Monday, January 6, 2014

A New Take on Meal Planning: Week 1

So I decided to try something new for my grocery shopping and meal planning this year.  Instead of doing one month at a time like I used to do, I'm starting the year by planning 4 weeks.  Each week, I'll plan one week to add on the end.  So, I'll always have 4 weeks of planned meals.

Why?  First, this gives me some flexibility.  If I just don't have time on the day I want to plan, it's not a huge deal.  I can put it off a day or two.  Second, sales!  If I have more than this week's groceries planned out, I can shop sales, coupons, etc. in advance.

So, how do I do this?  I have a monthly meal calendar in my planner (missed that post?  Find it here.) I use that to write out my dinner plans.

I don't really plan breakfast or lunch.  I have things I keep on hand for both.  Breakfast: eggs, bacon, cereal, bread, milk.  Lunch: salad mix, chicken that I've grilled, celery, dressings, soup (either canned or leftover and frozen), crackers, fresh fruit, and sometimes Hormel Compleats for a treat.  So here are my steps for creating my meal plans:

1.  Fill in Church Dinner on Wednesdays.  Our church has a community dinner every Wednesday before the kids' programs.  It's a great way to meet new people and fellowship with friends.  Plus the food is good!  If you don't have a night where you have a church or community meal, you could always have a pizza night or McDonald's night or just generic eating out night.  That makes one night a week really simple.

2.  Fill in special meals.  This month is J's birthday, so we'll go out that night.  We also have a pizza party for cub scouts.  Plus, on Saturday's when we have nothing going on, we like to do our Disney movie nights.

3.  Go through the freezer.  I look at what meat I have on hand and what meals from my cooking co-op I have.  Right now I have a lot from co-op.  I got a lot in November, and with the car accident, we didn't do a lot of cooking.  So, I have those to use up, plus we meet tonight so I'll get all of January's. I fill these in where I want to use them.

4.  Fill in the remaining nights with tried-and-true recipes or things I've found online that look good.  I have a huge recipe board on Pinterest that I've hardly cracked! ;)

So here is my meal plan for the next 4 weeks.  Meals with * are co-op meals.  You can either fill in a different main dish, find a similar recipe, or if you ask I might share! :)

5.  Make a grocery list.  This may be the long way, but I like to write down EVERYTHING I need so I can double check my pantry.  All spices, everything.  I use a printable shopping list I found on Pinterest from  I print off a new one each week, write the dates at the top and fill out the groceries for week #4.  So I'm actually working from 4 lists at a time...but more on that later.

6.  For the current week (week 1), go through the pantry/fridge/freezer and cross off what I already have.

7.  Once I have my list of things I need, I go through adds and coupons.  I usually go through the weekly adds for the 3 stores I do my shopping at first and look for good sales (Target, Fareway, and HyVee).  I also look for Fuel Saver items at HyVee.

8.  Coupons!  I use,, and digital coupons from the Target app and HyVee site.

9.  Apps.  I use both Cartwheel by Target and Ibotta.

10.  Once I've marked everything that has a sale, coupon, cartwheel, Ibotta, or Fuel Saver, I sort things by store in Shopper on my phone and I'm ready to go.  Anything not marked goes on the Fareway list, since things tend to be a little less expensive there.

And that's it!  Here is the grocery list this week's trip.  I've marked the coupons and such that I've found.  Hope it helps!  Once I take off the things I have on hand, I'm left with a pretty short list!

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