Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busy Mom's Journal: Menu Planning

In my house there are three adults and one toddler.  We have sort of a multi-generational arrangement that works quite well for us.  It's my parents, myself and my son.  I am in charge of the food.  Those of you who know me aren't surprised at all by that fact.  I do the grocery shopping, plan the meals, and cook.  It's one way that I can earn my keep and give back to my fantastically generous parents.  So, since I started back to work in August after having the summer off, it's been more and more important for me to have a menu plan for the week.  I'd like to show you what I do.  [Disclaimer: I am NOT a super organized person.  One peek at my bedroom is proof of this fact.  So if I can do this, so can you.]

The Menu
Menu planning is sort of my Friday night ritual.  I think about the week ahead, what we all have planned, and I write out a plan for the meals for the upcoming week.  Here's an example for last week:
  • Saturday: Bubble-up Casserole
  • Sunday: Leftovers
  • Monday: Crockpot Swiss Chicken
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday:  Apricot Pork Loin
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Eat out or Order in
When I'm making my meal plan, I try to keep in mind what sorts of protein I have on hand in the freezer, so that I'm not buying things that I already have.  I also don't include side dishes in my menu plans, because...I guess that would feel a bit TOO planned for me.  But you can do whatever makes you happy.

The Shopping
That leads me to the inevitable grocery list.  Once I've figured out the menu for the upcoming week, I make a grocery list.  When you are trying to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, it's really important to shop each week.  Fresh stuff just doesn't last as long.  I do my best to make a list of everything I need, and stick to the list.  The more impulse buys I make, the less healthy they are and the more expensive. 

I also try and stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store.  I learned in Weight Watchers that when you shop the perimeter of the store and stay away from the middle aisles, you are more likely to fill your cart with healthy food and less likely to fill it with processed junk.  Don't get me wrong, though.  I love me some Golden Grahams, Cocoa Krispies, and ice cream.  But my cart isn't full of these items.  They're just treats.     

The Sales
I check out the grocery circulars every week to see which store has the best sales on what I need and then go to the store with the best deals.  Something that I've learned in my quest to save money is that food goes on sale in cycles.  Things usually go on sale every 3 months or so.  Unfortunately, when it comes to meats, the healthier they are, the more expensive they are.  So, when pork loin was on a crazy sale for $1.49/lb a few weeks ago at my grocery store, I bought a bunch.  My hope was to buy enough so that I wouldn't need any more until the next time it goes on incredible sale.  The same goes with lean ground turkey and beef.  When they're on sale for $1.99/lb or less, I stock up.  This way I am able to feed my family healthy meats at a minimal price.  I don't stock up on a meat unless it's a great sale.  If I run out, I buy small amounts and wait until the next super sale.  

The Bottom Line
Does that sound like a lot of work? It really isn't.  I think it actually saves me time and money because I don't have to agonize each night over what to make for dinner, since it's already planned out.  I also don't make a lot of mid-week trips to the grocery store, since I made a careful list for the weekend shopping.  A few minutes of planning each week are one way that this busy mom is able to work, and still feed my family healthy meals. 

So, now that I've spilled the beans on my strategy for sanity, what's yours? Leave comments.  Discuss. 

1 comment:

  1. I need to follow your guideline ... I go several times a week and don't use coupons all because I don't plan menus ... I tend to make a meal of whatever I can find or 'in the mood for'. I also need to join WW ... I commend you, Kelly, for your discipline!