Here’s how I do it. I plan to make five different meals every week, which leaves one or two nights for eating leftovers. When the budget allows, I plan for meals with two different kinds of meat (beef, chicken or pork), one fish and finally, one vegetarian based. We like to leave one of these nights open for “breakfast for supper” night (especially when Deryk works nights).
Come Friday (the day of or before I do my shopping), I pull out some of my cookbooks and take a look for inspiration (there are some really beautiful cookbooks out there). I pick out a few recipes I think my family would enjoy. I try to keep some similar ingredients between a few of them to ensure I won’t need to buy too many different things. When the budget is the most tight, I will first look at the flyers on-line for the sales and then consult my favorite recipe web sites (bettycrocker.com being the most likely) and cookbooks. From there I make my list. Remember to “shop in your cupboards” first. Most of the grocery budget wasting comes from buying what you already have.
Here’s an example of what our meals look like for this week: (sometimes I assign days to the meal and others I don’t)
Menu for the week of: July 25-31
Sunday: Leftover night (not a fan of cooking on our Sabbath)
Monday: Orange, Ginger Beef Stir-fry with Udon Noodles (yummy)
Tuesday: Twisted Corn Dogs and Vegetable Kabobs
Wednesday: South of the Border Orzo Pasta and Pork
Thursday: Hamburgers and Macaroni Salad
Friday: Leftovers (or take out if budget allows)
Saturday: Orange Glazed Chicken Drumsticks with Rice and Green Beans
I can post any recipes, should you want (or if I have), just let me know.
Another element I add to the meal planning is the meal preparation done earlier in the week. Things like pre-cutting vegetables, separating meats and marinating them before freezing are done the same day as the shopping. Other things like precooking the meat to be used in multiple recipes can really help on those days you know you’re going to be too busy. Those are usually done Monday mornings for me because (as I’ve mentioned in the past) that is my most productive day. Take this week for example. Knowing that we are going to be at Grandma’s, I knew I would have to do some prep work before packing up and taking the meals out with us. I cut the beef and bagged it to marinade before freezing it. The chicken used a similar marinade, so when I split the big pack, I just did that marinade as well. As you can see Thursday is a simple meal, because I know I have an appointment and we’ll most likely be just getting back from Grandma’s with dirty laundry and tired children (and Mommy).
Any of those days could, in theory, be interchanged and for us they often are. I recently went a few weeks with little to no meal planning and it made for a much more difficult week, with the temptation to eat out so much greater. I strongly encourage those of you who are having trouble sticking to a meal budget and still juggle the meal time to try this. It’s kind of fun once you get going and you'll find that your family will eat a much wider vatiety of meals in a month.