Besides keeping up with cleaning and home maintanence, meal planning is one of my most important tasks as a home manager. Frugally preparing nourishing meals and snacks for my family is a high priority. One of the best tools I have for this task is a weekly menu plan, which most of you probably see here on the blog most Mondays.
Over the years I have changed my menu planning techniques as our seasons of life and food preferences have changed. Right now we purchase a large portion of our food in bulk (meat, grains, sweeteners, and some other pnatry staples) and not at the grocery store, so while I once planned all our meals around store loss leader sales and coupons, my techniques have changed some. Here is how I put together a meal plan every week.
::Calendar. Confession time: I don't keep a paper calendar (which I probably should!). But, before planning our meals I always consider what events we have going on that week. For example, Friday evenings Ben's brothers have our church family to their home for a prayer meeting and Bible study. That's a day to take care of meal preparations early in the day. We always eat dinner with Ben's family on Sundays, so that's something I permanently keep on the meal plan. On days we have a morning appointment I try to have an easy breakfast that I can prepare the night before.I put it all together using Money Saving Mom's Seven Day Meal Planner. It contains a list for seven breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. Then (in theory) each evening, I fill in our meals for the next day on my daily docket form. I like having a loose meal plan rather than something set for each day of the week. In this season of my life, organization and flexibility are both so important!
::Leftovers. Is there anything in the fridge that's about to spoil? Plan it into the menu for the first day or two of the week or freeze it. I hate wasting food in our kitchen!
::Food storage. What meats do I have in the freezer? What odds and ends do I have in the pnatry that I need to use?
::Budget. Since Ben is self-employed we have an irregular income and some weeks I have more to spend on groceries than other weeks. It always works out fine but it's definitely something I have to consider when I plan our meals each week.
::Sales. While I buy most of our dry foods and meats in bulk, our grocery store has a wide selection of natural and organic foods that I use to fill in when it goes on sale and I am often able to print coupons to make the deals even better, and I also get most of our produce there. I try to get whatever is organic and on sale and use it to round out our meals.
In our house, menu planning saves our budget and my sanity. Do you plan your menus?