Menu Planning Made Easier

Like most busy moms, I find taking the time to do menu planning hard to fit in my schedule. Too many times, we opt for take out and I hate this because I have culinary training under my belt.  Lately though, in an effort to spend less, because taking the easy way out with take out is hugely expensive on our food budget, I have been looking for ways to make it easier to shop and menu plan with less time and stress.

Follow some of these tips and you may be finding yourself having an easier time as well!


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Grocery shopping:

At the store, have a goal in mind. Don’t just meander around with no planning. I find that when I have a plan in place, I not only spend less time in the store, but less money as well by not picking up extras.

Make a list before you go. The best way I find to do this is after I have decided what I will be making for meals I then write down ingredients.

If you are a heavy couponer like myself, organize your coupons by sections of the store. Only take with you what you will need for this trip so you won’t feel encouraged to pick up more while you are there.

For basics like milk, bread or peanut butter, enlist your family’s help. Put a dry erase board on your fridge and whomever uses up the last of an item, they write it on the list. Add these items to your list before you go so you don’t waste your time making several trips a week because you forgot an item.

If you have older kids, ask them for help. I often will ask my daughter to go to aisles close to the one I am in and get the item I am needing from that aisle. This is great because it saves you time, keeps the kids occupied and teaches them to be frugal shoppers who can compare labels, prices and deals.

Do a weekly shop. This will cut down on food waste and allow you to only spend what you need for the week.

Compare prices with fliers from stores that are often available online before you go. Limit yourself to two stores that have the best deals. While I am a heavy bargain shopper, I find it wasteful of my time to go to more than that.


Menu Planning:

Before you plan for the week, see what you already have on hand and build from that. Less waste and less money spent at the store.

Try to think of ingredients that can be bought in bulk and used for multiple meals throughout the week.

Plan for leftovers you will have and plan meals using those. For instance, if I plan on making spaghetti one night, later in the week, I might make lasagna or a pasta bake using the leftover sauce.

If you are having a hard time deciding what to make, think about frozen meals you see in the store. Create your own dishes using the sides they pair with main dishes in them.

Stuck in a food rut? Browse blogs, recipe boards and pinterest to find some ideas. You may just get some inspiration for your own recipes!

Think of ways you can alter recipes for in-season foods like fruits and veggies. You will spend less money and create something new for your family to enjoy!

Stick to simple for breakfast. Pick up some oatmeal, cereal, grits or eggs for a main meal. Add in some fruit and yogurt for on the go!

Look at fliers for stores in your area online and make meals around what is on sale.


How do you make the most of your time for meal planning and shopping?

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