Let me tell you a story.
I never made a menu plan up until a few years ago. Typically, I would "plan" based on what sounded good that night. Being transparent as well, I like making lists, I don't always follow them.
Hearing about menu plans, I knew I should give it a try. Why? There needed to be a way to cut back on my grocery budget. As our family grew, our cost at the grocery store grew. And grew. And grew. When it was just the two of us, I could stop by the store on the way home from work and pick up whatever I wanted.
Cannot do that now, as I would over spend my grocery budget. Major wrong since I would rather spend our hard earned dollars on vacation or a pony. ;-)
There was a conversation on Facebook the other day about menu plans. It was a good conversation, but it left me scratching my head a little bit. The topic was on rather or not to buy menu plans from the many people or businesses that sells them.
I want to stress, that if that is the way you want to go and buy menu plans from someone, go for it. They do the planning for you based on what you like and even will provide the shopping list. Some, I hear, will send you the meals already made so all you have to do is stick them in the crock pot or put them together. Not a bad idea if you are short on time or cooking really isn't your thing.
However, I am here to tell you, you can make effective menu plans that save your family money and doesn't take you a lot of time. Really, truly.
How to make effective menu plans
Step One: Purpose to do it.
You have got to set it in your mind to sit down for a short amount of time each week and plan out your menu. You want to know a secret? The more you do it the faster it goes. Another secret? You can plan for the month. Yup, you can plan each month and only have to do it 12 times a year. Not too shabby, you think?
Step Two: Remember the stage of life you are in.
If you are a newlywed couple with no children, your menu plan is going to look a whole lot different than a family of six will. That's okay. Just plan accordingly. If you are running around watching children at sporting events 4 nights of the week, plan for on the go food or a lot of crock pot meals. Don't compare yourself to the mom who is serving their children leg of lamb and crushed black eye peas on homemade garlic flat bread. You have time for tacos. That's okay.
Step Three: Like a deal? Shop sales.
To plan a menu on a budget, plan your menus around grocery ads. If hamburger is on sale, make Hamburger Casserole. If chicken is on sale, make Chicken Noodle Casserole. Want to plan your meals around Aldi products? Try Taco Goulash. You can make up your own meals by what is on sale and save your family money.
Step Four: Keep a notebook or spreadsheet of your favorite meals.
Do you have a hard time remembering recipes you have made in the past? Do you remember about mid-week but forget what they were? Make up a list of your families favorite meals. Have them chip in and help. Then when it is menu planning time, you can simply pull out the list and plan accordingly. You can print off a free menu list here. Print off a few and keep it on your refrigerator, your desk or by your computer for easy access. Have the kids write down their favorite recipes. You might be surprised what they say is their favorite!
Alright, so do you feel more equipped to make an effective menu plan? Try it, would you? Try it for two weeks and see if your food budget goes down and your excitement for menu planning goes up. You can easily make your own menus. Need recipe ideas? I may have a few. ;-)