Saturday, February 19, 2011

Making a Meal Plan & Grocery List

It occurred to me that if someone had never made a meal plan before, that they may have no idea how to do it.  Since I need to do this before going grocery shopping today anyway, I figured I might as well take you all with me to see how it is done.  There are lots of ways to go about this.  This is simply my thought process to do it today.  Since my husband gets paid every two weeks, I try to do our main grocery shopping done on the weekend of payday (this weekend for example), so that way I don't have to worry about running out of food if we run out of money before the next payday.  If money permits, I'll do a supplemental food run the off-pay weekend as well, to add more fresh food and possibly even some treats.  If you are just starting to make meal plans, you may want to strictly take it one week at a time though.

The first thing I did was pull out my Master Meal List out of my "Brain" to see what looks tasty.  Tacos, roast chicken with potatoes au gratin and some sort of vegetable, chicken teriyaki, chicken fajitas, chicken stew with dumplings, shipwreck (a dish involving ground meat, potatoes, kidney beans, and tomato soup), chili, Mexican egg rolls, meatball stroganoff on rice, black beans & rice, a chicken broccoli rice casserole (new recipe idea I had the other day), and pseudo-French bread pizzas sound good.  I find that about a dozen dinner ideas is usually sufficient for a two week period, since we'll probably end up having at least one leftover night, be invited to someone else's house for at least a meal, or possibly even eat out once.

Next, I checked my fridge to make sure there wasn't anything in there that needed eating up soon that wasn't covered by these meals.  The only perishables in there that need used up in a meal soon are tomatoes and lettuce that I picked up last week for tacos (a meal we didn't end up getting around to eating) and some bread dough (in the bucket on the bottom shelf) that I mixed up for the bread with the corn and potato chowder last week, but some of that will be used for the pizza and I'm hoping to try to make bagels one of these days, so that should take care of that.

One of my "helpers" assisting in my inventory
Then, I checked my planner to make sure there weren't special concerns with time on any of the days in question.  In this case, two of the kids have tap dance class one evening a week, but our round trip to there, the class time, and the trip back, with extra time thrown in for kids not wanting to change shoes or put their coats on or getting into their car seats without a fuss is still under an hour and a half, so I could cook the chicken dinner (approximate cooking time 2 hours) one week and let the chili simmer the whole time.  In both cases, I'll start dinner before leaving and it will be ready shortly after we get home, thereby eliminating the temptation of running out for some fast food after class, a savings of about $25 each time we don't grab fast food with our family size.

The last thing I checked before making my list is the ad flyer for the grocery store I'll be going to, to make sure there aren't any super deals I couldn't pass up that might influence what we eat for the week.  I need to make sure before we go because, if you recall, if it isn't on the grocery list, I'm not going to buy it.  Period.  Actually, we might cheat on that this week since my husband will be going shopping with me his week and he's horrible about slipping extra goodies in the cart, but I'm going to try to budget in some wiggle room for him to do that without sending us over budget.  If I was running really short on food and on a super tight budget this week, I would have started with the ad flyer and built my menu up from that, but since I have a fairly healthy stock of a lot of things and a looser budget this week, it isn't as crucial.  Nothing really jumped out at me for meals that will influence my menu this week, but I did mark several items on my grocery list that I wanted for general supplies that were on sale, as well as some good produce deals that I want to grab for snacks for the kids.

Lastly, I went through my menu for the next couple weeks and figured out what I have on hand to make it and what I need.  The tacos, I don't need anything because I was planning on having that this past week.  The roast chicken and potatoes au gratin, I don't need anything because that is all super basic ingredients that I always have on hand (I stocked up on chickens humanely and healthily raised by Amish people in the fall, before the season for them ended).  I continued down my list I made and discovered the only thing I need to buy for this cycle of dinners is some egg roll wrappers, which usually run about $1.50 a package.  This frees up almost my entire budget to stock up on supplies that are on sale, items for breakfast (lunches generally consist of dinner leftovers), and any goodies my husband wants to slip in!  After marking those items (except my husband's "surprises") on my list, it looks like the "real" groceries will likely be somewhere between $20-$30 for two weeks, depending on how many of the desirable sale items are in stock!  Since I think I remember reading somewhere that the average food expenditure for a family of 4, a smaller family size than ours, is upwards of $155 per week in the United States, I'd say a little planning can save a lot of money!


  1. $155.00 per week?! Yikes! My entire monthly food budget is just under that @ $150.00 per month....but there are only 2 of us here.
    This month so far I'm up to 70.00 at it's already more than 1/2 way through the month.

  2. Well yeah I imagine with only 2 people your grocery bill would be quite a bit lower than a family of 6,7,8,ect. Good job Chris. I wish I had your planning ability. I just cant get it done.

  3. You are sooo organized! :) Yeah, I am horrible. I never know what I am cooking. I never make a list. If I do, I never bring it or go by it or anything. I usually make a list because I'm hungry. I always say I am going to start planning like this, but I have yet to do so. You are such a good influence Chris.

  4. We have a family of six and our food budget is easily in the $400 to $550 a month range, and that's if we don't go over. We are not the best planners in the world.