Month of Savings #2: Meal Planning and the budget
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
A key to our sanity around here is meal planning. It helps the budget, it helps the hassled mom at 5 pm, it helps us not eat chicken nuggets 6 times a week.

I have a home notebook, and have a tab that says meal planning. It has my menu, a grocery list behind it, and then I started keeping my old menus so they are behind that. I had been scratching it on lined paper, but this form actually helps a lot. (This was the fourth preprinted form I tried. Use what works for you - if this one doesn't, find one that does!)

The key, especially when there are lots of people home all day, is to plan breakfast (even if it's cereal, writing it down helps!), lunch, and snacks. Theoretically, this also helps to prevent everyone from eating all of the lunchmeat the day you come back from the store and having to eat peanut butter for the rest of the week!

Here's my dinner plan for the week. I don't always stick to the "day". Sometimes I fix Friday's dinner on Tuesday, 'cause I'm wild like that.
Sun: Beef and Broccoli, rice Husband dear made this, because Mr P had play practice for the Christmas pageant and since I'm a Sunday School teacher I stuck around to help.
Mon: Roasted chicken
(in the oven. At least it was cold yesterday!)
Tues: Pork Chops (probably with black beans and rice)
Wed: meatloaf, mashed potatoes
Thurs: Spaghetti
Fri: Fish (A real treat! We have fish maybe every 8 weeks, because it is so expensive.)
Sat: Pizza (made ourselves. Husband dear really likes the grownup one I do with basil, olive oil and tomatoes. The kids get sausage and cheese), salad.

Baby X is stuck with Baby mush.

Tuesday is Boy Scout night, so dinner has to be on the table when husband dear gets home at 5:30. Wednesday I have a Bible study, so we're having meatloaf which I made for a family that had a new baby before learning that the father could not eat gluten. Bonus for us! Tuesday and Wednesday need to be quick meal days.

I usually don't plan out a lot of sides. Our starches are basically rice, noodles, or potatoes and I keep a freezer full of veggies. We use two 16 oz. bags of frozen veggies per meal. We love veggies, I've never had a problem getting the kids to eat them. Probably because I cook *just enough* meat, so if they want seconds, it's veggie time. And that's been our habit since they all were small.

I try to not have pasta every single night, which is what would totally happen if I didn't actually write things down and take a critical look. I'm not a carb addict, or anything! :)

Now, after I plan dinners, I plan lunches.
Mon: Tuna Salad, canned carrots (I bribe the children to eat them by putting a spoonful of brown sugar on them before microwaving, which makes them "glazed".)
Tues: was supposed to be Chicken salad (from the bird I roasted last night for dinner) However, I tried a new recipe, that was such a success, the bird was picked clean. So we are having... um... well... hmm. I think we'll have egg salad, applesauce
Wed: Peanut butter and jelly, celery sticks
Thurs: Quesadillas (with black beans and salsa inside)
Fri: Salmon patties. When I was little, and my mom would cook these, I'd call all of my friends up and try to get invited to dinner at their house. If that failed, I'd fake sick. But my kids love them, and you know what? I do too! I like that they use canned salmon, so it's easy to keep in stock. However, it takes two cans to feed us and although the bread crumbs are free, two cans run about $3.00 so it is an infrequent lunch.

We also stopped having lunchmeat for the homeschool ones, because it's expensive! I do still buy it for husband and Mr R, who always wants the exact same thing everyday (homemade lunchables) We do have chicken salad quite a bit! Even if I don't have a bird to pick clean, if I used chicken breast, that's only 1.99/lb. at the most (that's for the individually frozen, boneless, skinless ones) and it is healthier too. Tuna and egg salad are frequent fliers around here too, as are deviled eggs (hey, it's basically egg salad except I don't have to chop the eggs!)

Now, because it is a month of savings, I'm going to go super cheap on the breakfasts and snacks around here. Normally we would have cold cereal and milk 3 or 4 days a week, it makes school easier and faster.

Mon: oatmeal
Tues: chocolate Malt o Meal
Wed: Waffles (really cheap, I make them myself)
Thurs: scrambled eggs
Friday: French toast if there is bread left, otherwise oatmeal.

Apples, pears (both were on sale this week)
Pumpkin bread (had that yesterday)
Chips and salsa
Sweet potato chips (new recipe I'm trying)
Raisin bread

I already have all the ingredients for these things on hand. I am also planning to make granola bars (Mr R's breakfast of choice) and an apple pie. Never tried apple pie, but Granny Smiths were on sale for 68 cents a pound the day after I watched Tyler Florence make a caramel apple one, so I was inspired!

Actually, I've never made a pie crust before or seen it done. I'm going to try, though, as part of my induction into the Good Southern Woman club. Still working on the biscuits though, and haven't even attempted collards.

Another point: my big freezer also is key to my meal planning and grocery planning. I plan my menu from my freezer. I buy meat and veggies based on the loss leaders, but then use the meat to stock my freezer. This way I never pay more than $1.99/lb. for meat (and that only for boneless beef). I pay between 60-75 cents/lb. for a chicken, $1.25/lb. for ground beef, never more than $1.00/lb. for pork roast, and $1.50 for boneless pork. I can only do that if I buy 20-30 lbs. of chicken or whatever when it is on sale.

My family will eat a 7 lb. chicken (or two smaller ones) per meal, and a 10 lb. pork roast will take us through three meals. I use around two pounds of ground beef (73/27) or a pound and a half if it's (93/7), but that's mixed into a spaghetti sauce or tacos where I can stretch it with beans and veggies. I'm planning on two pounds of boneless whiting filets for our fish dinner. This is also where having lots of veggies comes in! They cost around 85 cents- $1.00 a pound for packaged, trimmed, frozen ones, so it is cheaper than meat.

That's for two adults, 4 children, 2 toddlers, and planned leftovers for husband dear's lunch.

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/06/2007 08:27:00 AM | Permalink | |