After I posted about my weekly shopping plan, I had a question from a friend:
I have always thought that a weekly menu or shopping trip would be the right way to go but I am lost where to start. Any ideas?
I started to respond on Facebook but it was turning into a lengthy response.. so I'm going to respond by blog post.
I am a firm believer in the weekly menu plan. It just works for us and makes life so much easier. The way I do it is usually around Friday I start thinking of what to eat for the next week - that way if I need to run to the store I'll have plenty of time before that specific meal comes up. I try to do breakfast for dinner one night a week (either pancakes or french toast usually, and normally on Mondays or Tuesdays because these are always busy days), I do calzones every Wednesday after church, and everyone eats leftovers on Sunday nights. That means I only have four nights to fill with food, and usually one of those I can fill with a mystery shop which is even better!
Then I head over to my recipe blog, my freezer, and my pantry. I guarantee I always have cube steak on hand thanks to Stephen's hunting expeditions, which means once every two weeks we'll have cube steak, mashed potatoes and rolls. We always have plenty of chicken which means I'll do a search for "chicken" on my blog, trying to find something the whole family loves. I usually do chicken with green beans and bread. (See a pattern here? I have certain things I always put together because it just makes meal planning that much faster!) We always have plenty of spaghetti so a lot of times I'll look for recipes involving spaghetti too (which means we'll be having homemade garlic bread or french bread!).
One night a week we'll have something unusual - it might be the first time I try a recipe (usually taken from my Pinterest page) or it might be that I got something cheap with coupons so we'll eat out of the freezer (like chicken or a family-size meal).
If I'm going to be buying ingredients for recipes I try to keep it cheap - I'm not going to fix a recipe that will cost me $20 to make. I also usually put it toward the end of the week so I have plenty of time to get to the grocery store.
As for the weekly shopping trip, I have done that and it's so much easier but not very thrifty. Last month, for example, the first week of October I went to Walmart and just bought everything I KNEW we would need for the whole month. I bought five cans of fruit cocktail, ramen noodles for Stephen to take to work, plenty of canned vegetables... the kind of stuff that I don't normally get coupons for and I know they're cheaper at Walmart. But I spent $100 in one shopping trip. It just about made me puke. But I still spent the same amount on groceries for the whole month, so it didn't screw me up or anything.
Also, I am REALLY, REALLY GOOD at not buying impulse items. I am the evil mom who tells her kids they can't get an item because "it isn't on sale" and "I don't have a coupon". I don't let my kids get candy from the register. If I see something I think our family would enjoy (like ice cream or cookies), I don't buy it unless it's under my bottom line price. And honestly, I don't even have a bottom line price for items like that. Store bought cookies are very rarely cheaper than homemade, and ice cream just isn't a necessity in my opinion. Sometimes you just have to choose if you're going to buy produce or ice cream, and guess what... the ice cream loses. Sorry, stomach.
This must run in the family because my sister does this every time we go shopping for clothes. She is really picky about what she's going to buy, and then half the time when we get to the register she starts looking very squinty-eyed at her purchases and 6 times out of 10 she'll say, "Oh, I've changed my mind. I'm not going to get this."
I'm that way with groceries. There have been plenty of times I get to the register and think, "That (blank) is just not worth $4. I'd rather have the $4." and I'll end up not getting the item. The cashier won't talk bad about you (until you've left the store, at least) and you'll have more money in your bank account. You can always go back and get it later.
Anyway, I hope this helps. Comment if you have more suggestions!