Can I just say how excited I was to see that creating meal ideas, or menu planning, was today’s assignment?! I love meal planning, and all the work I did yesterday was put to good use today, too.
I am a veteran at menu planning, and I love to encourage others to menu plan as well. I feel it is one of the most effective ways that you can stretch your family dollar when it comes to your food budget.
Why do I love menu planning?
You can be a smart shopper
My menu planning always takes place on Sunday, right when I get my newspaper with the coupons and sale flyers. My weekly menu plan is always structured around what I am going to be buying that week based on what the deals are. Planning meals around what is on sale is one of the ways that I am able to feed my family of eight for only $250 a month. Planning meals around what is on sale is one of the best ways that you can be a smart shopper.
You can work with what you have on hand first
Another step in my menu planning process is to incorporate what I already have on hand as much as possible. One of my meals is a meal that is part of my pantry challenge when I am using only ingredients from my pantry, fridge, or freezer. With the inventory list I created yesterday, I discovered that I have more peas, beans, and tuna than I thought I did. For this reason, I will be including several dishes that use these things in my weekly menu plan.
You avoid paying for convenience
Whether you are grabbing something at a fast food place, purchasing a rotisserie chicken for $6.00 or $7.00, or buying some sort of meal kit or frozen family entree, you aren’t tempted to do these things simply because your brain is fried and cannot possibly answer the question, “What’s for dinner?!”
You avoid waste
Of course if you are planning your meals to utilize some of the things you have on hand, you are avoiding things going bad before you can use them. It is amazing how many things can get shoved to the back of my pantry or to the bottom of my freezer. When being conscious of using things that I already have on hand, things are less likely to disappear into the abyss!
You can space your meals out in a logical way
When you see your plan on paper, you will see that you have Mexican planned twice in one week, eggs planned for dinner and breakfast back to back, or meat scheduled too frequently (we only eat meat twice a week to help keep costs down). It is amazing how many crazy things you discover when you actually write your meals down.
You can stop stress dead in its tracks
Consulting my calendar is an essential step in planning my meals because otherwise I will wind up making a gourmet meal when no one will be home to eat it! I can also use my crock pot or make the meal the night before if my day will resemble a train wreck. When I meal plan, I can plan meals that fit into the time I have to prepare and serve the meal while also making sure that my family will be around to eat the meals I know are their favorites.
I had fun brainstorming meal ideas using my inventory list today. With so many beans, I know I will be making more soups and that tuna needs to be included more often. I also discovered hidden boxes of cake mix, so I guess we’ll be having more dessert!
If you have never tried menu planning before, this could be a great opportunity to dip your toe in the water with it. If you need some help, I take you through the process I use step by step in Menu Planning 101 Part One and Menu Planning 101 Part Two. Check those out, they may help you.
I can’t wait to see what day four will bring in the challenge. So far, so good for me. I would love to hear how the challenge is going for you in the comments! Please share!