I’ve been writing the past few weeks about our weekly meal plan and how it’s a new thing for me to shop weekly instead of daily. (I know I haven’t shared meal plans in a couple of weeks now. That’s due to a number of factors, but we’re back on track for eating at home this week, so I’ll post a meal plan later this week or early next.) For anyone else in a similar situation, I thought I’d share how I do it. It’s not revolutionary, but it might just be a way to nudge you in the direction of making a similar move.
The first thing I do is make a list of 14 meals (7 lunches and 7 dinners). These are in no particular order, and they may or may not be something we’ve eaten in the past. My favorite places to go for recipes are AllRecipes.com, my copy of Supermarket Healthy, or to blogs that I know post menu plans (Homemaking Organized and Confessions of a Homeschooler, usually). When choosing recipes, I select things that are based on items we have on hand already (staples or ingredients that didn’t get used during a previous week) or that are budget-friendly. For example, we eat more chicken than beef because chicken (even boneless, skinless breasts) cap out at about $3 a pound, whereas beef (even ground beef with a high fat content) starts at $4-5 a pound. If this is different where you live, by all means, go by what’s best for your budget in your area.
Next, I go through my list and decide which meal we’ll eat on which day. This is usually just a random thing, unless something sounds especially good. That item will get put near the beginning of the week. Once the menu is made (and I just do this on regular notebook paper), I start making my list.
For the list, the first thing I do is go through the menu and write down all the meat we’ll need. This is often the base of the meal. I put all of those items on the upper-left of my notebook paper. If a certain kind of meat is used in more than one meal, I put that number in parentheses. After the meat is figured out, I go through the menu one item at a time, thinking through all the ingredients needed for each dish. If we don’t have them on hand, I write the ingredients on my list, in categories: produce, bulk, deli/dairy/frozen, and aisles (including the bakery).
When I get to the store, I follow my list by department, not by the exact order I’ve written it down. The way our store is organized, I first hit the produce, then bulk, meat, deli/dairy/frozen, and finally the aisles on my way to the checkout line. The bakery is last; I don’t want want to squish my bread underneath all that produce and canned food! Following this method, it takes me about an hour to complete the shopping for the whole week.
After this is all done, the hard part commences: putting it all away at home!
Do you have a special method for planning and shopping for your family’s meals?