by Jennifer Croley
Well I didn't want to do it but I finally broke down and started planning our menus in advance. I thought it would be a horrible task, and I thought we wouldn't stick to the plan anyway. But to my great surprise it's really one of the best things I've ever done.
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Menu planning has had three sanity and money saving effects in our household: no more twenty-minute "what do you want for dinner" discussions, one trip (not two or three trips ) to the grocery store every week, and a 20% drop in our monthly grocery spending.
I plan one week at a time, but how often to plan is really up to you. Here are some of my tips for menu planning. It really is worth the effort.
Get Input From The Rest Of The Family
There's no reason you should have to do all the thinking and planning. Get some ideas from the rest of the family. There is also less room for complaining about the menu if everyone participates.
Check The Sale Ads
I try to plan at least some of my meals around what's on sale, but you do have to be careful about this. If your family absolutely will not eat them, that great deal on green beans is not a good deal for you. Same goes for that $1.00 off coupon. The best bet is to use sale ads and coupons in conjunction with your menu list (see next tip).
Keep A Meal & Ingredients List
My first menu-planning task was to create a list of quick and easy meals that my husband and I like. I also listed the necessary ingredients next to each meal. I tried to stick with meals that wouldn't require special or expensive ingredients. Before I sit down to make the week's menu, I take stock of my cabinets and match what I need to use and what I have the most of to my meal and ingredient list. Every once in awhile I will be adventurous and try a new recipe. If it's good and easy it's added to the menu list.
Keep It Simple
Every night's meal does not have to be an exciting and special event. I try to plan something special or different one night a week (Italian night, breakfast dinner, etc.), but most nights it's shake and bake or macaroni and cheese.
Plan Your Menu Around Your Schedule
My husband and I have season tickets to our local university's basketball games. Instead of spending twenty dollars at the game for a dinner of greasy pizza, salty popcorn and large cokes, I plan a peanut butter and jelly or frozen dinner night. Busy nights don't have to be "I'll pick something up" or "let's just go out" nights – just plan a meal that will fit into your schedule. You may even want to make something the night before and bag or box it up for an on the go meal.
Be Flexible (Not Too Flexible, But Flexible Enough)
It's Tuesday night and spaghetti is on the menu. For whatever reason, you don't think you can even stand to look at spaghetti, much less eat it. It's ok to have a few backups. Pizza always sounds good to my husband, so I keep a few frozen pizzas on hand (bought on sale of course) for those nights that the menu just doesn't cut it.
Don't Forget Your Lunch
I come home from work for lunch and my husband takes his lunch to work almost every day. When I plan the dinner menu for the week, I also try to plan lunches. This way I can decide if leftovers and what's already in the fridge will suffice for the week or if I need to add some lunch stuff to my grocery list.
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Copyright © 2001 by Jennifer Croley. All rights reserved.