Do you struggle to stay within your food budget or wish your budget went a little further to get the healthy, organic food you want? The best way to stick to a budget and get the most for your dollar is to plan a menu.
Making a menu doesn’t have to be a hard or long process, but it does take a little time. Now that I have been planning my menus for a while it takes me less than 30 minutes per week to set up my menu and shopping lists. Here are my steps:
1. Check the calendar for the week. Make sure you are not setting up a large dinner or a brand new recipe for a night that you have youth group or two baseball games.
My favorite cookbooks.
2. Split your favorite recipes into 6 categories. Start out with your most tried and true recipes. Print them out and put them into piles according to how you make them. For example, my menu has categories for Slow Cooker, Stovetop, Oven, Soup, Quick/Fun, and Fresh.
3. Choose one recipe from each category per week. After you are done with this step, you should have 6 recipes that make up your menu for the week. (Why not 7? Because there is usually one night where we eat out, or have leftovers, and so instead of over-buying, I just plan that day into our weekly menu.)
4. Make your grocery shopping list from your menu. Now that you have all your dinner recipes in one spot, it will be easy for you to make up a quick grocery shopping list. Remember to shop your pantry first!
5. Allow your menu plan to evolve. Because I always know the ingredients for the meal are available, I don’t have to worry about making a meal on a specific day. I rarely stick to a strict menu calendar. In fact, I only make the menu so I can get an accurate shopping list. Occasionally I have to plan ahead (slow cooker meals) or there is something special going on, so the menu is more finite. For the most part, however, we pick the meal we want off the menu whether it was planned for Wednesday or Saturday. I just cross it off the menu list and have the dinner that was planned for that night later in the week. With a plan like this, it gives you a lot more control of the days when you spend an hour in the kitchen, and the days you come home to a hot meal in the crock pot.
6. Keep your old menus. This is the step that will make menu planning super easy from now on. Place all your menus in a 3-ring-binder and separate your recipes into your 6 categories directly following them.
This is my menu binder:
This way, you only have to make menus for 6 – 8 weeks before you can go back to the first week and start the rotation all over again!
Check out more of my tried and true tips to eat awesome, whole food for less time, energy and money here!