Planning ahead: Menus & shopping list
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  1. #1
    Registered User OhPioneer1806's Avatar
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    Default Planning ahead: Menus & shopping list

    This is the last week of the month and the time when I sit down and do my menu planning for the next month and put together a shopping list for my big stocking-up grocery trip I take at the beginning of the new month. I'm not a huge fan of being in the grocery store and I've found the less I'm there the less I spend. I will be stopping at my favorite local discount chain to pick up salad items today to get us through the week but I haven't grocery shopped since March 3rd so I think I did mighty well this month.
    I start with my cookbooks and cooking magazines and look at recipes I want to try and old favorites and then put together a pool of 30-31 dinner menus I can pick from for the month. I have a short list of what I call 'emergency' menus that I always have the ingredients on hand for if I need to use them as well. And I like to try at least 3 new recipes each month. Since school is in session I only need to plan lunch ideas for weekends, and breakfast is generally the same kind of thing (cold cereals or homemade muffins, toast, etc. during the week, a cooked breakfast on weekends). Once I have menus in place I make sure I list any ingredients I will need that I don't already have. Then I check out my deep freezer and my pantry to see what I have on hand and what might need to be stocked up on. Then I make out my big list according to what stores I will be going to. I regularly shop at three locations: BJ's Wholesale club, Aldi, and a local discounter called Marc's/Xpect. I make trips to Gordon Food Service ( a food service company that has an open to the public location) about every three months mostly for frozen veggies & fruits, local farmer's markets when in season, a local fruit farm also when in season, and the standard grocery store only for items I cannot get elsewhere. In April I will be going to GFS as well as my regular stops.
    How does everyone else plan and shop?

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    Moderator Ceashels's Avatar
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    I plan and shop weekly/biweekly for most things. I too hit BJ's and Aldi's for most of my staples and stop by Safeway for some specialty items when I need to stock up.

    I use the online fliers for Safeway to check for meat sales and will buy bulk and stock the freezer to plan meals around what I find. I'm lucky that I drive by the store 1-2 times a week so I can get things "on the way."
    The Free Spirit Saver who walks the path with Greebo.

    Onboard with a modified Dave Ramsey Plan
    Budget: "Every month! On paper, on purpose!"


    Gardening somewhere between Zone 6b and 7a.

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    Registered User Dancing Lotus's Avatar
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    I go week by week since most of what we eat is fresh produce. I just can't buy produce and expect it to be fresh it two weeks.

    On Sunday I get my coupons and set down at the computer to match up the deals. IF I can't save more then 50% and it's NOT an urgent need it doesn't get bought. My primary stores are publix and walgreens, followed by Aldis , winn-dixie, cvs and last is Target for just a few things I can't get else where. It sounds like a lot they are all together on the road.

    I have books, printouts and web sights that I use to build my weeks menu. I admit to slacking on this and really need to buckle down and do a better job.

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    Registered User MaryCarney's Avatar
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    Sunday is my menu planning day as well. I have to figure out who will be home (the teens volunteer, have jobs and play sports) and what of my seasonal cooking items we want to use out of the freezer.

    Every four months I have a gigantic seasonal cooking session, and get 50-75 meals in the freezer for the coming season. My spring cooking session will be happening this week, as I start a new term of school on Friday, April 1st (I'm studying for my Masters' degree at an online school)

    So today and tomorrow are going to be non-stop cooking and freezing! GFS - here I come!!!

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    Registered User MsMarieH's Avatar
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    I am very much like you... I menu plan for the entire month at the beginning.

    I have a spreadsheet that I created with the following columns:

    Day of the week (Sunday-Saturday)

    Date of the month (1-31)

    What I plan to serve (i.e. Beef stew, bread in bread machine)

    Main protein category (beef, chicken, pork, sausage, etc.) so that I can make sure I've got a nice balance across the month

    Advanced Prep where I write in notes for each day like on Tuesday, pull out ground beef to thaw for Thursday, on Wednesday, precook ground beef for Thursday. On Wednesday, prechop extra onions for Thursday night. On Thursday, start beans soaking overnight.

    What's Going On - I write down meetings, holidays, social events, travel, etc. to make sure I plan properly (like making a crockpot meal for my husband on a night when I have a meeting.)

    I incorporate leftovers into my planning. For instance, this week I made a roast chicken. I know I will have leftover chicken, usually enough for two meals - so I included a chicken/vegetable/stuffing casserole for one night this week and a chicken paella for later that week. I would add a note in the advanced prep if I should plan to freeze the leftovers cause I couldn't use them. I also add a note to remind myself to use the carcass to make chicken broth in the carcass. If you have a family that eats one chicken, cooking a second chicken at the same time can accomplish the same end goal of having leftover meat / carcasses for later in the week.

    On another tab in my excel workbook, I include a master list of recipes I have tried, which includes references to where I found the recipe (the online link if appropriate or the cookbook name/page number). This includes the main protein category as one column (so if I'm looking for a chicken recipe, I can just filter out everything except chicken. It also includes a column for method of cooking (stovetop, crockpot, oven, grill, etc.). Between this and being able to look at past menus (I keep prior months all in the same master menu sheet, so I have a year or two worth of menus to look at), I can remember recipes I only tried once or twice but actually liked and want to make again.

    I have another tab in my workbook for new recipes I want to try. While this is not exhaustive, I periodically go through my overloaded cookbook shelves, pull out a book, and go through and write down at least a dozen or so recipes that I want to try out of it. This is actually one of the ways I (very) occasionally weed out cookbooks. If I can't find but 2-3 recipes in a book I want to try, I am usually more willing to part with it.

    I try to write down one new recipe per week in my menu plan. Some weeks it is more, others less.

    I have one more tab in my workbook that includes my freezer/pantry inventory. While I'll readily admit it's not always up to date, it gives me a starting point on the big things (my Sunday meals, which usually I plan to form the basis for 2 more meals during a week) that I have in my freezer (such as currently I know I have a ham, a pork roast, two turkeys, a turkey breast and two chickens out there).

    Because I primarily plan based on what I have on hand, rather than what is on sale, I'm able to plan out the entire month in advance. Then I just pick up whatever loss leaders/sales are offered during the month and incorporate those into FUTURE menu plans. Allows me to offer multiple main protein sources instead of only what is on sale that week and also covers me for those weeks when there may not be good sales.

    It may seem complicated, but it generally takes me much less than an hour once a month to sit down and fill it all in. It SAVES me many hours (and dollars!) during the month though. I'm always so glad when I do my menu plan (and the tougher part: follow it!). Honestly, I don't know why I ever fall off the wagon with menu planning (though I certainly do) - my life goes SOOO much better when I do it.

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    I plan either biweekly or weekly depending on how the bills fall, how stocked the freezer and pantry are and when the kids will be here. I shop a couple times a month at Aldi and fill in with a couple of other stores usually weekly.

    I always cook separate meals a few times a week, step-daughter is here every other week, and I never know about the teen. She works most evenings. The little one eats which ever.

    I try to make all that as simple as possible. I look at sales, recipes, and even ask dh or the kids what they want and throw in new recipes too. I make about 6 meals weekly for the family and about 3-5 for me because I have tons of leftovers and freeze some.

    I just use a spiral notebook and write the dinners down and on another page the shopping list. I pull my recipes for the week and stick it in the notebook and after I use it, it goes back in the binder or recipe box. If it's from a cookbook, I write the page number and the name of book next to the title so I know where to find it. If I didn't make all the recipes, it gets carried over to the next week since I most likely have the ingredients on hand.

    Or if I don't feel like cooking, I always keep frozen pizza or chimichangas from Aldi in the freezer for dh and I tell him to go for it. Leftovers he takes for lunch.

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    Registered User OhPioneer1806's Avatar
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    I go week by week since most of what we eat is fresh produce. I just can't buy produce and expect it to be fresh it two weeks. <<


    I alternate fresh produce with frozen. I use the most perishable stuff the first week after shopping, then the second week I use frozen products or longer lasting fresh produce (root veggies, citrus fruits, apples, etc.). Generally on the third week of the month I do a small shopping trip to replenish fresh produce and dairy and start the cycle over again.

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    Registered User OhPioneer1806's Avatar
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    I am very much like you... I menu plan for the entire month at the beginning.

    I have a spreadsheet that I created with the following columns:

    Day of the week (Sunday-Saturday)

    Date of the month (1-31)

    What I plan to serve (i.e. Beef stew, bread in bread machine)

    Main protein category (beef, chicken, pork, sausage, etc.) so that I can make sure I've got a nice balance across the month

    Advanced Prep where I write in notes for each day like on Tuesday, pull out ground beef to thaw for Thursday, on Wednesday, precook ground beef for Thursday. On Wednesday, prechop extra onions for Thursday night. On Thursday, start beans soaking overnight.

    What's Going On - I write down meetings, holidays, social events, travel, etc. to make sure I plan properly (like making a crockpot meal for my husband on a night when I have a meeting.)

    I incorporate leftovers into my planning. <<<


    Wow I am impressed by the spreadsheet. Do youi work in foodservice because I do a lot of the same kind of thing on paper at work. At home it is just in my head, although I check my calendar for 'events' before making up the menus. And like you I incorporate leftovers (I call them planned overs) into my planning. My family isn't big on reheated dinners so we use leftover sides as lunches and I take leftover proteins and turn them into something else!

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    Registered User MsMarieH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OhPioneer1806 View Post
    Wow I am impressed by the spreadsheet. Do youi work in foodservice because I do a lot of the same kind of thing on paper at work. At home it is just in my head, although I check my calendar for 'events' before making up the menus. And like you I incorporate leftovers (I call them planned overs) into my planning. My family isn't big on reheated dinners so we use leftover sides as lunches and I take leftover proteins and turn them into something else!
    No, I am just involved in several different organizations, including being a division board officer of an association.

    The spreadsheet is really easy to use once it's started.

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