A couple of weeks ago we invited a family over for dinner. I told them to pick the night, but I realize in hindsight that I should have mentioned the menu. They chose Tuesday- soup night! Typically it would have been Mexican night, but my dear girl had been begging for my chicken noodle soup. Now, don't think that I'm so rigid that I can't flip flop some nights around! Truth be told, the produce I had bought for the soup was a week old and it was time for it to get in the pot! As the guests were heading out, I casually said "Come back when it's not soup night and I'll make you a proper meal!" This led to them asking about my meal planning and I couldn't believe their shock that I plan 2 weeks out...
"How do you manage that?"..... Well let me just tell you....
STEP 1: Get an idea of what you've got
Since we just recently moved, my fridge, freezer, and pantries are not very stocked. I finally have all of the basics (except cayenne-why do I keep forgetting to pick up the cayenne??) and am beginning to put away some meat in the freezer. Now, I know I have an opened (but barely used) bottle of wing sauce, and another of BBQ sauce, that I need to use before it goes bad. I also opened some spaghetti sauce for lunches and didn't use it so there we go- 3 meals that fast! Do you have any breads to use up? Produce? Start with what you have so nothing is wasted, including your budget.
STEP 2: Check the ads
This may be a deal breaker. If you're a sold out, one store only kinda shopper than you might say, "Um, no." That's fine, you just may end up paying more out of your budget. I sat down a couple of weeks ago, determined to buy my kids drinks for their lunches because they charge a ridiculous amount at school for a Gatorade. The big store in town is comparable to Walmart's price- not bad! And I know I'm going to that store anyway because their chicken breast are $1.88 per pound and ground chuck is $1.99! But I see in their competitor's ad that if you buy 2 packs then you get 3 for free! that's a $21 savings! So now I know I'm going to these two stores and I build the rest of my menu around what is on sale. If neither has great sales, then I use the opportunity to try new recipes or old favorites.
STEP 3: Consider less conventional grocery sources
Lately I have been really utilizing Amazon for my breakfast goods, paper goods, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and some snacks. I save a ton of money on "Subscribe & Save" and recently scored big thru Prime Pantry. If you're a Prime member, I encourage you to check them out. (And no, I'm not affiliated!😉) I also get our milk from the local dairy. It's a little more expensive, but still less than we were paying in Alabama, and I feel great supporting local business!
STEP 4: Set it out on paper
I have yet to find my homemaking binder since the move. 😬 Just one more reminder that there are still boxes in the basement to unpack! In it, I keep blanks for my menus that I found online for free. For a free printable, try here at www.batonrougemoms.com. This is my favorite format- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Since I make my shopping list straight from my menu, I don't forget anything!
STEP 5: Grocery shop and cook!
My menu for 2 weeks, including lunches and snacks are made so all that is left is to make my grocery lists and hit the store. Andy has taken to going with me, but admits that 2 week shopping takes longer, especially in new stores that you're learning the layout of. We return to the store only for items we run out of unexpectedly or produce that won't last 2 weeks. This alone has cut about $100 off our grocery budget each month! No more roaming the store and coming home with incomplete meals and unneeded items multiple times a week/month!