What’s for Dinner
Many frugalitarians focus on lowering their grocery bill. One way of lowering the cost is to create a meal plan. Organizing your meals will decrease your likelihood of purchasing pre-packaged convenience foods, that are crowding the grocery store shelves, or buying takeout from the numerous fastfood restaurants, on every corner. How far in advance do you know “what’s for dinner”? Are you scrambling through the freezer at 5:00 pm?
Meal planning is simple if you plan ahead, keep an inventory list, use your freezer, and get organized. It also saves money, time, and energy.
You can start with baby steps. One method you can try is using index cards to start organizing your meals. Select fourteen index cards. Start with a plan for seven days. Write down the days of the week on each index card. Underneath list meat/fish, produce, grains, frozen, dairy, canned, bakery, and misc.
On the back of the cards, write one complete meal per index card and the recipe, if you need it. Do this twice and utilize the other seven index cards, to create one master list to copy in the future. You can look at store ads to check for any weekly specials.
Next, look through your pantry, fridge, and freezer and mark off items you already have, and don’t need to purchase. Keep in mind planned leftovers, such as a whole baked chicken being used for chicken salad sandwiches or soup. Any items you still need for your meal plan, can be written on the front of your index card under its category.
Take a spare index card and write down a running list of what you do need until your next meal plan. Keep this index card where family members can locate it, like on the refrigerator, so they can add to the list if they deplete any pantry items.
Back at the Ranch
Once you’re back from food shopping, consider what you can prep ahead of time and freeze ahead. Some examples are, cooking meats such as meatloaf or roasts, before placing it into the freezer, boiling hamburger crumbles, chopping vegetables, grating cheese, and boiling eggs. Be sure to label frozen food with name and date, and keep a freezer inventory list too.
This system works nicely and once you’re comfortable, you can plan for the upcoming month. Once thirty days of cards are created, and you have a good habit established, when there is a meat sale at the grocery store, you can purchase it and simply pull an index card with that particular meat recipe, and be ready to cook.
Here are a few sites for meal planning inspiration:
Use what works
Index cards are often used because they are small, and can be filed in a recipe box, or don’t take up much room if left out. You can also incorporate fun school lunch plans on index cards for children. You can write different food groups on index cards, and your children can pick and choose from each food group, to assemble their own lunch menu.
Index cards might be too cumbersome for you. If so, you can use paper, a day planner, computer spreadsheet or file, or a calendar. Many people prefer dry erase boards for their inventory lists too.
Meal planning offers the benefit of saving time and money. It can eliminate frequent trips to the grocery store and decrease your unhealthy food intake. It’s efficient to have a system, so you can enjoy meal time with your family and not dread the dinner hour because you’re unsure what to make.