I have had several people ask me about this (mainly because I'm over the top and people like to laugh at me) and recently my friend Maranda asked if I would blog about this, so this one is for her :) And it's about meal planning.
I have found that meal planning for at least 7 days, 10 when I'm really on top of things, is the best method for not blowing the grocery budget. The more you go, the more you spend. And if you go without a plan, omg, who knows what you're going to come out of there with!
So I start with our family calendar-- this is where work stuff, church stuff, appointments, Gabe and Max's activities, mine and Chad's morning/ evenings out of the house, and all vacations are written. I assess the week and make notes of what night I don't need a dinner plan or nights when it will be just Chad (aka frozen pizza night) or just me (aka cereal night). I usually color code it-- each family member has their own color- but this month my pens were MIA because our family artist was "writing a book".
Next, I plan a meal for every night of the week. It's important to plan a leftovers night every 4ish days, too, or else a lot of food will go to waste. Chad isn't a huge fan of leftovers, so I try to take what I can in my lunch, since I have access to a fridge and microwave at work. And I'm not above bribing him with ice cream or another treat if he cleans his leftovers plate :) Also, some nights are "easy" food, with just a few ingredients (like hamburgers, buns, sweet potato fries and baked beans)- that's a major money saver- while other nights are yummy recipes which are meals to look forward to (like baked ziti with spinach and bread).
Then, once the meals are planned, it's time for the grocery list. I start with breakfast and lunch, opening the pantry and the fridge to assess what we need-- I write down EVERYTHING because if it's not on the list, it doesn't get bought! (That's a rule, or else you'll make impluse buys like crazy-- especially if you're hungry!) Then I move to dinner-- I get out the cookbooks and recipes for every meal I planned and add all ingredients to my grocery list after making sure that I don't already have it in my kitchen.
And lastly, I note everything on my board-- I have day of the week magnets, the meal plans are listed under it in black and any "plans" we have they may affect a meal are written in red.
(**Coupons are great- especially if you shop at Publix because they double them. I tried it, and it was great. But it's just not doable at this stage of life for me-- I've decided that other things have priority-- but if you have time, you WILL notice a big difference! Also, watch for sales on staple items-- for instance, we always eat cereal and juice boxes for Gabe's lunch- so when they're on sale, I buy a lot and I don't buy them when they're not on sale. Everything goes on sale at some point, and Publix has GREAT buy one get one free sales.)
Lastly, when you come up with a new meal idea, write it down-- I just keep a little spiral notebook in with my cookbooks-- that way you're not always scratching your head for meal ideas. And then you can rotate them in and out when you're in the mood, that way you don't have the same 7 meals each week. For a while, I feel like we had taco night once a week and eventually my mexican food loving family was OVER IT! The notebook provides a plethora of ideas that you only have to think of once, and it's less work for your brain :) And when you just can't think of that one last meal idea for a week, ask your hubby what he's in the mood for-- Chad always comes up with something that I never would have!
Welcome to the newly wed world Maranda-- you're a great wife and steward of what God has given you all :) Love you!