I have been lazy as far as meal planning goes for quite sometime. Thankfully, I have an arsenal of great excuses (moving, vacation, toilets, trucks, etc). The irony here is that all of my excuses are the exact reason I have to get back to doing it. The fact of the matter is, while I spend maybe a full 30 minutes of my day on Sunday to plan a menu, make a shopping list, and look for coupons- it saves me a LOT. Not just money but it also saves me time during the week.
I get a lot of questions on how do I do this? How in the hell do you plan a menu and be organized? It really isn't that hard. I feel like my system is fairly easy. I open a Word document (or you can use your regular calendar- whatever works for you), and I figure out how many days I'm planning for. I've been on a two week kick because my refrigerator is smaller so I'm short on fridge space. You have two options: assign a meal to a particular day, or just plan out 14 meals and draw one out each day and that's what you have. I also rely heavily on my crockpot which is nice because I prep it the night before and it cooks the entire day when we're gone. I save more involved meals (that require multiple pots, lots of ingredients, etc) for the weekends or when I'm not working. Here's the plan for the next 13 days:
Tortellini salad and hamburgers
Slow cooker taco chicken bowls
Grilled hot dogs, potato wedges, corn on the cob
One pot chicken spaghetti with Parmesan knots
Sandwiches and home made chicken noodle soup
Matt's birthday- dinner out
Cranberry BBQ chicken with rice, peas
Crockpot sloppy joes, caesar BLT pasta salad
Grilled steak, garden salad, shrimp with/spicy garlic sauce
I set a goal to make at least 5 new meals in a 2 week span. I am always looking to widen our selection of meals.
When I decide on a meal, I immediately add the ingredients I need to my master list, that way I don't miss anything. Once I get a final list of everything I will need, I go to my pantry and cross off the stuff I already have on hand. Then, because I am OCD and hate grocery shopping and my goal is to get in and out in 30 minutes or less- I organize all of my ingredients by the department (dairy, produce, meat, aisles). THEN I go through my grocery store ad, pull out the coupons I need. I also check online to see what I can find for coupons.
Then I shop.
All of the ingredients for this menu came to $144 and some change. Not bad. I did buy an extra gallon of milk and an extra loaf of bread to freeze because they were on sale. I also bought granola bars, popsicles, and ice tea mix.
What do I do for lunches? We make sandwiches or leftovers. What do I do for breakfast? Cereal. Sometimes if waffles go on sale, we have those. I also make pancakes and freeze them which we just heat up in the microwave and they are just fine. But for the most part- we have cereal, toast and yogurt.
It's hard to get yourself started but I swear- once you do it and see how much money you save by not stopping at the grocery store several times a week, and how much less stress you feel about figuring out a dinner on a whim, you'll be won over.