Friday, October 16, 2015

The 101 Series: Menu Planning 101

To continue with my other "101" post earlier this week, today, I’m sharing all about how I Meal Plan!

My disclaimer that I will put out there before I begin is this:

This is what works for us. It does NOT work for everyone. We do not have kids yet to factor into menu planning. Our families live nearby, so we’ve pretty much scored HUGE with having meals provided for us typically at least twice sometimes three times a week. It’s ok to be jealous on that one.

*Never pass up a free meal. If your mother in law calls and says “Do you want to come eat down here tonight?” Throw your meat in the freezer, and go.*

I typically shop for 3 – 5 dinners per week, quick breakfast and lunches for myself to take to work (Stephen typically grabs something on the road while he’s working.) 1 cooked breakfast for Saturday mornings (sausage or bacon, biscuits or pancakes, eggs) and a quick make breakfast for Sunday (cinnamon rolls, sausage crescent pinwheels, etc).

All that being said, here’s how I Menu Plan!!

Step 1:

Decide where you’re going to shop.
Here’s the thing…you can spend an entire day going to four different grocery stores to get the best deal on each item. Which is fine. But for me, I don’t have that kind of time to battle traffic on Jefferson Avenue on a Friday afternoon just to save A DIME on a jug of orange juice. Amiright

               Overall, I prefer shopping at Kroger, so that’s my place. Prices are typically lower than other stores for the most part, selection is good, store is well-kept, and I have the aisles memorized.
That being said, I shop at a locally owned supermarket for all of our meat. They have THE best selection, THE best quality and THE best prices. I may be the youngest person shopping in there by about 35 years, but whatever.

Step 2:

Consult the hubs for menu options.
It never fails, I can have everything planned out and ready to hit the store then he’ll say, “What are doing for dinner next week?” I tell him what I have planned and he’ll say, “Ohhh….ok.” But it’s the “Ohhh…ok” that interprets to, “I’ll eat it, but it doesn’t sound great to me right now.” UGH. So…back to square one I go. Thankfully, I learned this lesson quick, and now consult with him my ideas before I start planning. Get his input. Most of the time our menu will consist of something specific he has requested, something I’m craving and the rest being things we both agree on.

Step 3:

Make your list!
I keep a list on the fridge and throughout the week, we jot down things we run out of. When I get ready to do my planning I tear that piece of paper off the pad and jot down the meals we’ve planned. Then I make our shopping list from that piece of paper. Things we’re out of and things we need. *Once you know the layout of your grocery store, you can categorize your shopping list by departments / aisles. This may be my handiest bit of advice! It ensures nothing gets left behind and that I’m not wasting time going from aisle 7 back to the produce department because I forgot something. I can be in out of the store in about 30 minutes if the checkout lanes are moving well!*

Step 4:

Shop your coupons and sales!
You may scan your coupons and sales BEFORE you make your list, but I do it after my lists are made. Sales and coupons are tempting. It’s the items that make you say to yourself, “Wow….that cereal we eat is 2 for $5 this week!”  BUT WE ALREADY HAVE THREE BOXES! I don’t know about you, but we are limited to pantry space; so there’s not “stock-piling” going on over here. More power to you if you can! On sale or not, if we don’t need it this week or next week, I’m not getting it. I download and clip only the coupons that I need and shop only the sale items that we need. Sale items are tempting…but they’ll also raise that grocery bill quick if you’re not careful!

Step 5:

Hit the store!
I wish I had some genius advice to share about the right and perfect time to go to Kroger to get the best, freshest selection, shelves are fully stocked, and random people aren’t blocking an aisle because they’re talking to someone they act like they haven’t seen in years. C’mon folks, it’s Cookeville, and you’re at Kroger, chances are you’d run into them next week here too. But, I have no genius advice…just pack your patience and smile a lot.

Step 6:

Record your menus
This is two-fold. One, it saves (hopefully) your husband from texting every day at 2pm asking “what’s for dinner?” Two, it gives you something to go back on for ideas. I keep a small notebook that stands on the back of our countertop and jot down the week’s menu. When we get stuck for ideas, we just thumb through previous weeks in our menu book until we see something that catches our eye that we’ve not had in a while. Don’t subject yourself and your family to the same dinners week after week. There’s too many recipes out there to try!! That’s what your Recipe Board on Pinterest is for!!

Hopefully something in my planning process will be helpful for you! What about you? Do you meal plan? What's your best best meal planning tips?

Happy Weekending!

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