purchases. They throw a monkey wrench into your budget.
Mind veer: what is a monkey wrench and why is it a bad thing?
Planning out the menu for the week will help you economize your grocery shopping. For one thing, you’ll make a single trip to the store and be able to purchase all the items you need. For another thing, you’ll limit the impulse goodies since you’re only exposed to the temptation once.
How to Plan Meals
Things to consider while you’re planning meals should include your family’s schedule, food preference and how many meals you’re planning. Many families have a busy week. Take into account work schedules, sports and after-school activities and the amount of time a meal will take to prepare. Does your family enjoy casseroles or avoid them like a plague? My kids had a built in aversion to any food with the word “salad” in the name. Do you need to have portable meals? Are you going to have sit down meals or eat on the run?
- Decide how many meals you need to make.
- Determine what foods will be served at each meal.
- Identify how you can turn left overs from Monday into a new main dish for Wednesday.
- Write it down.
Some people are able to plan out a week’s worth of menus in their heads. I admire them. I need to have things written down, or I forget them. Let me tell you, a hungry family is not something I’m willing to face without a plan!
Tip: Once you have the menu mapped out, you’ll want to compile a list of ingredients. It’s efficient to use similar ingredients in several meals. This will make your shopping and prepping simpler.
Writing it Down
I’ve found there are a few ways to track your meal planning. The simplest is a piece of paper stuck to the front of the fridge. Another easy way to plan is to use a section of your calendar or daily planner. I picked up a free calendar the other day with the intention of using it for menu tracking.
Microsoft Office has some very good templates on their website for people who want to use Microsoft Word or Excel. The download process is quick and simple. Search for “planners”, you’ll see all kinds, from classroom to meal planning. Highlight the document you like and click the download button. You can use these planners in the electronic version then print completed forms or if you prefer to print several blanks, you can fill in the spaces with your pencil.
You’ll feel more in control of your grocery shopping, your budget (time and money) and maybe even eat a little better if you spend the time to map out a menu for the week. Remember, this is a plan and not a law. If you feel like ordering a pizza on Tuesday, that’s fine. You can shift the menu items from Tuesday to another day.