I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that one of our big spending categories is food. It probably doesn’t help that we live across the street from the grocery store – very convenient but dangerous! Plus, with my gluten allergy (good luck finding bread or cereals under $5-6!) and how we like to have a large selection of fruits and vegetables, it means that we do expect to spend more on food that someone who eats less healthy/processed foods. But, sometimes our grocery bill is embarrassingly large for two people and a lot of the food we’ve bought either spoils or never gets used.
When we initially tried meal planning in July, we tried to do it at a month at a time. I found that to be too broad: how am I supposed to know what I feel like eating in a few weeks? With this latest attempt, I’m only doing it a week at a time, so it is a bit more manageable. I can decide what we want to eat and then go out and get groceries for it.
Here’s the logic that I follow:
- Determine what is happening in the evenings in the up coming week. From that, determine how many dinners are required.
- Then I choose dinners to eat depending on my mood, any requests Mr. Bean has, how much time I think I will have on various days and what we have in our pantry or fridge. I don’t choose a meal specific to a day to provide myself some flexibility. If I know I am going to have some busier days, I choose an appropriate amount quicker meals. I also try to include one vegetarian meal, one meal in our slow cooker and a meal with fish. I’m also operating under the assumption that the meals we will eat will provide sufficient leftovers for lunch for both of us.
- Once I’ve picked the meals we want to have, I write down the ingredients that we need. Then, I check to make sure we have sufficient breakfast foods like cereal, toast, peanut butter, nuts, etc. I also look at the flyer to see if anything we use frequently is on sale.
- Then, I grab our reuseable grocery bags and head over to the grocery store.
Since I’m an engineer and I like examples of how things work, here’s what I did this week:
Here’s what our schedule looks like from Friday – Thursday this week:
Thus, we need dinner for six days.
After reading Michele’s Pantry Challenge, I was determined to use up some of the meat in our freezer and other food we have hanging around. Since our freezer usually crammed full of everything, I thought it would be a good idea to make some space! Here the meals I have chosen to have this week:
- Pizza (request from Mr. Bean)
- Pork Ribs (freezer) with potatoes (pantry), broccoli and a green salad
- Tuna melts (fish meal and is easy/quick)
- Bean soup from Clean Eating cookbook (Vegetarian and uses up beans in pantry)
- Elk Stew in Crockpot (meat in freezer, slow cooker meal)
- Sausages (freezer) with noodles (pantry) and vegetables
Then I wrote down the ingredients that I require. Since in some meals I have not specified the vegetables, I just get a reasonable amount of vegetables that I know we like and will eat. This is what my shopping list looked like:
Pizza crust (for Mr. Bean), Mozzarella cheese, Pepperoni, Ham, Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Parsnips, Spinach, Mixed Greens Mix, Zucchini, Berries, Oranges, Broccoli, Tuna, Broth, Parmesan Cheese, Shampoo, Gum
When I’m at the grocery store, I try not to get anything that is not on the list. The first time I tried meal planning, I ended up getting many other things and I almost couldn’t carry them across the street. Never again. 😛
Now for some input from you guys:
Have you ever tried meal planning? If you do, what works for you? Do you have any tips or tricks to help keep you on budget and from getting too much food?