I have mentioned on Twitter and FB a few times about how I started to meal plan to save my family money. To save myself time. To help ease the chaos in the evening when the kids are screaming at my feet because they want to eat NOW! A few people have asked how I do it...so this is meal planning my way.
My family used to just plan a week at a time. Then shop on the weekends. I thought that was working for us. I would shop sales and clip coupons when I could (really I rarely do this anymore as I have zero free time for it). However, our weekly food budget kept getting bigger. So it was not working for us.
I pull up pinterest and find recipes that my family likes and ones that we want to try. I pull a few of our stand by meals as well. (chilli, tacos, breakfast, burgers ...you get the idea) We do eat out on average twice a month.
I begin to fill out what meals to have on each night on a word calendar. I take note as to what meat we are eating and try not to over lap similar tasting meals. (although for shopping I do try to keep ingredients similar to keep down costs) If I am buying fresh veggies that need cooked later on in the month, I cut them up and freeze them. At any point in time, you will find frozen carrots/celery/onions etc in my freezer. I also freeze good bread for grilled and warm sandwiches since I buy it in bulk.
At the end of every month, I inventory what I have in the freezer and
pantry. I write it all down on paper and go to my laptop to copy it into a word document. I
keep 2 sides because we shop at a bulk store Costco and we also use
Giant Eagle and a Super Walmart on occasion. I add in all the other ingredients that I need to buy to create each dinner. I also shop weekly for fresh fruit, milk, veggies etc that we consume quickly or that spoil.
Gary and I go shopping and get everything that we need. On average, we spend around 600 a month for food, toiletries, diapers and paper products. We are thinking of doing a CSA this year for our fruits and veggies. It would allow us to have a variety and get local fresh items weekly. We may go out and get a quart of a grass fed cow as well. (the only thing is that I do not eat beef so it would be everyone else eating it and myself still having chicken, heh)
When it is all said and done, I have spent around an hour and a half planning. It used to take me a longer amount of time but I have gotten used to my system.