Sep 24, 2012

Monthly Menu Planning, Part 4

Got your list made?  I hope this has been helpful and that you can find all of the information you need.

Step 5: Plan Your Shopping Trip

It is a rare treat that I get to do this with no kids.  My boys do OK if I get an early start and have snacks, drinks, and a couple of toys available. 

I will let you in on some of my favorite places to shop:

Oh man.  I live in a small town.  Our nearest Aldi is 30 minutes away and WORTH THE TRIP.  I like to get produce here, IF I am going to use it or freeze it in the next few days.  The prices are great for pantry staples, too.  And shredded cheese.
If you haven't been to Aldi, give it a try.  Don't forget to take a quarter, your reusable grocery bags (they don't have bags), and give yourself time to figure out the layout of the store.

Dollar General
We do, however, have Dollar General in town.  They also have low prices on pantry staples, spices, and basically anything non perishable.  Oh!  And toiletries, cleaners and stuff like toilet paper and trash bags. 
The BEST part is, on Saturdays, they have $5 coupons if you spend $25 or more.  Awesome!  Save your shopping for Saturday.  (Oh!  And I need to do a whole blog post on buying diapers there.  Seriously.)  Here is a link to their page where you can print off the coupon mentioned above, and many other coupons good at their store.  They also accept manufacturer's coupons and coupons printed from online.

I do love their produce.  If I'm already in a bigger town for other shopping, I usually finish my shopping here.  Otherwise, I like to support our local grocery store.

Make sure you are checking your grocery store's website for the weekly ad and any coupons before you go.  ALWAYS go with a list in hand.  You will spend less and make better choices if you do.

Monthly Menu Planning, Part 3

If you missed Part One and Part Two, here are the links.

Step 4: Make Your List

Go through each recipe and write down all of the NON-PERISHABLE ingredients.  I am sorry if this disappoints you, but I do not only go shopping once a month.  I do one HUGE trip at the beginning of my month, and then a smaller trip once a week after that.  More on that later.

For the first week, go ahead and write down every ingredient, but only the non-perishables for the other weeks of the month.

Don't forget to add any staples you are low on. 

Perhaps you have been wondering about side-dishes.  I do serve my family vegetables, don't worry.  I don't get very fancy with side dishes.  I just keep potatoes around, frozen veggies in the freezer, and I have a go-to biscuit recipe.  Sometimes, I do add a more specific side.  I'm just pretty no-nonsense and simple about a lot of things, and this is one of them. 

Here's my list for this month:

pork roast
soy sauce
cream of mushroom soup
egg noodles
graham crackers
marshmallow fluff
white sprinkles
bell pepper (2)
tortillas (3)
onion (at least 3)
stir fry frozen veggies
Italian dressing
chicken granules
spaghetti sauce (2)
mac and cheese
tomato sauce (approx. 40 oz)
sour cream (2)
mini marshmallows
cream of chicken soup
Mexican cheese
green chilies (2)
can of corn
hot dogs (2)
pretzel rods
dark chocolate chips
Parmesan cheese
olive oil spray
smoked sausage
diced tomato
bulk Italian sausage (1.5 lb)
cubed mozzarella cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese
basil (fresh)
ground beef ?
candy corn
hershey hugs
freezer bags
shower gel
sliced cheddar, provolone and colby jack cheese
frozen corn
frozen broccoli

I hope this is helping.  I put question marks next to the meats because I will only buy them on sale.  I won't buy them if they aren't on sale this week.  They can wait.

Each week, before I return to the store, I review the recipes for that week and write down any non-perishables I need.  I add any staples we are short on as well.  I also buy milk, bread, and fruit weekly. 

In Part 4, I'm going to explain where I shop to save the most money, coupons I use (there aren't many), and any other tips I can think of.  Please know that I welcome any questions, too.

Sep 21, 2012

Monthly Menu Planning, Part 2

I hope you didn't skip part 1, because I was amazed at what I came up with for recipes using the inventory list.

Step 2:  Calendar Check

This is a quick and easy step.  Pull out your calendar for the next month and take a count of the following:

1.  How many dinner meals you will need.  For example, Jacob and I go on a date once a week.  That's four less dinners a month that I must cook.  (My awesome MIL feeds our boys that night, or they just get PBandJ.)  There are two nights this month where my husband has to work late, so we will have spaghetti both of those nights.  Quick, cheap, easy, and not one of his favorite meals, but our kids LOVE it!  Look for events where dinner is provided, or days you will be out of town, etc.  Write down the number of meals you will need for dinner.  My number was 25 this month (including the 2 spaghetti nights).

2.  How many family lunches you will need.  My husband usually takes leftovers to work for lunch.  Sometimes, I have frozen burritos in the freezer for him or lunch meat in the fridge, just in case we don't have leftovers.  My boys and I just have sandwiches, leftovers, or something quick and easy.  I don't make a seperate lunch meal unless we are all home.  So, my lunch meal number for this month was only 6.

3.  How many other food dishes you will need. Is anyone you know having a baby this month?  Will you be taking dessert to a church meal?  I make treats for my husband's study hall every Friday, so I plan for that in my budget and shopping each month.  If someone is having a baby (at least one this month that I know of), I just plan to double and freeze something I make early in the month.)

I have recently been using Google Calendar for my meal planning, scheduling, and housework maintenance.  I'm still tweaking it, but loving it so far.


Step 3: Recipe Search

Do this in two smaller steps.  First, look for recipies using the ingredients from your inventory.  I am so excited, because this month, THIRTEEN of my dinners are using major ingredients that I already have.  It feels like they are FREE! 

I know that, and have ingredient searches where you can put in a few ingredients that you think compliment each other and it brings up recipes that have those ingredients.  Great tool. 

I just looked in a recent Taste of Home Magazine, and brainstormed recipes that I already knew because I use them often.  Here is what I came up with (don't worry, I will include all of these recipes before this series is over):


1.  Grilled pork chops (We just use a rub)
2.  Cashew Chicken
3.  Turkey and Rice Soup
4.  Turkey Enchiladas
5.  Quick Potato and Corn Chowder
6.  Crunchy Herbed Chicken Breasts
7.  Egg Obrien Casserole
8.  Beans and Rice
9.  Grilled Dove
10.  Pheasant Soup
11:  Salsa Red Beans and Rice
12: Baked Potato
13.  Mac and Cheese and Hotdogs

I have a short list of really inexpensive recipes that my family likes that I try to get on the menu once a month.  A few are already included in the list above, but here is my list of Cheap Meals:

1.  Tuna Casserole
2.  Baked Potato
3.  Stir Fry with Ramen
4.  Mac and Cheese and Hotdogs

Here is the rest of my list or dinners for the month, including the ones above, another cheap meal, and two nights of spaghetti:

14.  Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
15.  Tuna Casserole
16.  Pulled Pork
17.  Pork burritos (with the leftover pork)
18.  Stir Fry with Ramen
19.  Cheese stuffed Meatball Sliders
20.  Super Quick Shrimp and Green Chili Quesadillas
21.  Homemade Pizza
22.  Chili Dogs
23.  Chili mac and Cheese
24.  Spaghetti
25.  Spaghetti


1.  Leftovers
2.  Hot Sandwiches
3.  Quesadillas
4.  Jiffy Jambalaya
5.  Hamburgers

Treats for my husband's class:
1.  Smore's Cookies
2.  Popcorn Balls
3.  Dipped Pretzel Rods
4. Halloween Pretzel Kiss Treats

I hope this isn't too hard to follow.  I just figure seeing everything for examples is best.

I should mention that for breakfast, we usually just have eggs and bacon around, or we eat cereal, or homemade biscuits.  I don't plan breakfast much.

Go ahead and plug all of your recipes into your calendar.  Write in when you will serve each item.  (Don't stress about having to switch things around later.  You're allowed!)

Monthly Menu Planning, Part 1

Monthly Menu Planning 

I have had a few friends asking me lately how I plan my monthly menus and shop and save $ on groceries, etc.  I want to share this with you girls in hope that it is helpful.  This is one way to do it.  There are lots of other great ideas out there. 

You should know that my husband gets paid monthly, on the 25th of the month.  So, I do my menus to go from the 25th of this month, to the 24th of the next. 

You will need: 
1.  Some paper and a pen
2.  Favorite cookbooks, or magazines
(or just have your pintrest board open and ready!)
3.  Your calendar

Step One: Inventory

Admittedly, I almost always skip this step.  But, I just did it for this next month and realized that this is the most money-saving part of the whole process!  It only took me about 5 minutes, too.  What have I been thinking?!

By way of example, here is what we have in the house at the end of this month:

 Pantry: (Yes, I just let you look in my pantry)
brown sugar
white icing
chocolate almond bark
cheddar soup
diced tomato
2 can kidney beans
1 can spaghetti sauce
bread crumbs
instant rice
tricolor rotini
mac n cheese
tortilla chips

a variety of shredded cheese
8 oz cream cheese
lunch meat
chicken (2lb)
1 bell pepper
beans and rice (freezer meal from last month)
turkey, cooked and sliced
2 pork chops
half a bag of hash browns
1 lb sausage
frozen peas (1 1/2 bags)

I didn't write down every little thing.  There are boxes of cereal, baking ingredients, maple syrup, etc.  I just wrote down the things I thought would make major ingredients in a meal.  I'm sure with practice, we'll all become more efficient at making this list.  This time around, it really took me less than 10 minutes.  How often do you get this much $$$ in return for 10 minutes of your time?