Ever since we first got married, Jason and I have planned out our week for dinner meals before we go to the grocery store. I can remember sometimes making up the list on the way to the store, but at least we planned ahead and were able to buy what we needed to make dinners for the week.
As the years have gone by, we still work on that together but we try to plan out for longer than just the week ahead. At one point a few years ago we were doing a monthly shopping trip to Aldi and Walmart (which is where we buy the majority of our food) so we would plan for a whole month of dinners. This last year, we have cut back to planning and buying for 1 to 2 weeks at a time.
This has helped us tremendously to not spend more than we need to as well as to be prepared for those times when you just don’t have time to cook. I try to always get things at the store that can be cooked quickly, even if it’s just frozen pizzas or some kind of pre-cooked frozen chicken. I would much rather do that than to have to spend money on fast food, wouldn’t you? I feel like this process saves us not only money, but time, energy and stress.
There are lots of different ways to meal plan. The first thing I do is get my calendar and see what all we have going on. Our family obviously homeschools and so we are home a lot. We are not highly involved in sports activities or really anything that takes us away from home very much in the evenings. That may change one day as the kids get older, but for right now this is where we are and what keeps us sane.
Once I have looked at the calendar to make sure what days I need to plan meals for, I start looking in my freezer and pantry to see what all we have on hand already. Some people I have heard call it “shopping the pantry”. It’s always good to use up food that you already have. It can save you money at the store as well as avoid having to throw out food that got old before you realized it. So I try to see what meals we can make out of what we already have.
Next I check out my master list of meal ideas. I wrote down a list of all the meals we enjoy for dinner, I probably have 30-40 on the list right now. I start penciling in those on the calendar. I try to keep in mind the days that I know I will be gone in the afternoon and may need to do a crockpot meal, leftovers or maybe a frozen pizza.
Sometimes it makes sense to have a “theme” for each night every week. For example, a lot of people do “Taco Tuesday”. You could do a Mexican night, an Italian night, a chicken night, a Finger Food Friday, etc.
After I fill in with the regular meals we enjoy, I try to add one new recipe to try. I always enjoy trying new things. So once I have my menu planned out, whether it’s for one week or four weeks, it’s always makes my brain rest easier knowing that I have a plan. I always go over it with Jason, unless we worked on it together and he already knows. Then I go to my master Aldi shopping list that I created on Excel. I print it out and use a highlighter to mark what we need to buy. I will go through all of the recipes I have planned for the dinner meals and make sure I have everything we need for those marked as well.
Here is my menu plan for this week:
Monday-Chicken Potpie and rice
Wednesday-Spam Sandwiches, mac & cheese, cucumbers
Thursday-Sloppy Joe and Tater tots
So, that’s about all there is to it. I’d love to hear how you plan for your meals and shopping trips! I’m always looking for new ideas. Also, stay tuned I have a challenge coming up in the next few days that I’m going to let you know about!