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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For years I've wanted to plan menus. I figure I this is a part of my budget that can really use improvement.

My goal is to have the ingredients I'll need when I arrive home from work tired and cranky :mad: Also I hope to stop buying stuff I end up not using (it makes me ill throwing away uneaten food -- and the dog is getting fat! ).

:smhelp:

I don't know where to begin! I have a calendar in the kitchen, I guess I could write down what I plan to serve on which days ?... and a separate shopping list for my purse? Or is a notebook better? Does anyone have a template that they've found that works well? I don't know which is easier -- planning weekly or monthly?

And tips from successful menu-planners would be much appreciated!! :tay:
 

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I usually have an idea for 20 or more meals per month then I plan a meal menu two weeks in advance. I take my recipes and go through my pantry and fridge and see what I already have on hand. Then I make a list of the ingredients I still need. It helps to have enough food in the house to choose what you want to prepare, it cuts down on ordering in or going out to eat. I don't usually assign a dinner to each night of the week, but I make sure that I have an idea of what dinner will be the next day, that way I can put any meat from the freezer into the fridge to defrost over night.
 

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Making dinner used to be included in my chores back when I was an afterschool caregiver for one child in their home. Duties included afterschool snacks, helping with homework and then prepping dinner so the parents could come home to cook it and eat or just walk in and eat depending on their schedules.

They ate very lean meals so it was simple cooking. They had a menu of meals they'd like to eat and Id be responsible for organzing/planning it for the week. On Friday night's while the lil girl was doing her homework or watching a video Id plan the menu (write which meals are to be eaten on which days) and make a list of groceries for them to buy. It got so routine that Id just type out one huge list of grocery items and then print it multiple times and check off what Id need for the week - treats and all. All totally based on the menu - they bought the groceries wherever they wanted, all they had to do was ensure I had what I needed to get the meal prepared. Worked out great!

Ive seen on tv - they suggest putting that same list into a page protector and just highlighting what you need to buy that week based on the menu plan and then wiping it off with water or rubbing alcohol and reusing the same page protector/list.

Hope that helped! Planning is 80% of the job so if you can bust out those planning skills you're WELL on your way! You can do it!
 

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I have a set idea for each day of the week:

Sunday - Leftovers (lunch) and special meal (rotates between the kids, myself and SO - that person plans the menu- cuts down on eating out)
Monday - Beans
Tuesday - Soup
Wednesday - Chicken
Thursday - Pasta
Friday - Rice
Saturday - leftovers (lunch) Fish

Then I sit down with a calander (I print mine off of the Office Publisher so I can decorate it) and write down what we will have so I can make my shopping list. For example- Monday may be beans and rice, beans and wieners or bean burritos. That adds a little variety but it isn't reinventing the wheel. I keep the old menus (plus the ones you can print out from Woman's Day online) to review for ideas for the menu.
 

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Here is a step by step run-down of how I organized our menu plan:

  • I started one night by sitting down with a notebook and making a list of everything I knew how to make that my family would eat. I grouped it by chicken, beef, etc. to help me remember, and I asked everyone for input about what they would like to see on the list and what they would prefer I just forget about.
  • For each dish, I made a list of required ingredients.
  • I keep a running shopping list throughout the week, as I run low on essential items, I write them on the list.
  • Friday night, when the flyers come, I go through them and write down any good deals on items we use. I make a note of the store and the price.
  • Then I select meals for the week, based on sale items I intend to buy and what is on hand. I assign each meal to a day, based on what the family is doing; lighter meals on days my husband is out of town, things that can be reheated on nights he will be working late, simple meals if my daughter has a class, labour-intensive meals on weekends, etc. I also try to plan meals that generate leftovers for early in the week so that they can be used for lunches. I add any missing ingredients to my list.
  • Saturday I leave the kids home with my husband and go to the grocery store(s). I ignore everything in the store that is not on my list, although I will take a run down the meat aisle and pick up any decent markdowns.

Occasionally I will try something new. If everyone likes it, it gets added to the master list.

I used to keep a notebook with the list of meals, the ingredient lists and recipes, then write the meals on the calendar, and the shopping list on a piece of paper.

I do it on the computer now, which works for me because the computer is in the kitchen and always on. I have a calendar where I keep track of family appointments and activities, my husband's business trips, etc. I typed up all my recipes as memo files and when I am planning the menu I just look at the list of recipes and drag the ones I want onto the calendar. The meal shows on my calendar as an appointment, when I am making supper I click on it and it opens the recipe. I keep another separate memo for groceries and sales. Before I go shopping, I sync it with my palm pilot, so I have my list as well as my menu with me. Having it all on my palm allows me to make changes to the menu if I see a really good unadvertised special. Also, sometimes I will plan the menu while I am stuck waiting somewhere.

I tried a monthly menu years ago, but it was too overwhelming. I couldn't think of enough meals, my husband's schedule was too unpredictable, and I ended up buying a lot of food that never got eaten. One week works best for me.
 

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I went through all my recipes and typed up a list (just a Word document) of all the ingredients we might need. I print out a grocery list based on that list. My grocery list is categorized by aisle of the store we go to most often.

I print a monthly menu calender from the organized home website. I keep this on the fridge. Even though it's for a month I only plan meals for a week, because I grocery shop once a week. I try to plan meals based on what we have on hand and what's on sale that week. Each week I just add that week's meals to the calender, so I can see that we're having a variety of foods and not always eating the same thing over and over.

I pretty much have a pattern to follow as well.
Sunday nights: some type of eggs or breakfast food (pancakes, french toast...)
Monday: anything
Tuesday: something quick because Philip leaves around 5:45 p.m
Wednesday: we always have spaghetti or pasta bake
Thursday: anything
Friday: anything
Saturday: some type of soup, stew or chili (this is in the Winter, warmer months will be different)
 

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I'm not as organized as some, but I agree that it really does help me save money and time if I have a plan. I only plan for a week at a time, which works best for me. Maybe that would be a good place to start for you, not as overwhelming. I look over what I have in the house first, think about what I'm craving, and what might be on sale. Then, I write out the days, thinking about everyone's late afternoon and evening schedules. My latest idea is to have casseroles three days a week (right now, Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday), soup and bread once, things like a roast or roast chicken on two evenings, and leftovers one night. The casseroles are so easy and good comfort foods. (I thank my mom for the idea!) You can be flexible and change things around if you want.
 

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I print out a calendar page for the month and then at the top I write across the page my set meals for each day of the week.

Monday - meatless
Tuesday- breakfast
Wedneday - chicken
thursday- ham
Friday- turkey
Sat- pork or fish
sun - clean out fridge day

So now all I have to do is buy one ham one chicken, 2 pork meal and 2 fish and a turkey. The first week we eat the ham sliced right out of the oven and them I chop and dived the rest of the ham in to two cup servings freeze it. I use the choped ham to make casserols the remaining three nights of the month that I have a ham meal planned. One 15 dollar ham will provide my family with about 8 to 10 defferent meals, so I can use that ham to make meals the following month as well. and the same with the turkey.
 

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Yankeemom, I love your blog about meal planning and grocery shopping. I also take a pantry/frdige/freezer inventory before making my grocery list. I like to organize my list by the layout of the store(s) and I write a (c) for coupon if I have one for a certain item. I love your Meal Book idea. I should compile our favorite meals into a binder. I have a lot of recipes on index cards right now.
 

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The night before I plan on going shopping I do a rundown of what's in the pantry. (We don't have a lot so it's pretty easy). I make up a plan for every meal during the week. We eat as a family (Dh, me and two toddlers) for almost every meal so I need to have them planned or we end up eating mac n cheese everyday for lunch.

I hardly ever follow the menu completely, but it helps to spur ideas of what is available. I try to list supper meals that can be made in 30-min or less. I hate slaving in the kitchen at night. We might mix the meals up on the menu or come up with something completely different, but it gives me an idea of what can be made with the ingredients I have.

Then for shopping I try to keep a set amount of basic foods on hand. There aren't many 'specialty' foods here, so the basics make the bulk of the list. I like to have a few cans of corn, a few cans of green beans, etc. Then I know whatever we want to make we have the ingredients.

I usually make the decision of what is for supper while I'm making lunch so that I can take meat out of the freezer if it's needed. I have found that if I take the meat out the night before then I change my mind of what to fix and the meat ends up going bad, so that's what works for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Wow! So many great ideas! I'm going to take a little from each and mix it together :stir: and I think I can come with a way that really works!

Thanks :hurray:
 
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