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.
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 iamthatlady.com. 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 coupons.com, coupons.target.com, 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!