Although my mom was a wonderful cook when I was growing up, I didn't have much interest in making meals for my family. So, when I became a young wife, I didn't have too much experience in making dinners.
When I would do my grocery shopping, I would usually walk around the store and say..."Hmmm, that sounds like a good meal for dinner". Then, I would try to remember what all the ingredients were and whether I had any of them in stock at home already. That led to many extra trips to the store for missing ingredients and extra spending due to impulse buys.
Fast forward to the present. Each week, I sit down and make a meal plan at the beginning of the week. My family is not too adventurous, so it usually doesn't vary too much from week to week.
Benefits of a Menu Plan
- I know what I'm going to have each and every day for dinner before 4 pm so there's no stressing about deciding what I'm going to make and wondering whether I'm going to have to make a last-minute trip to the store for ingredients.
- I know when to pull meat out of the freezer ahead of time to thaw in the fridge (I have an aversion to defrosting in the microwave or on the counter).
- Without a meal plan, it can be very tempting to order take-out, which could ruin my budget.
- I make a plan to use the food in my fridge, freezer, and pantry, so I eliminate food waste
How I Meal Plan
As I'm planning, I check out calendar, to see what activities we have going on throughout the week to plan easy dinners, etc. when I know I won't have much time to cook. I also plan ahead for other activities where I may need to bring a dish, such as bringing brownies to a church small group meeting or making dinner for a new mom at church, etc. to ensure that I have the ingredients in the house when needed.
I also use my menu plan to make my grocery shopping list. For each meal, I'll shop my pantry, fridge, and freezer first to see what items I need to purchase. Often, I will have many of the items already stocked. Then, I add the items I do need to my list as well as the basic staples that we need like milk, bread, etc.
After I have my list, I search my coupon database to see if there's a coupon to go along with the item. I also compile a list using my coupon matchups of items that I wish to stockpile (to build up my pantry and freezer at rock-bottom prices). When I have a list at the grocery store, I can resist the urge to purchase impulse items, thus saving even more money.
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How do you plan your meals? Do you find that it saves you money?