Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 3: The Right Way to Menu Plan

Lesson 3: The Right Way to Menu Plan

Menu Planning is plotting out what meals you’ll be preparing ahead of time. Like making a grocery list of two weeks worth of meals, then going to the store and buying everything on the list that you need to prepare those meals. Some people use a chart on the fridge or a calendar and actually plan what day they’ll have what meal ahead of time. I’ve known a few people who menu plan a month at a time. If you asked them on May 1st what they’re making for dinner on May 22nd, they can tell you.

Me personally? You could ask me at 4 o’clock in the afternoon what I’m making for dinner and I still might not know. I do plan my meals, but I don’t go so far as to plan what night I’m fixing what. If you are one of those people who heads to the grocery store and goes up and down the aisles grabbing whatever catches your eye, then traditional menu planning can save you money. You’ll save money by not making extra trips out the store to grab the items you need to complete a meal. Like the night you decide you want to make chicken fajitas and all you have is the chicken. It will also save you money by avoiding eating out because, “There’s no food in this house!”

Let’s say you’ve never menu planned before and you decide you want to give it a shot to make your shopping trip easier and to help you feel more organized. What would you do? Sit down and make a list of two weeks worth of meals and write down all the items you need to make those meals, right? Let’s say that out of the 14 dinners you’ve planned, you’ll be having chicken 6 of those nights. If you go to store and end up paying full price for the chicken, are you really saving? No. Not to mention all of the other items you’ll need to complete each meal that may not be on sale or may be on sale but not for the lowest sale price.

The right way to menu plan is to base your meals on what you already have in the house and what’s on sale for the best prices. When I make my shopping list, I evaluate what I already have on hand and make my grocery list based on what’s on sale for great prices. Then I plan my menu around those sale items. Making this small change in your habits can save you big bucks. It’s not all about couponing, though coupons sure do help. If you’re not menu planning the right way, you’re not going to be saving yourself as much money as you could be. You won’t need to stop fixing your favorite dishes, you’ll just need to be more strategic about when to make them. Once you start stockpiling, you’ll find it really is easy to pull meals together based on what’s on sale and what’s in your pantry. It helps if you actually like to cook too. Sometimes you have to get creative and sometimes your meals might not be exactly gourmet, but you’ll get there.

Remember: The right way to menu plan is to make your grocery list first, then make your menu plan. 

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Stockpiling and Budgets, which go hand in hand with Menu Planning. :)

If you missed the first two CBC posts you can catch up here and here

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