Since today is Friday, my weekly menu/meal planning day, I thought I would share some tips and tricks for how I plan my weekly meals while staying on budget.
Every Thursday I clean out my fridge, all edible leftovers get put on the same shelf and I take an "inventory" of what I have, I also glance in my cupboards and jot down what I have on hand.
For instance, this week I've got:
macaroni & black beans.
Ok, so I know that Im going to use some of those things for next week's meals, thus saving me some money and ensuring that food doesn't go bad on me.
Next, I look at last week's menu to see if there are any meals we didn't get to. For instance, we had burger king one night and McDonalds one day so that's two meals that I can throw onto next week's menu that I've already got the ingredients for. :)
I sit down with my computer, a couple cookbooks, pull up excel and start planing.
Saturday afternoon's are always leftovers and nights are frozen or homemade pizza.
Sunday lunch is something I can put in the crock pot before church. Sunday night is taco's, nacho's, or both. I make sure to put in the meals from last week that we didn't eat. I also plan in 2-5 meals of leftovers.
I make out my grocery list and next to each item I write down what I believe it costs.
i.e. onions $3
7 sm. frozen pizzas $7.50
etc . . .
Don't forget to include staples like milk. Also, I don't meal plan my breakfast's so items like Oatmeal get added on as well.
Add it all up. I try to keep our weekly budget below $75 for 2 adults and a 6 month-old.
Some weeks, like this one, I'm way over my budget. The first thing I do is look at my menu to see if there are any pricey meals that I can get rid of. Next, I look at my list and make sure I've only got true essentials on it. I also brainstorm for substitutions.
For this next week I need 40oz of canned tomatoes. I take those off my list because I know I've got about 3lbs of roma tomatoes in my fridge and I can easily use those instead of buying the canned one's. I also cut down on the amount of cheese I'm buying. I've found that you can easily cut the amount of cheese in half for a recipe and it will still taste great.
Re-Add it all up. Today I was able to cut my shopping list from $76 to $65 including tax.
Now, I've got $10 leeway so that if I see anything extra I want at the store I can buy it without feeling guilty. :)
There you have it, my Friday weekly menu/meal planning strategy. I know some people plan 2 weeks or even a month in advance but I've found that one week at a time work's best for me. When I do more than 1 week I tend to have leftovers and fresh produce go bad which is a big waste of money.
Because I know you're just dying of curiosity - lol - here's what we're having next week.