I am going to share with you a secret, my success in cutting our grocery bills in half has everything to do with "menu planning". It is also the tool that keeps me grounded and balanced at home. Believe it or not, once you do some ground work and prep, this method takes care of itself.
Before I start posting links and leave you to your own devices, I would like to send your way some useful tips:
1. Start simple: I know obvious advice. But let me tell you that the first time I started planning our family menus, I totally went overboard. I thought I was some sort of chef and started cooking very complicated meals. Remember the reason why you want to menu plan! You want to simplify your life and save money. Well, cooking gourmet meals that take all afternoon to make does not acheive this goal whatsoever.
Make a list of meals that you normally cook at home. By doing this you avoid wastefulness, stress and unknown outcomes.
2. Make yourself a master menu for the week. An example of this would be:
Wednesday: Stirfry / Asian cuisine
Friday: Sandwiches & Pizza
Saturday: Complicated meals (steaks, roasts, etc.)
This method helps you sort through recipes. It allows you to prep if neccessary before hand so you don't spend all your evening slaving in the kitchen. It allows me to plan my son's activities, once I know how long I will take making dinner, I can decide which activity do with my son. Thursdays are the days when I can count on having all my afternoon so I plan more involved activities with Carr. I can take him out for a long walk or tackle a new finger painting project, etc. I can do this because I know for a fact how long I will be in the kitchen.
3. Once you have your master menu, you can use your family recipes or you can look for new recipes on the internet. I would like to recommend a few, for several reasons, easy to find recipes, very healthy, and original.
- Smitten Kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/
- 101 cookbooks: http://www.101cookbooks.com/
- The Food Allergy Blog : http://foodallergy.wordpress.com/
I also highly recommend that you read Laura's site. It is one of my favorites and there is so much useful information that can help you start your path to simplicity and frugality.
5. Save past Menues! You can reuse them as often as you want.
6. Some people like to menu plan a month in advance. I did not find that monthly menu planning helped me at all! It made me over buy groceries and waste food. I like the weekly method because I buy only what I need for the week, spend less time at the grocery store and do not throw away rotted food.
Good luck with your menu planning and I am posting my menu for next week so you can see it at work. Please keep in mind that I do not cook lunches during the week, they are not included.
Menu for February 22nd thru March 1stMonday: Baked turkey breast with mash potatoes and gravy
Tuesday: Mexican tacos and spanish rice, avocado salad and chips & salsa
Wednesday: Teriyaki sausage Stir Fry
Thursday: Royal roundsteak with egg noodles
Friday: Grilled cheese sandwiches with homemade chicken veggie noodle soup
Saturday: Lunch - ham and cheese croissants
Dinner - Roasted pork tenderlion w/apricot glaze
Sunday: Lunch - waffles & hash
Dinner - shrimp fried rice
Have a great week!