Author Topic: Plan menus a Week at a Time  (Read 3474 times)

2ndTimer

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Plan menus a Week at a Time
« on: September 08, 2014, 11:43:32 AM »
My long term goal is to reduce my household spending to $200/month by planning ahead and using my pantry and shopping from a list.  The hardest part for me is the actual menu planning so I am sharing the process with you guys.  This isn't really quite a whole month either since we just got back from vacation on Saturday.  I figure it's better to start now than to wait till the first of Oct so I am calling it a month  I hope some of you novice menu planners will join me

1.  The Hub's packed lunch.  This is easiest because he eats sandwiches on homemade bread every day.  It' just a matter of making sure I have good fillings for him.
      Mon:  PBJ
      Tues: pate'
      Wed: pate'
      Thu: pate', cheese
       Fri:  cheese

2.  Hubs breakfast.  Also easy since I prepare it batches every few days and he microwaves it in the a.m.
      Mon:  savory oatmeal(this is oatmeal with whatever nasty sausage I can find cheap at grocery outlet.  The Hub adores nasty sausage)
      Tue:  savory oatmeal
      Wed:  savory oatmeal
      Thu:   grits and sausage
       Fri:   grits and sausage

3.  My breakfast.  Harder since I tend to graze.  I am making a pot of plain oatmeal (we use steel cut oats so it's easiest made in advance) which I will microwave with my choice of dried fruit, peanut butter or salt depending on my mood. 

4.  My lunch:  It's BLT season so I will be eating one every day.

Dinner.  This is the challenge but now that I have worked my way through the breakfast and lunch it doesn't seem so bad.

Mon:  Chili from the freezer, crackers
Tue:  Chana dal with naan.  I have to be home all day for a delivery so this is a good time to work on learning to make naan properly
Wed:  Humus (might as well cook a pot of chickpeas since I'm making chana dal) with naan.  Another stab at making naan.
Thu:  Chana dal with onion naan.  I ought to have progressed to the point of being able to fancy up the naan by then.
Fri:    Baked beans with corn bread


Weekend.  Knowing that the food is planned makes the Hub stress about what he eats and if he gets too stressed he just doesn't eat so I will make enough hummus and baked beans with cornbread so he can graze on those plus cheese and homemade bread. 

Also we are planning to go bicycle camping over the weekend so I will need to pack:

1. eggs and bacon for Sunday breakfast
2. ground coffee
3.  tea bags
4.  Cheese sandwiches
5.  Box of wheat thins left from last camping trip
6.  Cookies.
7.  Can of grapeleaves left from last camping trip
8.  Left over hummus.

Grocery list:  Two tomatoes (I am getting to the end of mine)
                     Two lemons.
                      Milk

To do list:  Make cookies on Fri.

Wow.  This wasn't as hard as I feared and my grocery list is really short.  Good since I have already spent $52 stockpiling tea, peanut butter and flour this month





 

2ndTimer

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2014, 08:19:23 AM »
First day was very easy.  I can see that I won't have enough bacon for a BLT each day plus bacon for camping so today I will have a grilled cheese using yesterday's bacon flavored pan.

Interesting to note that with the meals planned I tend to snack less.  A good thing since I am fatter than is economically efficient. 

Also, steel cut oats with a spoonful of peanut butter is good!!!  Going to try them today with a couple of squares of dark chocolate that has been laying around in the pantry for about five years.

The delivery I had planned to make naan while waiting for has already arrived so no waiting around.  No matter, I have planned to make naan and naan I will make.

I am liking this menu planning a lot.  It gives shape to the day. I had assumed that I would feel a lot of resistance and desire to throw away the plan and eat what I felt like eating.  So far not.  Instead it feels like a burden has been lifted.  Who knew that deciding what to eat every day could be so exhausting.   

Zikoris

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2014, 09:00:03 AM »
I've been meal planning for about six months now and am a huge fan of it - so much more variety, so much less stress.

We have a list of our top 25-ish items, which is a month supply of dinners (we have leftovers, new recipes, food cooked by other people, or rarely restaurants the remaining few days). We pull items for the weekly plan from that, and cross them off the master list as we make them. This means we only make the a particular dish once a month, which is enough variety for us. The master list gets things added or subtracted as needed. Lunches are whatever leftovers are the oldest for him, and whatever leftovers I feel like for myself.

TRBeck

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2014, 09:06:06 AM »
I always plan the menus a week (or more) in advance. It's easy for us, because there's little variability in breakfast and lunch, and currently our evening meals are on a 1-2 week rotation, generally speaking. It's easier that way with little ones - we are working on expanding their palates, but we do have a couple of things that are always on the weekly menu.

Anyway, I like the idea of cooking from what's on hand and only buying produce loss leaders and bulk staples, but in practice, I wind up with a few items that are in the grocery cart no matter what - bananas, cherry tomatoes, carrots - because my kids go ape for them and we are guaranteed regular fruit and veggie consumption for them.

For me, breakfast is always oatmeal, frozen berries, banana, protein powder. For my wife, eggs and bacon. My kids eat cereal and fruit.

Lunch is sandwiches for the kids, legumes, veggies, and grains for me, and leftovers for my wife.

Dinner is more variable, but as I said, we have some standard items, like weekly spaghetti and our Friday night "tapas" (mostly cheese and crackers for the kids, but this meal is a good way to get them to try a bite or two of the "weird" things Mom and Dad are eating with their cheese - olives, fried artichokes, rice balls, etc.)

Grocery shopping is easy and efficient this way, and I can get in and out on Friday mornings before work most weeks, even using the bike trailer.

Bob W

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2014, 09:34:33 AM »
I look at the cabinet and fridge on Sunday.   If there is chicken or something for a dinner that goes on the "menu list."    I get a piece of paper.  On the top I write Mon, Tues, Weds, Thurs, Fri,  Sat is always Chance or what ever is left over.   I then write something like Mon - Chicken and rice,  Tues - Spag and veggies.   

I then look at the grocery store flyer.   There is a good chance stores will have loss leaders such as chicken breasts for 2 a pound or eggs 1 per dozen.   I then will base some of the meals on the loss leaders.

When meat is on sale very cheap I always buy lots and freeze.  It is always used.   

We have about 10 "goto" meals that require few ingredients and no real recipes. 

I suggest cooking 2 or 3 meals at a time and then freezing them.   This allows you to only need to cook 3 nights a week.     

I have also noted that if you shop on weekdays mornings around 6:30 that meat is often marked down if it is near it's date.   I almost always find hamburger at 35% off and stock up.   Sometimes really nice steaks are marked down.  Especially on early Sunday and Monday mornings.  As pricier meats tend to be bought on weekends.  Stores are not busy early in the morning, so shopping is easy.

Then down the page I put my shopping list.   I find it helps to have both the list and menu at the store.   Every once in a while we have an "eat down" period and use up whatever is around via soups or whatever.

You can easily get your daily spending down to 2 dollars per person per day this way.  In your case it would be $120 per month. 

Figure out what things cost on a per calorie basis ----   oil is hugely cheap,  so I always add lots of olive oil to everything.  Flour is equally cheap.   A dinner of dumplings or home made noodles with a little chicken and veggies is cheap.   Oats are cheap.   I wouldn't skimp on the veggies.   Frozen are cheap and healthy.    Skip fruit altogether,  except maybe some berries.

Liver and gizzards are cheap and super packed with nutrients.  I love them both.  Breaded and fried.   Stir fried veggies with rice and some meat is cheap.   Fried potatos --cheap.   I saw a 50 pound bag of tatter for 10 bucks the other day.   Grab it and store it proper.  You'll have taters for a month!

How I cook rice -- good sized pot,  add lots of hot water,  boil,  add a couple of cups of rice.   Low boil for 10 minutes,  drain water, add olive oil or butter.   You can always fry the rice with some veggies and a little meat or fish for a really cheap and tasty meal.

PS -- Sometimes I price match competitors ads but I seldom use coupons as we eat real whole foods and they are rarely couponed.   So I don't put much time or thought into shopping or cooking.  My list varies now that we are paleo by the way.

 

MountainGal

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2014, 12:46:35 PM »
I try and stick to a $300/mo food budget for DH and me, and follow a low carb lifestyle.  I receive a commission check once a month and therefore shop once a month (DH supplements with fresh produce, milk for him, and eggs).  I utilize paper and e-coupons, shop sales and heavily take advantage of whatever my store's value card offers on their website.  This week's suppers:

Sunday:  Ragu sauce infused with Italian sausage, on angel hair pasta for DH.
Last night:  Teriyaki chicken breast cooked in the crock pot w/ grilled zuch out of our garden.
Tonight (DH out of town until Fri):  Leftover tilapia from Saturday, leftover zuch from last night.
Tomorrow night:  Low carb taco bake which will yield at least 6 servings.
Friday:  Take out from ?
Saturday:  Camping

2ndTimer

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2014, 03:04:49 PM »
I've been meal planning for about six months now and am a huge fan of it - so much more variety, so much less stress.

We have a list of our top 25-ish items, which is a month supply of dinners (we have leftovers, new recipes, food cooked by other people, or rarely restaurants the remaining few days). We pull items for the weekly plan from that, and cross them off the master list as we make them. This means we only make the a particular dish once a month, which is enough variety for us. The master list gets things added or subtracted as needed. Lunches are whatever leftovers are the oldest for him, and whatever leftovers I feel like for myself.

Thank you Zikoris:

I like the idea of only making any dish once a month.  I have a tendency to fall into a rut.  In fact I will have to sit down and figure out if I even have 25 basic dishes. 

2ndTimer

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2014, 08:21:22 AM »
I always plan the menus a week (or more) in advance. It's easy for us, because there's little variability in breakfast and lunch, and currently our evening meals are on a 1-2 week rotation, generally speaking. It's easier that way with little ones - we are working on expanding their palates, but we do have a couple of things that are always on the weekly menu.

Anyway, I like the idea of cooking from what's on hand and only buying produce loss leaders and bulk staples, but in practice, I wind up with a few items that are in the grocery cart no matter what - bananas, cherry tomatoes, carrots - because my kids go ape for them and we are guaranteed regular fruit and veggie consumption for them.

For me, breakfast is always oatmeal, frozen berries, banana, protein powder. For my wife, eggs and bacon. My kids eat cereal and fruit.

Lunch is sandwiches for the kids, legumes, veggies, and grains for me, and leftovers for my wife.

Dinner is more variable, but as I said, we have some standard items, like weekly spaghetti and our Friday night "tapas" (mostly cheese and crackers for the kids, but this meal is a good way to get them to try a bite or two of the "weird" things Mom and Dad are eating with their cheese - olives, fried artichokes, rice balls, etc.)

Grocery shopping is easy and efficient this way, and I can get in and out on Friday mornings before work most weeks, even using the bike trailer.

Like you I am finding that breakfast and lunch are pretty predictable.  Hard to understand why I didn't see that right from the beginning how much that would reduce the work of planning.  I guess it's the old looking at the mountain and not realizing its composed of millions of grains of sand phenomenon.

I am truly impressed by the bike trailer, you are much further along the curve than I am.

TRBeck

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2014, 04:30:05 PM »
I am truly impressed by the bike trailer, you are much further along the curve than I am.
Thanks. I'm not far along the curve, just have one skill set but not necessarily others. Cycling and fitness were my gateways to Mustachianism, actually. The act of cycling is more tangible than numbers on a page, plus I was already in decent physical condition and fortunate enough to have a very nice old touring cycle on hand that I bought for a song a decade back. So I got a cheap trailer on Craigslist, started making my very short commute on a bike, and gave grocery shopping a try within a month of finding the site. Other adaptations followed suit easily; the act of selling the second car and taking a big chunk out of our debt was very motivating. I don't have retirement account contributions or investments dialed in at all, and I know our electric bill could still use some serious trimming. But groceries, gas expenditures, and luxury purchases, we're in good shape on those.

2ndTimer

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Re: Plan menus a Week at a Time
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2014, 10:19:27 AM »
I look at the cabinet and fridge on Sunday.   If there is chicken or something for a dinner that goes on the "menu list."    I get a piece of paper.  On the top I write Mon, Tues, Weds, Thurs, Fri,  Sat is always Chance or what ever is left over.   I then write something like Mon - Chicken and rice,  Tues - Spag and veggies.   

I then look at the grocery store flyer.   There is a good chance stores will have loss leaders such as chicken breasts for 2 a pound or eggs 1 per dozen.   I then will base some of the meals on the loss leaders.

When meat is on sale very cheap I always buy lots and freeze.  It is always used.   

We have about 10 "goto" meals that require few ingredients and no real recipes. 

I suggest cooking 2 or 3 meals at a time and then freezing them.   This allows you to only need to cook 3 nights a week.     

I have also noted that if you shop on weekdays mornings around 6:30 that meat is often marked down if it is near it's date.   I almost always find hamburger at 35% off and stock up.   Sometimes really nice steaks are marked down.  Especially on early Sunday and Monday mornings.  As pricier meats tend to be bought on weekends.  Stores are not busy early in the morning, so shopping is easy.

Then down the page I put my shopping list.   I find it helps to have both the list and menu at the store.   Every once in a while we have an "eat down" period and use up whatever is around via soups or whatever.

You can easily get your daily spending down to 2 dollars per person per day this way.  In your case it would be $120 per month. 

Figure out what things cost on a per calorie basis ----   oil is hugely cheap,  so I always add lots of olive oil to everything.  Flour is equally cheap.   A dinner of dumplings or home made noodles with a little chicken and veggies is cheap.   Oats are cheap.   I wouldn't skimp on the veggies.   Frozen are cheap and healthy.    Skip fruit altogether,  except maybe some berries.

Liver and gizzards are cheap and super packed with nutrients.  I love them both.  Breaded and fried.   Stir fried veggies with rice and some meat is cheap.   Fried potatos --cheap.   I saw a 50 pound bag of tatter for 10 bucks the other day.   Grab it and store it proper.  You'll have taters for a month!

How I cook rice -- good sized pot,  add lots of hot water,  boil,  add a couple of cups of rice.   Low boil for 10 minutes,  drain water, add olive oil or butter.   You can always fry the rice with some veggies and a little meat or fish for a really cheap and tasty meal.

PS -- Sometimes I price match competitors ads but I seldom use coupons as we eat real whole foods and they are rarely couponed.   So I don't put much time or thought into shopping or cooking.  My list varies now that we are paleo by the way.

 

Wow Bob, there is a ton of good advice here.  Thanks for reminding me of chicken liver.  I used to make excellent pate' from that and it should definitely go back on the menu.  I definitely want to pay more attention to loss leaders too.  My standard grocery run to Grocery Outlet and Costco takes me past three other grocery stores.  Stopping for loss leaders makes too much sense.  I agree with you that I should eventually be able to get down below $200/month.  Will also check out the used meat section early Monday mornings.