Stewardship: Meal Planning and Saving Money at the Grocery Store

15 01 2008

Okay, I want you to know that this can be a little overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it it will come naturally. Meal planning takes me about 1 hour every other Sunday afternoon. I sit down after the kids are napping, pull out my cookbooks etc. get me a cup of tea and go at it. I plan everything from breakfast to snacks. Here is a little view of how I do it…..

1. I print off meal planning sheet (if someone can tell me how to link a word document to this I will post it ASAP)

2. I pull out cook books and recipes

3. I look to see what is on sale at Meijer (local food store I shop at, they even do free antibiotics for the 8 most common ones!!!, I will post more on ways to save with your kids in another post).

4. I start filling in the spaces on my meal planning sheet. The sheet has a place for breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner and snack for everyday of the week. When I fill in a space, for example, stir fry for dinner on Monday night I write down every ingredient I need to buy from the store on a separate piece of paper. I do this for every meal and snack. For Tuesday night I put what we are having for dinner then I write what I need to buy for it on the same sheet of paper I did for Monday night (this becomes your shopping list).

Now to keep with being good stewards of our family’s health we need to make sure we are getting them every food group etc. So for example I would write (in the Monday spot for stir fry) Rice, Mixed Veggies, Chicken and fruit salad. This gives them their protein, veggies, carbs and fruit making it a well rounded meal. I also fill in their snacks the same way! I will try to post later next week a list of good “snack” ideas for kids that include a quick sugar, carb and protein.

After you have done this for EVERY meal and snack you have completed your grocery shopping list. Now when you go to the store do not venture away from this list. If you do you will over spend and end up with lots of stuff in your house you don’t need. Also, be honest with yourself. Do you need a new meal every night of the week? We have a left overs night once a week. I also use leftovers from dinner for lunches later on in the week. This way I don’t have to buy a bunch of lunch foods everyweek.

A few tips to help this work are to write the cookbook and page number with the meal you are planning. Also, don’t over do “snacks” etc. I plan on two desserts a week that I make; we then only have a little bit everyday or none on some days, keeping our empty calories in check.

I plan my meals out in two week increments, because that is when I get paid. You may have to make your list for one week at a time, which if fine, do what works for YOUR family. Also, I make almost everything my hand! This keeps my grocery budget at 225 dollars a month for a family of 5 (and that includes all personal items and cleaning supplies). I don’t buy pre-made rolls in the refrigerator section, I make them in the bread maker, I do the same for pizza crust etc. Instead of buying the frozen crock pot meals at the store, go buy all the ingredients and make it yourself, you will save TONS of money a year. A way to think about it is……prepackaged saves you time but cost you money. If you want to keep your budget in check try making most of your meals by scratch.

Also, stock up on items you use regularly when they go on sale. We use a lot of flour and sugar in our home, so when those go cheep I stock up. We also have a meatless meal a week; this makes me get creative with vegetarian meals and saves on money.