Do You Have a Menu Plan?

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do you have a meal planWhat’s on the menu plan for tonight? You don’t already know? Then you must not have a meal schedule. I made up a menu plan some time ago because I was sick of wondering what was for dinner all the time. Now don’t get me wrong, I sometimes still don’t know because I don’t feel like making what’s on the schedule, but more often than not, I have all the ingredients to make any of the dishes on my plan and I can pick and choose what I want on any particular day, if need be.

Is a Menu Plan Complicated?

Your menu plan doesn’t have to be elaborate. Meaning, you can just do a dinner one, like I do or you can plan out every single meal; breakfast, lunch and dinner. At my house, since there are only 2 of us, breakfast and lunch are free-for-alls. You can do a weekly one or a monthly menu plan. I prefer monthly because then I don’t have to worry about it until next month. Truth be told, I have 3 monthly plans put together, that I use per quarter, all broken down by ingredients needed, but again, you can stick to one and use it every month until you get into the swing of it. The reason I do 3 is because I bore easily, but since I also stockpile for 3 months at a time, for most things, I can see how many of each ingredient I need for all my meals for a quarter and then shop accordingly when a sale comes up. If it’s an item that doesn’t parish for over a year, I’ve even been known to stock up for a year on that food, knowing I’ll rotate my meal plans every quarter, if it’s at a fantastic price.

Start out your menu plan by making a list of all your family’s favorite dishes. Still need ideas? Research recipes online. I’ve also gotten a lot of great recipes on there from fellow Wiz Kidz; Try Chicken Yumm! The ultimate comfort food dish! Another favorite of mine is I don’t even buy cookbooks anymore; I just search online for great recipes, print them out and put them in a binder.

Do you have a menu plan

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Once you have a month’s worth of meals on your menu plan, or a week’s worth if you’re going that route, break your meals down by ingredients. I do this all on a spreadsheet. I posted a photo of one page of my menus from one of my month’s plans above. Again, you can do this by hand, but since I’m a spreadsheet nut like Wizard Cyndi, I have this all in Excel. This also makes it dead easy to sort by meal, ingredient, month, or make & print out a shopping list whenever. Plus, talk about easily updating everything! But I digress.

Breaking Your Meal Plan Down by Ingredients

Once you have all your meals broken down by ingredient, group the ingredients together (see a sample from my plan below) and then count the number you need of everything. There will be perishables you won’t be able to stock up on, but use your imagination for some. For instance, you can freeze a lot of items. Wizard Valarie put together this great list of freezable items in her Freezer Friendly Foods post. One thing I do is once I have my list together, and know how much produce I need, I hit up a local farmer’s market. I get what I need, come home and chop, portion, seal press w/ my Foodsaver and freeze a lot of the ingredients for later in the month. Farmer’s markets are so much cheaper than buying produce at the grocery store and so much fresher too!

Do you have a menu plan

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Tying your Meal Plan into Your Stockpile List

Hopefully most of you couponers/stockpilers already have your Stockpile Price and Stockpile Quantity lists all up and running. After you’ve made your menu plan, it’s a simple as adding those products and the number needed to your Stockpile Quantity sheet or updating the stockpile number to reflect the new amount necessary to make your meals and then hit up the sales as they come around. You may not be able to get everything on sale your first couple months. Just buy as little as you need for that month’s meals and stock up fully when the sale comes around. Pretty soon, you’ll have enough in stock to work your plan for as many months as you want.

That’s my meal plan in a nutshell. When a new dish comes up that we love, I add it to my menu plan by taking off something that has gotten old and updating all my lists. This way we don’t tire of eating (as if) and it keeps it interesting throughout the year. I should also add that a lot of the meals we like are also duplicated during the months, so no, I don’t have 90 dinners all planned out! You can if you want though. The possibilities are endless!

Until next time, Shop Happy!

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