Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Coming snow no match for the Menu Planner!

The snow is falling fast—a blizzard of epic proportions is blowing in….
Thanks to our well stocked pantry and yesterday’s bi-monthly shopping trip to Aldi’s we are prepared to ride it out.
This is yet another “for instance” that I am immensely thankful I have a menu plan.
I plan our meals 2 to 4 weeks at a time—lately I’ve been sticking to four weeks.
We are on week 3 of a six week plan….. I was on a roll one day when I was planning- I love it when that happens.
I menu plan for two very specific reasons.
1. I don’t have to think, “Oh dear what’s in the house and what are we having for dinner”- I just look at my list and there it is!
2. It saves money—a LOT of money.
Currently our grocery budget is so tight if it was a belt I wouldn’t be breathing.
Periodically I do a food inventory- all I need is paper on a clipboard, a well sharpened pencil and 45 minutes without interruption (the 3rd being the hardest to come by)- I go thru my pantry writing down items and quantities, then I move to the fridge and do the same and then finish up my list with a freezer inventory. I find I do this quarterly at the most. Since I’ve been menu planning for over seven years I have a pretty good idea of what I’ve got in my head.
Mostly my menu plan is for dinner. We keep breakfast and lunch pretty simple.
We have a wonderfully simple plan for breakfast-
Monday- Oatmeal with fruit, toast
Tuesday- Yogurt with fruit and/or granola, toast
Wednesday- Oatmeal with fruit, toast
Thursday- Cold cereal, side of fruit
Friday- Oatmeal with fruit, toast
Saturday- Daddy cooks! Eggs, bacon/sausage, potatoes (it’s a ‘man breakfast’)
Sunday- Coco Wheats with dried cranberries, toast
Right now oatmeal is on the menu 3 times a week because it’s cheap, filling and delicious. Up until a month or so ago we’d cook eggs or French Toast once a week but with the price of eggs going up and my breathless budget- oatmeal is a better choice. With oatmeal the kids and I have breakfast for four for under $1. Our favorites: blueberries with brown sugar, blueberries & cranberries, bananas with brown sugar, caramel apple and dried cherry with brown sugar.
Lunch is diner style- made to order by Ms. Books mostly (I do help some). We like to create dishes out of leftovers, make mini-subs with hotdog buns, paninis with homemade bread, quesadillas or nachos, mini pizzas out of English muffins, soup out of a can (doctored up by Ms. Books, naturally) or even a box of mac-n-cheese dressed up with some veggies and chunked up ham.
So dinner is where I really work my menu plan magic. I start with a list of our favorite meals, a few treasured cookbooks I check periodically for new ideas and the family calendar. Don’t forget the calendar- your menu plan can fizzle fast if you don’t pay attention to the family schedule. We plan quick or crockpot meals for the busy days and/or evenings.
Because I menu plan on average a months worth of meals, I don’t plan according to sales like some do. However, I’ve learned the sales rotation of a nearby grocery store so I know what weeks milk, beef, chicken, certain fruits and veggies will be on sale and figure that into my planning. I also do roughly 80% of my shopping at Aldi’s- a wonderful discount grocery store with prices that are often dollars lower than the big box grocery stores. I shop the chain grocery stores for the sales and Aldi’s for mostly everything else.
Our monthly budget for groceries is currently just under $300/month for our family of 5. This includes toiletries, laundry and household needs (i.e. shampoo, toilet paper, detergent, garbage bags).

3 comments:

  1. Amy, You are a miracle worker. I don't know how you squeeze 5 people into a less than $300 budget. I can't wait until it warms up enough to grow some food in the garden. We are lucky to still have raspberries in our freezer for raspberry crisp.
    Thanks for introducing me to Aldi's a few years ago. Their kitty litter is wonderful and at a ridiculously low price. I almost feel like I am stealing when I shop at Aldi's.
    Do you have a Target with a food section? Target can have some great sale prices on their food items. This week they had ground chuck for $2/lb. I have also gotten their frozen Target brand pizza on sale for $3 and it was very good.
    I got a book from the library called "the Candle Cafe Cookbook". Candle Cafe is rated as the top vegan (meatless) restaurant in NY City. They had several hearty looking bean soup recipes. I am guessing the recipes must be pretty good for them to be a busy restaurant in a city where people have a lot to choose from. I am going to start a "meatless" meal night every week.
    Our church has a huge food drive every Super Bowl weekend to collect food for the food bank. This year they say they are in desperate need of donations, more than every before. I find that easy to believe with the way food prices are going up.
    Lynne

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  2. Lynne- I like the idea of a meatless meal each week and beans are a real good choice. I need to work on some bean recipes. Ms. Books and I made a lentil soup that was really good and I'd like to expand on that. And $2/lb for chuck- wow! The closest Target w/food is an hour away though and I am totally addicted to the $1 section and so try to stay out of there! :o)

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  3. Maybe Ms. Books will post her lentil soup recipe for your readers. I will let you know if we like any of the recipes I try. I am NOT going to tell my family it is meatless. I'll be curious to see if they even notice.
    Lynne

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