|One of my favorite stores. photo: Adventures in Midwestern America|
So it was pretty easy for our food "budget" to get a little out of hand. I've read about families of 3 that can eat on $200 a month. We are not that family. I don't think we will ever be. I refuse to eat crap and I have certain standards when it comes to food, especially produce. I'm not trying to get all "high and mighty," I just know that what goes into our bodies really affects our quality of life. Although, because we have a lot of student loan debt, and want to buy a house sometime before we are 50, we are trying to really stick to our budget.
Enter Meal Planning. I don't really remember what I did before it, and I've not even been doing it that long. I guess I just went to the grocery store, bought a lot of random stuff, and then cooked something from that.
The premise of meal planning is:
- figure out what you will be eating each night of the week
- make a grocery list based on the things you need for that (and lunches/breakfasts)
- buy nothing else (unless you are like me a usually walk away with at least 2 good deals that weren't on the list, no matter how hard I try)
This is how I usually do it:
- I ask my husband what he wants to eat next week. He usually comes up with one idea.
- I figure out what I want to eat next week. I make a list of the days of the week.
- I fill in any days that we may have other dinner plans/be out of town.
- I organize our other meal ideas into the days by what would need to be eaten/cooked first. I also sometimes base the order on what would be easier on a certain night versus what I need longer to prepare (and save those for times my husband would be home to wrangle the baby).
- I look at the sale bills for the grocery stores around our place, and write down what's on sale that we may want to eat/need.
- I make our grocery list based on the meal plan/sale items/what we do not have already.
It's not an exact science, and I've only recently gotten pretty good at it. Cooking for two people is kind of tough. I like to make full recipes, which leaves us with a lot of leftovers (or we eat too much, as is sometimes the case). The positive thing about leftovers is less prep work on other nights, the negative thing is that we may get tired of something before it's all gone. I've found that I really only need to cook 3 or 4 full recipies each week, as leftovers and sandwiches get us through the rest.
I did okay with our food budget last month ($320, spent $350) and I hope to get even better this month!
You can find GREAT meal planning tips and options at OrgJunkie.com