Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Menu Planning - Does It Work For You?

On my last Food Budget Update, Kicking Carbs asked me:
Do you menu plan for 2 weeks or the month?
I am starting to think I can save more money if I go for the month.
Wow - now that's a loaded question!  I know of many bloggers who plan their meals down to how much ketchup and mustard they need, and then use that menu as their shopping list.  They swear that this saves them lots of money and time.

I, on the other hand, do not do any sort of menu planning.  Don't get me wrong - I've tried to in the past and it just doesn't work well for me.  My meat and produce purchasing revolves around what's on sale, and as you know, there are some weeks there aren't any good sales.  Also, my schedule changes on a daily basis, so it's hard to tell one or two weeks in advance if I'm even going to be home...never mind what I'll be in the mood to eat that night!

Instead I do the "stock the house and see what happens" method.  I stock the freezer when meat and chicken are on sale and buy enough fruit and vegetables to get us through a week or two. I also try to have the pantry and fridge stocked with the veggies, spices, and other ingredients I need to make the "default" side dishes that both the kids and I like.

Every morning, after breakfast, I go spelunking into the freezer for a dinner protein.  As I peruse the selections, I ask myself, "What's in here?, "What's in the fridge?",  "Any leftovers that we need to eat?", "What did we eat the last couple of days?", and most importantly, "What am I in the mood for?".  Once the protein is selected, I pick a couple complimentary sides and (TA-DAH!) dinner is planned.

Yes, there are those rare times where the morning is crazy and I forget to take something out.  Those are the nights we have "breakfast for dinner" (eggs, sausage, and fruit) or one of our "emergency meals" (frozen leftovers).  Thankfully, those moments are getting more and more rare as dinner prep is now part of my routine.

So, what about you?  Do you menu plan?  How do you do it?  Does it save you money and time?


  1. I'm like you, I use the "stock the house and see what happens" method. Of course, having no kids, I am not required to feed anyone except myself and M--and half the time we IF anyway. I tried menu planning as well, and it just doesn't work very well for me when I am trying to eat what is on sale--too many variables...

  2. Same here - no meal planning. Stock and go. I go through the ads each week and buy what protein is on sale and freeze it. There is always meat defrosting in a pan in the refrigerator for next dinner. We eat very simply for dinner - meat, protein and maybe a starch.

  3. I'm getting to where I stock the house and just plan as I go, knowing I have everything I need on hand to make about 15 different meals.

    I guess it's a blessing that our grocery store is so gadawful? I can't buy meat there. They constantly freeze and thaw it and don't disclose the previous freeze. So the sales are moot. I can't stock my freezer with their meat.

    We buy all our meat at Costco (fabulous quality) and it comes out about the same as the non sale meat prices in our area.

    I defrost meat for the next three meals, which works well for us. With leftovers and maybe a simple meal (like BLTs) I can stretch it to cover 5 days of dinners.

    Now I'm trying to make our Costco trip cover a month instead of just a few weeks. I think that will cut down on gas at least.


  4. I do like you do--the "reverse menu planning" thing. Rather than shop according to pre-planned menus, I make meals out of what I bought or already have.

    Here's an article on it: http://www.stretcher.com/stories/10/10aug16b.cfm

    The only advance meal planning I do is decide what to defrost for that night.


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