Since I was married I have always made dinner with the exception of a few times we went out to eat. It was just normal for me to do it because that is what my mother did and her mother taught her. I never realized how much people are willing to spend so they don’t have to cook until I met a friend of mine who constantly went out to eat. As I talked with her I was surprised how much they spent and they felt it was totally normal to do that. I told my husband about our conversation and he was shocked as well because his mother cooked at home as well.
This conversation prompted me to add up how much we really were spending on food because of me cooking. It came out to a couple hundred dollars a month that we saved because I was willing to plan what we were having and take the time to cook it. I really think this was the first step to me becoming conscious of being thrifty.
So how do I do my meal planning. I do mine a month at a time. Others may find it easier to do it for 1 week or 2 weeks, but I find it works best for me to do it for a month and then I don’t have to worry about it for a while. I will always put 2 meals without meat in it each week so that we are having more fruits and vegetables then meat. I also do at least 1 day a week of leftovers. Even though we tend to eat our leftovers for lunches as well, we always seem to have a huge amount of them in the fridge, so a day of leftovers is a must so we get the most out of our grocery budget. When I make my plan I sit down with a calendar from http://www.calendarsthatwork.com/ and my recipe books and start looking through them and writing things down. As I have done this my family has started a list of things we like so I now have that list in front of me as well. We make it a point to try at least 3 new meals a month so we are building our list of meals to pick from so we don’t have the same things all the time.
Once the plan is done I get the grocery list together. We go grocery shopping every 2 weeks because the cheap grocery store is across town and so we make a big trip there and to Costco at the same time. So I make the grocery list for the 2 weeks of planned dinners I have and I make sure to check my stock pile items to see if I don’t need to buy something or need to buy extra of if it is on sale.
Then I go shopping. I have just recently started shopping with a calculator to commit myself to my budget and not go over it being frivolous in my buying. While at the store if I see a sale I always check the other prices of other items that are store brand or off brands to be sure it is a great price for the item I am getting.
Once home and time to get things out for dinner I am able to just go tot he menu and see what is planned get out the recipe and items and start cooking. Some people worry about not feeling like whatever is planned for that night. If that happens to me I can just go to the next day or another day in the 2 weeks and switch the meals. I find this is another reason I like having 2 weeks of meals shopped for.
I think this saves us time, effort and money. When we go shopping we have a list to work off of and don’t stray much from it. This helps with spur of the moment frivolous spending and there is no regret later when we get home and see the price tag on the grocery trip.