Meal planning in my house is pretty easy. I look in the cupboard to see what’s available and I make meals based on that. If I can’t think of anything fancy, we will have an old stand-by like pasta. I’ll pick through my cookbooks (of which I have many) and see what I can make out of the ingredients I have on hand and maybe one or two others. I will look at the sales circular for the store at which I shop (I did a price comparison mid-year last year and this one came out cheapest on the most things, plus I have a loyalty card that gets me a % off the top) and see what’s on sale and if I can make anything with that and what’s in my pantry. I generally try to do two weeks at a time. That decreases the amount of grocery shopping I do (thereby saving me money on impulse purchases – I know me), and allows me to plan in leftovers and multiple meals from the same base.
It sounds like a lot but it rarely takes me more than half an hour. I generally know what we have on hand, and a quick peek in the cabinets lets me know if I was right. I will plan one or two new meals a week just to try new things, and the rest will be things I know the family likes. In times like these, when I have collected a supply of ingredients without meals attached to them (I went out and bought vegan-y things when I decided to go vegan but I had no idea what to do with them), I just try to figure out why I bought them. I have an entire cookbook from the 1970’s devoted to beans, that makes those easier to figure out. I bought Asian ingredients with the intention of making some kind of spring roll or won ton thing. I just need to make a decision on which way I want to go. I’m thinking spring roll.
Once I have that planned out, I have looked at the sales flyers and seen what’s on sale that I might want to stock up on in addition to my regular groceries. I had a price book but it needs to be updated. In it I wrote the best prices I had found on many of the things we buy the most. That way I knew whether a deal was really a deal, and how often it would come around. I could then buy as much as I needed to make it to the next sale. If that meant I bought 10 boxes of granola (because my husband likes a specific brand) and the ingredients for the next two weeks’ dinners, so be it. This all helps keep grocery spending down because I am working around what we have and what’s on sale rather than what my whim says I want (usually pizza). The other bonus is that it’s easier than the last minute scramble. Cooking doesn’t usually actually take longer than it would take to get pizza delivered, and it costs less and is healthier. Heck, you can make your own pizza in the time it would take to have one delivered, and my kids like it better. And, by planning out what you are going to have, you can take rushed schedules into account as well as making sure meals are balanced.
I know, I’m preaching to the choir, right? A lot of this is to remind myself of the wonderful reasons to get back to meal planning. It really is easy and quick and will save a ton in delivery and restaurant costs. Heck, I can budget a restaurant meal in with the money we save on groceries.