Meal Planning

Meal planning is an essential part of being frugal and staying on budget. Recently, after looking over our finances on mint.com (A website that helps you keep track of your spending and see exactly where your money goes), we saw that we had spent $700 on groceries that month!  And the month wasn’t even over!! WHAT?? Where the HECK did we spend $700?? Now, groceries do include diapers, toiletries, and anything we spend at the grocery store, but still. That’s just nuts. We do not have that much to spend on groceries.

I decided to be really strict about meal planning. It’s something I’ve done occasionally, but I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t think asking Rob to pick up something small here and there on his way home from work was a big deal, but as you can see- that adds up!

So, I printed out this super cute, free menu sheet: http://ollibird.com/images/scribblemenu.jpg   <- I use #2, the one with the pots and pans.   Check out more free organizational printables here: http://www.designfinch.com/2011/07/31/sunday-planning/

I slipped my menu planner into a plastic page protector and keep it on the front of the fridge, so everyone knows what’s for dinner. I just use a dry erase marker to write the meals down. I have a similar one for groceries- any time we’re out of something, I write it down on the dry erase sheet on the side of the fridge. They’re cute and it saves paper keeping them in the plastic sheet. You can also get really fancy and put them in a picture frame with glass and keep it on the counter.

Every weekend, I sit down with my menu planner and my laptop at the kitchen table, and I search for the flyer at my local grocery store’s website. (you can search for yours at www.flyerland.ca if you’re in Canada)  I scan the flyer for the deals they have that week, then I base my meals on that. I try to cook meals that will give us leftovers for lunch as well.

Another thing, believe it or not, that has saved us money is cooking from scratch! Everyone always says that healthy food is expensive (and yes, organic food IS more expensive) but Healthy, home cooked meals don’t have to be. All those premade, microwavable meals LOOK like great deals, except you’re really only getting one meal out of them, and you don’t have any ingredients left over to make other dishes. Often I can make a couple meals out of the brocoli I buy, as well as the bag of potatoes and carrots. (buying in bulk is a great tip too!) I was inspired after reading http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ to cut out processed food from our diet, and although its’ a little more work in the beginning, baking snacks and cooking from scratch has become second nature and it’s not as hard as I thought. And our grocery bill is way cheaper.

Last night for dinner, we had homemade burgers, fries, and salad using lettuce from the garden!

I used this recipe for meatballs to make the burgers- http://allrecipes.com/recipe/the-best-meatballs/ (minus the veal- I just used half and half beef and pork) and tonight we’ll have the meatballs and pasta. This recipe makes a LOT, I find. So there’s enough for both! These are things I try to keep in mind when meal planning, is to stretch ingredients across a couple of days.

I’ll let you know how the meatballs turn out!

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