How do you save money on food costs in your home? Do you use coupons? Only buy sale items? Purchase items in bulk?
For our family, one of the best ways we save money on grocery items is to plan our menus. Menu planning is a simple task that can be done weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly. It will not only save you money when you go shopping, but will save you a considerable amount of time in the kitchen.
How Menu Planning Works
Menu planning is very easy, I promise. If you want to plan a weekly menu, sit down once a week and write up all of the meals that you will be making for the week coming up. If you are planning for one month, set aside some time at the end of every month to prepare for the month ahead.
Include breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks and desserts. The more detail you include in your menu plan, the easier that meal preparation will be.
Try to create your menus based on what is on sale at your local grocery stores, to save even more money.
The best way to make menu planning work for you is to simplify your menu planning routine. There’s no reason to make a fairly simple task into something complicated and time consuming.
Following are ways to make menu planning easier.
Create your plan once.
Sit down once per week/month to create your menu. It’s best if you do so at the very end of the week/month, to prepare for what’s ahead. It’s also a good idea to prepare your menu plans at the same time every week/month. I create our menu plan every Sunday night and it’s good until the following Sunday.
I also suggest setting a time limit for your menu planning. I’ve noticed that sometimes while I am planning our weekly menu, I will start looking for recipes and come across a new cooking blog that looks interesting, and the next thing you know an hour has gone by and I only have one thing written down on my menu plan.
I now set a limit of 1 hour total to plan our menu for the week. This is more than enough time (it often only takes me about 30 minutes) to get something down on paper.
If you are planning a menu for more than just yourself, be sure to include the other person/people in your menu planning process. Ask them if there is something specific they would like to have (or would NOT like to have!) and keep those requests in mind when creating your menu plan.
Purchase ingredients ahead of time.
Once you have created your menu plan, be sure to make a note of which ingredients you will need to purchase to make that plan a success. It’s always best to use what you currently have on hand, but if you are low on food, or only need a handful of items to make your menu plan work, be sure to purchase those items before you need them.
Avoid going to the store every day or every other day to pick up one or two things. Purchase everything you need for the week/month in one shopping trip to save yourself time and money.
Have a list of “recipes to try” and “favourites” handy.
Always keep a binder or folder on your computer full of new recipe ideas that you would like to try, so that you always have inspiration when you are creating your menu plan.
Eating the same meals day in and day out can get boring after awhile, so I encourage you to try making at least one new recipe every week.
It’s also important to keep all of your favourite recipes in one spot as well, so if you are ever stumped for a meal idea, you can just add in one of your favourites.
Have theme nights.
A simple way to make menu planning easier is to have theme nights. For example:
- Monday: Stew/Soup
- Tuesday: Mexican
- Wednesday: Italian
- Thursday: Pizza
- Friday: Breakfast
- Saturday: Crockpot
- Sunday: Leftovers or Freezer Meal (Read more about freezer cooking here.)
Theme nights are extremely helpful in simplifying your menu planning routine.
Remember that the point of menu planning is to save yourself time and money. Don’t make the process so complicated that you will dread doing it.
The more simple your menu planning routine, the more likely that you will be able to stick with it and save your family some money.