Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time Saving Tactics

As a busy working mom of one and another on the way I feel the need to be as organized and planned as possible in order to get things done. One of my favorite ‘tricks’ is menu planning.

I have been menu planning since Chris and I got married, in fact we used to have a sign over the kitchen that said ‘Dinner Choices: 1) Take it 2) Leave It’. I have my brother in law to thank for that sign! His wife was asking what I did if Chris did not like what was on the menu and I said I did not ask, if he did not like it he could make something himself. I try and choose things that we all like and the deal is that if something does not turn out we will order pizza. I now try and get him to approve the menu before I finish my grocery list.

My approach to menu planning has changed over the years and the practice has come and gone as well. I always know when I have been lax about planning because our grocery bill goes through the roof and we start eating out a lot.

I originally created a weekly menu and went to the grocery store at least once a week. Since we started our budget (we love Dave Ramsey) in April I have started doing a biweekly menu and have tried to limit the trips to the grocery store to 3 times a month. It also helps that I only have so much money to spend every two weeks.

A problem that I encountered with trying to plan two weeks worth of menus at a time was that I could not come up with meal ideas for 14 days. Not to mention breakfast and lunch everyday as well. To help with this I have a list of our favorite meals to pick from as well as side ideas. Breakfast and lunch is simplified by having the same thing everyday during the week and then concentrating on leftovers on the weekend.

My first glance through the meal list is to look for things using what we already have in the house. I try and buy meats in bulk and freeze so that it keeps our grocery costs down. We also buy canned vegetables and tomatoes in bulk as quick sides and for use in recipes. Once I have used everything in the house I can fill in with what’s on sale at the store when I plan on shopping.

I would say it probably takes me 20 minutes to create our menu and grocery list for 2 weeks. I start by listing anything I know we’re out of, then create the menu based on what we have, then I go back to my grocery list and fill in with anything being used up and needed for the 2 weeks.
So far we have managed to keep our spending with in budget and not eat rice and beans every night. (although Ladybug probably would not mind that)

Do you menu plan? Why or why not?