Sunday, April 2, 2023

How I've been menu planning

Well hello, strangers.  Long time, no read.

Today I wanted to write about how I've been meal planning lately.  Spoiler alert: it's been so.much.easier.

For years I have heard and read that once a month shopping is a way to save  The idea is, you only shop once a month for everything for that month, and by staying out of stores the rest of the month, you're reducing impulse buys, and you're more likely to make do with what you have, versus running to the store if you discover you've run out of something.

When we lived in West Virginia, I shopped once every two weeks, because we were so far out of town.  It was easier to plan meals back then, because the kids didn't really have opinions about what they did and didn't like, plus our family, as a whole, ate much less back then, so I could rely on leftovers at least once or twice a week.  I mean, the kiddos were 5 and 2 when we left.  How much can a 5 year old eat, versus our current at-home teenagers?

When we moved, we were much closer to grocery stores, and I fell into the habit of shopping every week. Over the years, it's become more and more difficult to plan meals for various reasons, and it became a huge chore to figure out what we were going to eat every week.  I wanted to plan 2 or 4 weeks at a time, but I felt like I just couldn't get ahead.  It was so difficult to get one week down, I couldn't wrap my mind around doing any more.

In January, I decided I was going to do it: I was going to bite the bullet and plan a month of meals at once (it was fortunate that the month I decided to start has only 28 days :) ).  So here's how I did it.

I had already loosely defined a few days a week, for instance, we almost always have pizza on Fridays, and grilled food on Saturdays and Sundays.  So I put those things into the plan.  Then I filled in the other days, for two weeks, with themes, like Mondays were casserole-type things with ground beef, and Thursdays were pressure cooker rice bowls.  Finally, I copied those two weeks to the next two weeks, et voila!  I had 4 weeks of meals planned.  

And let me tell ya, it wasn't quite et voila.  It actually took me about 3 weeks to get that first plan actually planned.  I spent a lot of mental energy trying to plan a variety of proteins, styles of cooking, and flavor profiles.  But I am so thankful that I spent that mental energy up front, each week when I don't have to think about it.  Now whenever I think of a meal I'd like to try for the following month, I put it on the calendar right away, and generally the plan is complete by the time we finish the previous plan.

That first month, I actually attempted to get all of the shelf-stable food in my first shopping trip of the month, but I knew I'd be going back every week, since I could only fit one week's worth of milk in my fridge.

I don't think I've saved too much money over the past two months.  For sure I didn't save the I'd been promised, possibly due to prices rising, and possibly due to me already keeping pretty tight control over grocery spending.  But I'll tell you what I did save: my sanity.  It was so lovely to only plan once and have 4 weeks of meals on the calendar.  At this point, it's easy for me to sit down on a Saturday or Sunday and make my grocery list.  

So yay!  Menu planning, for now at least, is not as difficult as it has been in the past.  Let me know if you try it, or if you have any questions.

Up next: this week's menu plan.  Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! I've been planning by the month for a couple of years now. I like it better than doing it every week. No real money savings but saves my mind!


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