January 11, 2009

Get a Jump Start on Your Week by Menu Planning

I'm a big believer in menu planning because it saves you time, money, and the heart-thumping stress of trying to answer the question, "What's for dinner, Mom?" every night at 5:00 pm.

Menu planning will also save you money in the long run.

Lots of money.

How?

It's simple:

Shop your pantry, shop your freezer, shop the sales.

Before you plan dinner for each night of the week, go poke through your pantry and freezer to see what you already have on hand to use as ingredients for a meal. I'm betting you've got enough ingredients for part, if not all, of one or two meals.

Then list out the days of the week that you know you'll need a family dinner; some nights might be so busy with activities that you know putting together a meal and gathering everyone around the table at the same time would be near impossible. These, my frugal friends, are perfect nights to schedule a leftover cleanout night (round up the leftovers from the week, nuke 'em, and serve 'em buffet style).

For the other nights of the week, plan those dinners. You've already got a little something to work with from your pantry or freezer; now's the time to grab the sales circular for your grocery store (or check the deals at your fave blogger's webjoint) and see what's on sale that you could use in your dinner planning.

Building your menu plan around the sale items each week is an easy way to save money even without coupons.

Of course, using those coupons to get even more off your total will save you even more and sometimes net you a bunch of good stuff for free or nearly free.

But if couponing looks too daunting for you right now, you will save money each week by simply making a menu plan based around the sale items at your local store.

Need help building a menu? Go visit these sites:

Carrie's Cooking

5 Dollar Dinners

Meals

AllRecipes

Once you've got some ideas, grab your pencil, the sale circulars, your family calendar, and get scribbling. Build your list around what you'll need to cook those dinners, plus whatever else you'll need for the week.

Planning is everything in saving money in all facets of your life, but applies particularly well to grocery shopping. Walking into a grocery store without a list built off your menu plan will empty your wallet faster than fast; shopping without a planned list and with small children is double jeopardy. And the grocery stores, God bless 'em, market to and manipulate that very situation for us moms - why do you think all the kiddie-junk is placed right at the eye-level of a child?

Later today, I'll post up my menu plan for the week along with links to recipes and a grocery list you can download and print.

Have a great Sunday, and don't forget to save those coupon inserts!

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