Meal Planning

I’m going to be up front and honest, I hate meal planning. It is so laborious. I am not the type A person, I can be to some extent, but I love to have the freedom to go with the flow. The freedom to give in to the whims of my cravings. When those cravings come a knockin’ it’s hard for me to ignore. This has been one of those weeks, nothing has sounded good. I’ve slugged my way through the week, and to be honest I have slipped up big time this week. Oh well, today is a new day to start fresh.

So when I do meal plan I give myself grace, I think that is where I failed this week. Having a few ready to go meals (preferably homemade, so much cheaper!) stocked in the freezer or pantry help when the day gets away from you or your original meal no longer sounds tasty.

I use a method which is referred to as reverse meal planning, when I am not on a kick to clean out the freezer and pantry (more on how I adjust for that). I use to meal plan by picking all these fabulous meals, that would call for gobs of ingredients I didn’t have on hand (thanks pinterest!). I would dutifully write out my grocery list, filled with items that I would only use a fraction of (spices, exotic veggies/ fruits anyone?) Then after a week or so these moldy odds and ends would get pitched or the spices shoved in the back of my spice drawer to be forgotten. My grocery bill was crazy! So I tried a new plan.

On Sundays I get the circulars of the local grocery stores delivered (free!) to my house. After church I take a few quiet minutes to peruse them. I jot down all the food that we like that is on sale and at what store. Now for those of you that hate shopping at multiple stores, I don’t blame you, but sometimes (when your budget is tight) you have to. Thankfully I can typically go to 1 store and get everything I need. Once I find the sales, I look at what I currently have to see what I can make based on what I have and what is on sale. I make a meal plan based on this. I do take to pinterest if my creative juices get clogged (I guess you redeemed yourself here pinterest!)

That is it! So basically unless an item is an absolute staple (i.e. milk, butter, eggs, etc.) I will not purchase it if it isn’t on sale. For example: I hardly ever pay more than $1.99/ lb for chicken breasts. In fact I know that if I am patient enough I can get chicken breasts at my favorite store for $1.77/lb. When they run that sale, I stock up baby! I love grassfed beef, but it is so EXPENSIVE! Again at the same store they will run it on sale for $3.99/lb (everywhere else sells it for $6/lb), I even was able to get it for $2.99/lb once ๐Ÿ˜€ I won’t pay more than $2.99/lb for roasts (beef), but I live for when they put it on sale for $1.99/lb.

This is where knowing what items typically cost when not on sale, and what the typical sales are, comes in handy. Again I am not a type A personality. I love lists, lists do not love me. In fact they typically run away from me….er get lost…or thrown away or destroyed by the fruits. So if you are like me and you are blessed to have a smart phone, take a picture. Sounds nerdy I know, but it works. Someone recently asked me if the organic maple syrup at Costco was cheaper than the regular maple syrup at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know! I hadn’t looked at their maple syrup in a while, in fact I hadn’t been to Trader Joe’s in a few months. As fate would have it I need to go to TJ’s a few weeks later. I took a picture of the maple syrup with the price listed below. Then on my next trip to Costco I compared the price. Costco was $2-$3 cheaper! I was so glad that I took that picture because I had run out of maple syrup that week.

So what do you do when your money is really strained or you just need to come up with a little extra cash? Cut the groceries of course! Typically you have to cut money some where (or make more income) and groceries (when you are already on a bare necessities budget) is what gets cut. I sat down and meal planned 4 weeks worth of meals based on my freezer and pantry, then allotted myself $50/ week. It is similar to the above, but the emphasis is on using what you have 1st before buying the sale items. Typically I have my meal plan already written out based on what I have before I even look at the sales. So my grocery list is mainly staples (milk, eggs, etc.) and then only fruits and veggies that are on a great sale. As a sample here is what I purchased this past week:

12 lbs chicken breasts ($1.77/lb!), asparagus, peppers, lettuce, peaches, 2 pineapples, bananas, onions,ย  3 boxes of pasta, 1 rotisserie chicken, soda (yeah bad habit that needs kicking), and baby food.

My total was $60 for this week, I allowed myself to go over because of the sale on chicken breasts. I only had enough food to get through the 4 weeks on $50, but I really needed to get through 6 weeks. Purchasing the extra chicken will allow me to do that, thankfully my wallet also had the room to allow it. Wait! No milk?ย  I have cut down on the amount of milk that I serve my children per day, so now I can make a gallon of milk last longer than a week. They each get one small cup a day and we might have to skip a day of milk, but they will live! They still get plenty of calcium from cheese and yogurt that they eat throughout the week. Again cheese is bought in bulk from Costco, so I only need to purchase 1x a month and the yogurt is every other week deal.

I think that about covers it! How do you do grocery budgeting? Do you meal plan?


4 thoughts on “Meal Planning

  1. Wow! I commend you. Even after reading this, I’m not sure how you stick to it!

    I don’t buy everything organic but I draw the line and will only buy organic eggs, milk, apples and a few other odds and ends. Maybe I shouldn’t be so picky about that?

    Our yogurt is not sold in bulk at SAM’s club so we average about $15/week on yogurt for everyone and another $15/for milk. We typically buy 3-4 cartons of Almond milk {and that’s for one toddler} & one carton of organic milk. There alone is &30 between yogurt and milk.

    We go vegetarian for suppers a lot to save money and we eat spaghetti for dinner at least 2x per week since its cheap, easy & fairly healthy.

    I also buy healthier meats when on sale. I want to get a freezer to put in the basement so we can stock up when we come across sales.

    I’ve actually stopped buying a lot of fruit because it’s expensive and we waste so much.

    We’re also considering getting chickens for healthier eggs and it being cheaper (in the long run?) since the initial cost for the feed, feeders, bedding & chicken coop is expensive. I also think it would be a good experience and fun for the kids {and me! โ˜บ๏ธ}

    Homesteading interests me but I haven’t made the full plunge on everything.

    Next year I want to do a garden but having a baby at planting time this year and trying to keep one up wasn’t in the books.

    God bless you! I love reading your articles ๐Ÿ“š

    I too do not like meal planning but budget wise, it helps to have a list to stick to and not go over when you get to the market.

    • Thanks! I buy only 1 gallon of milk a week and it is organic and it is not ultra pasteurized. I get this from TJ’s because it is close to my church and only $6. I treat yogurt like ice cream, so the children only get it for a treat. If I can get my yogurt starter to culture properly then they can have it more often. So I spend about $3.50 every 2 weeks on organic Plain yogurt. If you get anything other than plain it has high sugar content.So I serve it with fruit and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. I find that I am in more control of their sugar that way and it is more filling because there is large chunks of real fruit in it. Using real fruit also allows me to skimp on the yogurt and give them less, it’s all about visual perception ๐Ÿ™‚ The bowl is still full, but there is less yogurt! I am the only one in my family that will eat eggs, so eggs are mainly used for baking. I have a local friend that raises chickens and sells her eggs to me for $3/ dozen.

      • Your yogurt sounds yummy!! I’m not brave enough to make my own. We buy Chobani yogurt & its 16 grams of sugar per one ๐Ÿ˜ I know then make the 100 ones but I don’t want to give up the one we getโ˜บ๏ธ

        I’m going to try your way of yogurt soon, healthier and sounds yummy!

        I hear you can’t beat farm fresh eggs or the price!!!

        I still have lots to learn to be more frugile but am learning โ˜บ๏ธ๐Ÿ“šโœ๏ธ

  2. Hey! I love this post. It can be incredibly draining trying to plan all of your meals. I love how you did it on a budget while still being healthy!

    I look forward to more posts. Check out my blog for some tips on price matching and finding deals ๐Ÿ™‚

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