It was in winter 2003 when DH and I forgot about a payment that was due. It was about 2 500 Euro high (yes I know...how can you possibly forget about that??). It took us by surprise and as we just had our baby daughter we didn't have so much money ready. So we had to live on low costs for a while. This was when we started menu planning. We would plan for a week, shop at cheaper stores and tried to avoid expensive meals.
Within a few months our finances were ok again but we had gotten into the habbit of meal planning. It really isn't so hard when you've gotten used to it!
Because many people ask me how I can possibly plan for a whole week (which isn't that long) here's how:
Every thursday (or friday, if I'm very late) I grab one of my favourite cooking books, a pencil and a sheet of paper. I list every meal starting with friday evening (because we usually shop friday afternoon). It looks like this:
Then I shuffle through the cooking book and pick meals that I want to cook. I list the page numbers right on the list so I don't have to search for them later. Since I only use one book per week and switch every week we 1. don't eat the same meals every week and 2. I don't have to write down in which book to seek but only the page numbers.
While planning I try to have in mind...
...if we have anything left from last week which has to be eaten.
...if our freezer is overflowing or needs to get filled again.
...if I can combine meals like having Gulasch mit Nockerl one day evening and Würstl mit Saft und Semmeln the next day.
...if we're going to eat early or late (depends on DHs working hours) and therefor have more or less time to cook.
...if we're going to have company.
...to plan meals which need fresh ingrediens (like salat) early in the week or right after wednesday.
When I'm through with menu planning I write the acutal grocery list. I think about every meal I planned and write down what we will need to pick up for it. I add things like milk, eggs, sugar, butter (we need loads of them because I love baking), beverages, shampoo and so on.
We usually shop on Friday afternoon for groceries. We go to a discount store first and maybe to another one later if we didn't get everything we need. In midweek we sometimes have to buy milk and bread and vegetables but that's it.
We use Saturday as family errand day (IKEA would be one of the usual stops then).
Here's our current meal plan (written in German because I have no idea how the meals are named in English):
Fr Ab: Schweinslungenbraten mit Bröselkarfiol und Salat
Sa Mi: McDonalds
Sa Ab: auswärts
So Mi: Zitronenhähnchen mit Ofengemüse - Eis
So Ab: Palatschinken
Mo Mi: Hühnersuppe mit Fritatten / Backerbsen
Mo Ab: kalt
Di Mi: Spinat mit Spiegelei und Kartoffeln
Di Ab: Salat mit Steakstreifen
Mi Mi: Gemüsenudeln
Mi Ab: Kartoffelpuffer
Do Mi: Spaghetti mit Tomatensauce
Do Ab: Äpfel im Schlafrock mit Vanillesauce
Fr Mi: ?
Sometimes we switch meals within the week...just as we like. But we know we have everything we need for every meal at home. I usually leave one meal blank...for unexpected visits or the like.
The list is pinned to our fridge so everyone can access it easily.
But why would we go through the effort of planning when the next store is within a few minutes walking distance?
* Think of all the time you'll save. Instead of going every day, you just have to shop once or twice a week!
* It is a lot cheaper to shop with a list than to randomly pick the items that you think you might use.
* We don't throw away so much food anymore (alhtough it sometimes still happens).
* It saves a lot of energy to have a plan laid out. I don't have to go through the "Oh my god what will I cook for today?" business every day...I just look at my list.
* You're bound to eat unhealthy food a lot more often if you just "whip up something" because you didn't plan.
So...here you go! Start planning today! If you have any questions...feel free to ask!