The Basics of Menu Planning
a Step by Step Guide
Some people may think that menu planning only requires writing down what you want to eat for that week but to get the most value out of it, you need to do much more than that! It doesn't take that much time (maybe 30-60mins a week) but it will save you lots of money on the long run. I know how hard it can be to work a long day and then come home and have to make dinner for the whole family. There have been days that I am just too tired to make anything and we order out. Or maybe you don't have the time or energy to bring your lunch to work so you grab some fast food instead. This not only makes your monthly expenses bigger, but your waistline as well. Making a menu plan will avoid days like these. This isn't to say we never order in or go out, we just try to plan those days in our budget.
Step 1- Take a look at your "Stockpile Store" This is one of the benefits of having a stockpile. Check out what you have and what your family might like that week. We have a few staples that we almost always have every week for a meal. Pasta or make your own pizzas are a couple of them. I always make sure to have enough pasta and sauce and frozen shredded cheese on hand.
Step 2- Check out your sales fliers for what is on sale that week. Know how to read your fliers because the cheapest items are usually on the front page. These items are referred to as “loss-leaders” which basically means that these items are priced the absolute lowest prices the store can go for the week. Try to use some of those items in your menu planing to get the best bang for your buck. Make sure to check all of your fliers to get the best deals as well. Just because one place has something on sale doesn't make it the lowest prices overall. Make sure to either shop at a few stores or price match your items. Also check fliers for weekly/monthly deals such as 10%Tuesdays or Seniors Day discounts for those of you that are older. Shopping on those days will help your dollar stretch even further.
Step 3- Go through your coupons to see if any of your coupons match up with the products in the fliers. It is the best way to get the most value from your coupons and you can often get products for FREE or at very low prices.
Step 4- Start planning your menu according to the previous steps. Breakfast is usually easy in our house. (oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, fruit shakes) Breakfast is usually easy meals on the go. Lunch is also usually pretty easy. We are big on soups, sandwiches, fruit and salads and we love leftovers. Dinners are harder. Since I stockpile freezer items I often take something from there if I need to fill a night. Since we buy items that are on sale, we get to try new recipes all the time. If I need help with some ideas I refer to my recipe book or do searches online.
We don't always stick to our menu plan everyday but just having one to follow saves us money. It make take some extra time when you first start but once you get the hang of it it is really quite easy!