Menu Planning and Budgeting

littlemissknowitalld1.jpgPlanning out a monthly menu is the very first step to saving lots of $$ every month! Without this step, coupons are useless. You will not save big $$ until you learn to make up a monthly (or weekly) shopping list! Think of all the times you walk into your pantry, looking for something to make for dinner. How many nights a week do you want to make something, but don’t have enough ingredients? How many times do you run to the grocery for only one or two things? And how often do you actually succeed in coming out of the grocery with only those items? The stores count on that! Its a huge hit to our budgets–the constant running to the store. Even worse, how often do you just get tired and give up, instead grabbing fast food? Oh, and one side benefit to a monthly menu–most people lose a pound or two since they eat at home more and tend to eat healthier!

So how do you do it? Its very simple!

Step 1: Sit down and write a list of every single meal you know how to make. Break it down into breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Step 2: Now go back and highlight the family favorites.

Step 3: Pick 5-7 breakfast and lunch items to regularly stock up on. Write down the ingredients for these on a separate shopping list.

Step 4: Now, take a blank month calendar and write in the dinners your family loves. Break them up. Think about days of the week that are always hectic, and a night a week when you’d like some time off from cooking. For example, around the KnowitAll household, Saturdays are Pizza nights. We have take and bake pizzas in the freezer. Sunday nights are COYF–Clean Out Your Fridge night. Meaning–Mommy isn’t cooking. Get some leftovers! I know that Wednesdays are church group, and we have little time for dinner. So its something quick and filling, but won’t give us heartburn if we eat and run. Mondays are family time–so we have a larger dinner. I mix each week so that we have some pasta, some beef, some chicken, some fish. There’s a good sampling each week.

Step 5: Now add in one or two dinners you’ve always wanted to learn how to make! Then, fill in the blank days with other meals that are cheap and easy, but aren’t necessarily family favorites. Don’t forget to add in the Chef’s favorites too!

Step 6: Now, sit at your computer, and begin a Word or Excel document. Make a shopping list of all the ingredients of these meals, including the breakfasts and lunches.

Step 7: Add in a list of the basic items you buy each month–toilet paper, shampoo, dog food, cat food, etc.

Now, before you shop, survey your pantry. Check off the items you need, print, and go shopping! You’ve got a ready-made shopping list, and you know you won’t forget the bread crumbs or cream of mushroom soup! Every night, instead of coming home, opening the fridge and standing there staring at it blankly, wondering what the heck you’re going to have for dinner, you can look at your menu, and pull out all the ingredients! Dinner is at hand!