Wednesday, January 14, 2009

marketing and meals

I really don't delight in going to the grocery store. But - it's one of those things though that keeps recurring in my life. No matter how I slice it we've got to eat. Because I don't enjoy schlepping off to the store all the time, I've tried to minimize my trips and maximize my money. One of the best ways I've found is to have a plan. I meal plan for our family for two weeks at a time. This helps me to effectively think through what I have and what I need as I go grocery shopping. Another thing that has been an added benefit is that I find that I spend less because I've thought through what we're having and I'm not just picking out food that tickles my fancy while I'm in the grocery store. I also don't have to go back to the store multiple times in a week because I've listed out my meals and my ingredients and I get everything (most of the time) that I need in one trip. (cause you know every time I go back into the grocery store I come out with more than I intended) My husband will often pick up milk or bananas if we need a restock on his way home from work. But other than that, it really works to meal plan and market with my meals in mind.

Here's how I do it:
1. I sit down the day before I'm going grocery shopping with my calendar, my meal planning sheet and my market list. (I say the day before because then I have time to really plan and not just rush through the process) I look at the calendar and see when we need a meal-on-the-go or when we aren't going to be home for dinner and I mark that on my meal planning sheet. Having my calendar handy really helps me think through the days.
(I've added these lists to my side bar under downloads, feel free to print out copies for yourself or use them to start your own)

2.Then I start listing main dishes on the days that we are eating at home. Busy days get a crock pot meal or something simple like pizza or sandwiches. I also think through ingredients. If I'm having a chicken casserole on Monday, I might cook extra chicken and set some aside for chicken enchiladas on Wednesday. This saves money (buy value packs) and saves time (cook once, eat twice!)

3. After I've decided on main dishes I add sides that are simple and stretchable. Salads, veggies, and potatoes all are great sides that don't take a lot of time or energy. Fruit is another way to add a bit more to a meal with out cooking all day or spending a lot of money.
4. I'll think through my breakfast and lunch plans for the weeks and make note of any special lunches or breakfasts we need. At this point, I don't plan out our breakfasts and lunches unless they are special occasions. We usually have granola, yogurt, pancakes or bagels for breakfast so I try to keep all of those on hand. For lunches we do roll ups, leftovers, sandwiches or frozen pizzas.

5. I don't make dessert every night, but I try to keep on hand the things I would need for some of our favorite cookies. We always have ice cream in the freezer, so that's usually on my list. I will jot down any special desserts or baked things that I might want to have during the two weeks for which I'm planning.

4. After my meals are laid out, I start marking things on my market list that I need to purchase. This is where I really save time...I don't write out my list every time I'm going shopping, I use a master list and check off items that I regularly use. I also check my pantry and see what I really am out of rather than guessing and buying something I don't really need. (I'll talk about my pantry in another post)

Added Bonuses:

  • My master market list also helps me out between grocery trips as I use it to mark off things as I run out of them. Then it's already on the list for the next grocery trip. I usually have a couple of these printed off ready for use.

  • I keep my meal list in my daily notebook (or on the fridge) for easy reference. In the morning, all I have to do is look at the planned out menu and think through what still needs to be done. If my day ends up different than I planned, I just switch meals around. It's not a big issue since all the ingredients for each meal are already on hand. I also jot on my meal list things I need to remember, like thaw chicken on Monday so it will be ready for Tuesday's meal.

  • After a couple of weeks of meal planning you'll find that you've got a resource of meals to choose from. I know friends who rotate meal plans every month then they only have to meal plan occasionally, they just recycle their previous meal plans.

What's your plan for shopping and meal planning? Feel free to leave a comment letting me know what works for you!


Christina said...

I like you shopping list ideas! I do mine a little differently. I meal plan in two week segments too. Usually I make up my list based on what is on sale with the addition of a few items from my menu or pantry needs. I try to plan my menu around what I have in the fridge or freezer. It works well for me to do it that way since we only have two grocery stores in town, and the sales are easy to keep track of.

a friend to knit with said...

meal list! market list! absolutely brilliant!!!!
i am so printing these out!!!

Ellen said...

Whenever I plan too far in advance, I find that things change, and the meal I had in mind for a certain night, doesn't work for whatever reason. I have a list of meal plans in the back of my daytimer, and at some point, usually once a week, I look over it and write down some ideas for the week ahead, based on what I have in the fridge/freezer. We've been having homemade Pizza every Friday night. I keep our favorite toppings on hand and we each put our favorite on a portion of the dough. It works well since there are four of us. I also let the girls each choose two meals a week that they want us to have. Then I choose the others.

Thanks for sharing your great ideas Lisa. Especially good for busy moms. I have a little more flexibility, so I can afford to do less planning ahead. It wouldn't be a bad idea for me shop a little less often, though I dare say, they would probably call me from Walmart to see where I've been.

Denise said...

This was really helpful. I usually try to plan our meals just one week at a time, but I hate going to the grocery store too (it's not the going so much, as the getting home and having to put it all away - every week!) I like the idea of doing two weeks at a time and I'm going to try this using your lists. Thanks again for taking the time to share it with us :)

Kristyn Knits said...

you already know that I think you're the most organized meal planner there is! thanks for sharing your forms!