Simplifying Grocery Shopping & the Benefits of Monthly Menu Planning

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Loading the kids into the car is a significant endeavor – making sure we have a clean diaper, putting on socks, shoes, coats, and finally loading them in and strapping them into car seats. The whole process may take up to 30 minutes of my day. Pack a quick snack, an extra diaper, and we are off. Arriving at our destination, it takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes to remove children from the car to the grocery cart. Halfway through the store, child #2 begins to melt down. The snack holds them over temporarily (and yes, I feed them at home before we left!). By the end of the store excursion, child #1 has to use the bathroom. Ten minutes later we are back to the store aisles. And we are only at stop number one of the intended three. Does this sound familiar? After going through this experience numerous times prior, I decided it was time to make a better strategy for grocery shopping. I have been practicing these methods for over a year now, and can highly recommend it!

1. Limit your trips.

Why not make it easier on your stress levels by limiting our trips to the store? Consider starting with a weekly trip and see if you can gradually stretch it.

2. Limit your stops.

Why do we find it necessary to visit three different grocery stores to get all our groceries? Many times it may be due to various prices differences at each location, coupons, or sales. When you really think about it, is the extra time involved and the added stress of loading and unloading really worth it? When I stepped back to compare: driving, extra gas, and the added tiredness that entailed were not necessary. Find a store that you can make all your purchases, adapt your menu so that you can get all the ingredients at one location and stick with it. It will be well worth it – your whole family will be more joyful as a result.

3. Order online.

It is becoming so much easier now to actually order your groceries online. How sweet is that? Check out Safeway, New Seasons (local natural grocery in the Portland metro area), Organics to You, and other online delivery systems. Ask around in your area. Many will allow you to order online and you can pick up in store to save on delivery fees, but also save you all the time and effort of touring the store. For a busy mommy, that sounds like a wonderful alternative.

4. Make a menu plan. Make a monthly plan for real simplicity.

I have been a huge advocate of monthly menu planning and my mission was only re-affirmed after a recent season of carelessness in this area which had to lead to sky-rocketing grocery bills and frequent trips to the store. Menu planning in general is definitely not my favorite activity. I would much rather just be in the kitchen preparing the food rather than planning what to make. But taking the time to plan your menu not only ultimately saves you significant time, but it will also help save you money. Why not take a simple step to simplify it for yourself?

Where to Start?

1. Start with a simple plan.

If you are new to menu planning, please start by beginning with just a weekly menu plan, and once you are comfortable with that to adjust to two weeks. Start your weekly plan by making a list of 7 dinners, 7 breakfasts and 7 lunches. Lunches can be mainly leftovers from the previous dinner if you make a bit extra. Breakfasts can be the same each week as we do it (see examples below). After you can make that work, build a monthly menu plan and work with the seasons. You will learn how much your family needs to make it through two weeks. You will also learn to stretch your food purchases in amazing and creative ways.

2. Figure out dinner themes to work from.

I have found it extremely helpful to start out my menu planning by making daily dinner themes. That way I had something to work around. I make a vegetable and rice stir fry or main dish salad every Monday, adding variation with different vegis and sauces. Tuesdays is always soup night, served with a biscuit or muffin. Increasing soups in your diet is an excellent way of increasing nutrition but also keeping the budget down. Fridays is pizza theme each week for family night. Making a large batch and serving it for different lunches or freezing a portion for another meal is also making the most of your time in the kitchen. Here are a few ideas:

Dinner Themes:

Monday – Stir Fry/Main Dish Salad
Tuesday – Soup
Wednesday – Fish/Lentils
Thursday – Mexican/Chicken/Casserole
Friday – Special Dinner – Pizza
Saturday -BBQ
Sunday – leftovers or eat out

Other themes could include: crockpot, Italian, etc. I have heard other creative ideas such as Meat Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. Have fun and be creative! Anything to make meal planning enjoyable for your household.

Keep your breakfast and lunch plan simple by rotating the same schedule each week. Here is ours:

Breakfasts:

Monday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Tuesday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Wednesday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Thursday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Friday – Eggs or French Toast
Saturday – Pancakes
Sunday – Granola (a quick breakfast before church)

Lunches:

Lunches are a bit more flexible, as often times we will have leftovers on hand to eat from a previous meal, but if not, I keep the ingredients on hand for these ideas:

Monday – Ham & Cheese sandwiches, fruit/vegi
Tuesday – Egg Salad Sandwiches, juiced vegi & fruit
Wednesday – Salmon Melts or Tomato Soup & grilled cheese/ham sandwiches, fruit, salad
Thursday- Quesadillas, burritos, or baked potato bar (chili, cheese, lettuce, misc toppings)
Friday – Peanut Butter & Jelly or regular sandwiches
Saturday – Leftovers (Saturday is generally leftover day or clean out the fridge day)

3. Make a list of 4 ideas for each of those themes.

Now simply collect ideas for 4 weeks of recipes around those themes. Chicken Ceasar Salad, Taco Salad, Cobb Salad are some of our Monday choices. Jot them down on your monthly calendar.

4. Compile a master shopping list for the items needed to make those meals.

Go through each recipe and make a master shopping list of all the ingredients required. Now each month you have the same list of groceries, and you can keep a memorized list on your computer, phone, or notebook. You can see my master grocery list here. We use the Shopper app for its usefulness in organizing our shopping to the tee – aisle by aisle and keeping track of the costs in one.

5. Limit your shopping to one major stocking day, and one small refiller day in a months time!

A easy plan is to shop at the beginning of the month for all your staples, toilet paper, body products, meats, and dairy and produce for two weeks. I have found produce and dairy can last for two weeks successfully. Then make one extra stop halfway through the month to restock on produce and dairy. Or if you have a local farmer’s market, or farm stand, that would be a even better alternative.

6. Build a new monthly plan with each season.

You will appreciate the variety if you build a new monthly menu plan for each season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. In this manner you can incorporate the more comfort foods for winter, and the light refreshing foods for summer. You can stick with a Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter plan as well, as I have done in the past. Now you only have to plan a menu 2-4 times a year! How nice is that? Care to join me? For inspiration, check out my Winter monthly menu plan and Spring/Summer plan from previous years.

I have experienced it first hand that doing a monthly menu plan can definitely save you money. I have saved at least $100 per month pursuing this method – which is certainly useful when you are striving to eat naturally on a budget.

Those are just some of my practical ideas for simplifying the grocery shopping adventures!

What tips do you have to share?

Other Menu Planning Ideas & Resources:

Weekly Menu Planning – by Crystal Paine
Healthy & Frugal Menu Planning Help Part 1
& Part 2- by Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
Printable Monthly Menu Form

Printable Weekly Menu Form

Menu Planning: Saving Time in the Kitchen
Menu Planning Made Easy

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

62 Responses to Simplifying Grocery Shopping & the Benefits of Monthly Menu Planning

  1. Amanda Phillips June 4, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    My family is about to make a shift back to living in America after 9 years in India. I am a bit intimidated about the cost of living and eating healthy there. It currently cost us about $150 a month for food. Thank you for your blog! I am gaining a bit more confidence that I can feed my children well and not spend so much $. We are very dedicated to eating fresh and having little packaged food. Your helpful hits are very welcomed! I even tried you deodorant recipe today. We’ll see how it goes! It’s really hot this time of year here!

  2. Fabiola May 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Just thought I’d pass along this awesome and free website…mealsmatter.org
    It is an easy tool for compiling your shopping list and meals.

  3. Allegra May 8, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Thank you for these tips! For like 3 weeks I was doing really well with menu planning. The longest I’ve ever gone! Then I started slipping… Time to start again- it does save so much time. Not sure I can cut out my 3 grocery store trips though…I can probably narrow it down to 2 :) the store that carries all organic produce doesn’t have any meat! And at this same store, anything in a box/package/jar is literally 3x the price as other stores in the neighborhood.

    I’m so impressed that you can plan out an entire month of food! Wow! Inspiration to try again :)

    • Allegra May 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

      I like your idea of shopping for meat at the beginning of the month… I guess I would just stock the freezer! But then I the kind of person that forgets to pull stuff out of the freezer to thaw the night before, forgets to soak the beans… ugh- I’m a mess!

  4. Kasha May 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    I was wondering how you make your produce last this long? I I buy lettuce and it is out within a week!

  5. Jessica May 8, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    I buy all dry goods, paper goods, and toiletries that I can via Amazon Subscribe and Save. Discount, no sales tax, shows up at my door! My grocery shopping list has been cut in HALF!

  6. Katie February 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Lindsay,
    Where do you go for your bulk trip at the beginning of the month? For example, do you go to a Wal-mart for toilet paper/staples…or do you go to a big natural food store for all those things. And if so, is it reasonable priced? Do you have a “staple and toiletries” grocery list that you use despite the season?

  7. Judy@Savoring Today October 13, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    I would add, don’t do it alone. Find a friend to do monthly cooking with –helps share bulk items and you have great meals (mostly done) to freeze. My neighbor and I have been cooking together for 13 years, we use MasterCook to organize our menu and shopping. Above all, the friendship that has grown has truly blessed us both.

  8. Heather January 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    I’m intrigued that Sunday is your eat out day – I assumed you were Christian? Perhaps you are SDA or something. Otherwise, I don’t agree that the Sabbath is the appropriate time to force others to work for my enjoyment!

    • Lindsay January 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

      We are Christians, but I don’t believe I am forcing them to work. Eating out on Sunday is actually very restful for us, and I believe that is in line with God’s design for the Sabbath.

      • Danielle B June 26, 2011 at 4:47 am #

        I’m w/Lindsay. The workers are there working as it’s their job. We can’t force anyone to work for us. Unless they are our employees. :-) And we out on Sundays as well, my husband doesn’t like me to have to cook on Sundays.

        I can’t tell you have many countless times we ministered to the waiteress/waiter. And that would never have happened if we NEVER went to eat out on Sunday.

    • Cynthia October 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      Heather,

      Perhaps the worker takes their Sabbath on another day because Sunday is a work day for them? I think it is possible to honor our God with a day of rest one day of the week – whatever day that may be :) . Could be that worker feels very blessed just to have a job, be able to work, to receive the tip, etc. Just some thoughts…..

      Blessings!

  9. Ashley October 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    I love meal planning, it really helps when you are on a strict budget. I took it a step further and went to my favorite store and wrote down the prices of all the items I use and put it into a spread sheet. That way I know exactly how much I am going to spend before I go.

  10. jenne September 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    Thank you for this post! I was inspired by it to try a two week menu plan. I’m convinced it’s saved me a ton of money over the past 2 weeks, and it’s made the pre-dinner afternoon time so much more peaceful! My oldest just started kindergarten and I have 6 weeks until my 3rd is due, make things more peaceful is SO valuable right now.

  11. Randi September 24, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    I just wanted to let you know for anyone in the Cincinnati or Indianapolis area there is a company called Green B.E.A.N Delivery. http://www.greenbeandelivery.com/ They deliver organic, natural, and local when possible items to your door! We love them! They deliver once a week.

  12. April in Autumn September 22, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    I’ve just recently started menu planning (just for 1 though) so this post was very timely! Thanks for all the info. I especially like the idea for making theme nights. Can’t wait to put that into practice next week.

  13. kl September 21, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Meal plans are great. But what really helped us is the walking distance to the grocery store. It is a luxury we have and use. We do our grocery shopping these days as a family – it takes more time, but the kid loves to be able to help (he actually runs around the store and puts stuff to cart. It just takes constant attention from the other parent that he takes the right stuff…) That avoids meltdowns and gives the child a sense of pride and accomplishment.

    One more thing that we don’t often do but I’d like to: have ingredients delivered. A veggie basket once a week, say, and all dry ingredients from web store. (I’ve done that before and it works wonders. And grains etc you only need to order a couple of times a year.) Then grocery store trips would become even easier – just dairy, fish, and meat. And bread (thoug I must try your recipes some day :)

  14. Amber Cullum September 21, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    This is so helpful for me. Unlike a lot of the other comments I have not done a meal plan. I have been “putting my toes in the water” for a few months, but am finally ready to jump in. My husband and I want to save money and time in the area of grocery shopping/food prep, so this along with couponing is one of our first steps. I have prepared a meal plan for the next two weeks and am getting ready to go to the store when my son wakes up from his nap.

    I hope to set themes over the next few days (with my husbands input), because I can see how that would make planning and prep so much easier.

    Thank you for the tips and encouragement.

  15. Christy September 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    Okay, I am definitely a menu planner, but I just can’t seem to stretch it longer than 1 week. I tried planning 2 weeks’ worth of menus at a time, but my fridge was SO FULL of produce, that we could barely find anything, and stuff we couldn’t see in the back spoiled, and we all got super frustrated anytime we were searching in the fridge during the first week, that I think my husband was relieved when I went back to doing 1 week plans.

    Any suggestions? How on earth do you make room for everything in your fridge doing it monthly??

    • Lindsay September 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

      It takes a little practice. It appears like you may have bought too much produce if some went bad before you used it. Our fridge will definitely be full, but we only buy the staples on a monthly basis and most of those go in the freezer or cupboards. The only thing I really keep in my fridge is produce – to tell you the truth. We keep condiments, milk, yogurt, butter, and a few other basics in the fridge but not much else. I have two shelves and my drawers usually full of produce at most times.

  16. Sarah September 19, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    I don’t know if I could do this. However, I do have to pick up my older children from school every day, so since I am out with my youngest already I can stop by the store on the way once or twice a week.

    Mostly, I love menu planning, using up whatever is in my pantry while making use of store specials, garden produce, etc. (Not forgetting pizza night every week!) “Make a monthly menu plan for real simplicity” sounds really tempting, though. :)

  17. Dream Mom September 18, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    Great post, Lindsay!

    I nipped the multiple shopping trips in the bud many years ago, mainly out of necessity. My son is disabled so a shopping trip meant getting the wheelchair in/out of the car and lots of lifting. It was two lifts (in/out of the car) per store and I could never do more than three stops in one day because I’d be exhausted since he was getting older.

    Years ago, I used to shop by price-so I’d pick the top 20 items I’d buy most often and do a price check at each of the stores once. I’d add them up and select the store that had the best prices for the items that I used the most often. While price is still important to me, I shop more for organic food or high quality food now. Now I pick the best store where I can get the highest quality food and then a second store where I can get some staples at a good price.

    I detest menu planning however I have assigned different types of food to each day of the week (Chicken one day, Bison another, Vegan day, Fish day, etc.) I keep a master menu plan for ideas so on a chicken day, the master menu plan might list five different meal options such as Option 1, Option 2, etc. These options are favorite recipes that I use. Then, when I create a menu plan, I pick one of the options from each one, trying to use a different one each week.

    I also keep menus from one or two favorite restaurants to help me with planning. For example, I love salads for lunch and this one market/restaurant near my home had wonderful summer salads-I saved the menu since it gave me ideas on different types of salads to make and what dressings to pare with them.

  18. Danielle September 17, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    I’m excited, yesterday I was looking through a local organic grass fed animal website (which I sort of found through you site!) They even carry kefir grains and the like! And there is even a “milkman” who will deliver meats, and chickens to your door! (and of course milk!)

    But I did want to know if these prices were too high:

    Gallon of raw milk $6.50
    Wedge of raw cheddar cheese $9.99
    Super lean ground beef (95/5) per lb $4.99
    Whole chickens (per lb) $3.50 (avg size 6-7.5 lbs)
    1lb of “true” raw honey (glass jar) $6.95
    Kefir grains $8.00

    What’s the difference w/regular honey and creamed honey?

    Thanks Lindsay!

    • Danielle September 17, 2010 at 11:07 am #

      I should say this is just a few of the items they have here is the complete listing:

      http://www.yourfamilycow.com/food-list.html

      • Stephanie March 15, 2011 at 8:50 am #

        Danielle or Lindsey,

        The http://www.yourfamilycow.com site is great but they only service PA. I have been dying to find something like this that will deliver where I live (NE Florida) but have yet to find anything. Thank goodness I found Breakbreckers.com where I can able to buy bulk grains and beans but I am still looking for a dairy and specialty meat source. I have been searching high and low. Do you know how I could find one?

        You north-westerners and north-easterners are so lucky to have businesses like Azure Standard and Neshaminy Valley as organic food distributors. There has to be someone who services the southeast?

        • Stephanie March 15, 2011 at 8:52 am #

          Opps. I meant to type Breadbeckers*

  19. Becky September 17, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    Great idea, especially for me, a mom of 2 boys under 2 yrs old :) . I’ve always tried limiting myself to one store but alot of items are more expensive that way, so I think I’ll rotate stores on different weeks or order online. QUESTION: I’m new to buying organic stuff and I’m trying to find an online organic store that delivers nationally but I’m having trouble (I live in Maine), do you use any national websites or just local websites? TIP: I haven’t seen anybody suggest this, but I have found that the dollar store in my area is great for buying non-food items like tissues, paper cups, body wash… it is definitely going to be one of my monthly stores!

    • Lindsay September 17, 2010 at 7:12 am #

      I would recommend you check out Bob’s Red Mill, or Amazon Grocery (they sell alot of Bob’s Red Mill products and other natural grains and products).

  20. Melle September 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    Thanks so much for this post! This is exactly the organization I’ve been needing for this aspect of life!

  21. carmen @ life blessons September 16, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    You were the one who first inspired me to start trying plan my meals, and it’s been so great!! When I don’t, it is such a disaster to try to throw something together at the last minute! One thing I’ve used to streamline my meal-planning is to make a drop-down menu in Excel (I know, dork alert), but it really makes thing SO simple!

    I blogged about it awhile ago with a link to the download: http://lifeblessons.blogspot.com/2010/01/helpful-homemaking-tip-meal-planning.html

  22. Robin September 16, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    I have been meaning to do something like this for awhile – this is a great push for me to make it happen! I think the change to autumn inspires me to get more organized at home. Thanks for the links and the guides, looking forward to trying it out. :-)

  23. Amy Lynne September 16, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    I am a monthly planner and it is wonderful! I do a major shopping trip to Costco and Winco around my payday and then Farmer’s Market weekly to get out raw milk and produce we need. I shop at WInco to get our bulk goods and deli needs only about twice a month now. It has been awesome to be able to stay out of the store for most of the month.

  24. Sarah September 15, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    I just have to share this very cute tutorial I found today on how to make a Meal Planning Board for your fridge or wall. Check it out at mealplanningmommies.com

    :<)

  25. Prerna September 15, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Lovely tips.. I’m totally with you on the menu planning thing. However, I’ve been doing it weekly so far but your monthly plan makes things a lot easier and economical as well. Will try this starting October and will keep you posted:-)
    Thanks for sharing this, Lindsay.

  26. Leann Arthur September 15, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    I do all my shopping at one store, then once a month I go to the meat store and stock up. That works for us!

  27. Cinnamon September 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    I just had to laugh at the preparing the diaper bag, loading and unloading the kids, going to the bathroom right etc… All too familiar in our life as well.

    Great ideas for any size family. I use to shop with 7 children. There was no one to leave them with. I would have left them if there was. But no, we took up the entire isle while shopping. They were all so little then. Now we have 9 children with one due in Feb. I now only shop with an average of 5 children, ages 6 -14, and they are such a help.

    Funny thing is we still have loading/unloading issues……they are just different :-)

    Thanks for the encouragement to spend less and work smarter and for the laugh~

    ~Cinnamon

    • Lindsay September 16, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

      Yes, I can definitely see them coming in handy when they are older! Our shopping trips will be a breeze! ;)

  28. Shonda September 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    This is wonderful. I really need to sit down and do this so I don’t feel so chaotic!

  29. Colleen September 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    Thanks so much for this primer! I am gradually getting more organized in my life and your blog is helping me every step of the way! I used to do a weekly meal plan but drifted off the path. Now I’m inspired to try the monthly plan. Limiting trips to the store will certainly help us save some cash!

  30. Rebecca (Craving Simplicity) September 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    I’m pretty good about planning weekly dinners, but I never plan breakfast or lunch! This is really helpful…I’m on the hunt for a lot of good lunch ideas. Breakfast is pretty easy, but I always resort to leftovers for lunch which I’d rather do for a second dinner to stretch our money! :)

    • Whopper September 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

      I completely agree. Non-boring but easy lunches that don’t make a dish mess are hard to come up with.

  31. Julie September 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    What about snacks? Do you schedule those as well?

    • Lindsay September 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

      No. I usually just make protein bars, homemade crackers with cheese and fruit leather regularly.

      • Julie September 17, 2010 at 5:09 am #

        Makes sense. Thanks for responding. I am definitely going to work on this. My 4th is due any day and I needed a plan like this!

  32. Bethany September 15, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    Do you have suggestions for people that use CSAs with menu planning. I get a weekly box on sat. I never know what I’m getting until the Monday before usually in afternoon. I do a lot of having basic ingredients on hand and then flying by the seat of my pants. We eat almost all meals from scratch at home. I’ve been wanting to plan more but find it a little hard with the unknowns. I have four kids. One is a toddler one a baby and two homeschooling so my time is limited.

    • Lindsay September 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

      Yes, we did that method for about a year and found that it was easy enough just to schedule veggies as stemmed veggie, fresh salad, or roasted veggie, and then just work with what we got in the CSA box to fill those slots. This usually meant we ate more simple main dishes, fish, meat, or something and all the veggies were on the side. You can plan out your main dishes for sure, and if they require some veggies, you can try purchasing frozen veggies. That is what I would use for casseroles and such as they preserve the most nutrients in their frozen state. Hope that helps!

  33. Rachel September 15, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Perfect timing! I just decided to try and do a monthly menu this past week. I’ll start it on Sunday :) I’m hoping it’ll help us save money so I can afford to incorporate the more expensive local meats into our diet. I’d like to get a little more nutritional bang for my buck! You have great advice, I’m sure I’ll be referring back to it many times. Love the idea of a master list, think I’ll start working on that one. Thanks so much!

  34. lisa September 15, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    I make the menu {which is on a blackboard in the kitchen} every Sunday. Most family members are around…so it also works as for scheduling the week. I keep cash in an envelope and use that. I have binders with recipes. The dinner one has a list of our favorites. We choose what we are having…pizza every Friday, too. If we are going somewhere for dinner that week, I write down what we are taking for that day. I will write whose house we are going to and then what we are taking. It is fun being reminded all week of the week’s happenings and favorite meals to look forward to.

    It takes minutes to make up the grocery list and is a huge savings! We buy healthy food and share a lot and still make it for $400.00 a month or less for a family of four…now three!

    • Lindsay September 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

      Great tips! Sounds like a similar system to what my Mom used while organizing 8 kids growing up!

  35. KGR's Mom September 15, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I used your ideas to make a menu plan last winter. It worked really well for me, as a momma to 3 young kids, 2 of which I homeschool. I made my themes around what worked with my schedule.

    Mon. was pasta (quick & easy, no advanced prep after a busy Sunday out of the house). Tue. was meat (usually a meal requiring a lot of prep and time). Wed. was leftovers from Tue. Thur. was soup night (generally with broth made Wed. from Tue. bones/meat)(again, super easy and could be made early in the day because my daughter had a class until 6pm so we needed to walk through the door at 6:15 and be able to eat). Fri was fun night (pizza, burgers, nachos). Sat. was ethnic/casserole and Sun. was leftovers, if we were home.

    I miss my meal plan! I let it go during the summer and hope to reinstate it next month (revised for what works for us this year of course).

    Anyways, thank you for the idea! The 1-1.5 hours/month I spent making the plan and list was totally worth it. (I like so much variety that I can’t just repeat the same menu each month…that would make it less prep time though.)

  36. Gloria September 15, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    I have a friend with 6 kids who signed up for an Amazon Prime account (which receives free 2-day shipping) with a credit card. She purchases most of her dry goods once a month from there, using the credit card, which she pays off to receive a 15% discount. For her produce and meat she uses Fax and Pull from Costco. It’s usually reserved for businesses, but she cleared it with her store. They charge her card on file. She pulls up her van and they load the groceries. No kids or her, ever in the store. I have not tried this approach, but am certainly thinking about it, especially with Amazon’s great selection of natural and organic goods.

  37. Rebecca September 15, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    I love this simple format of theme’s for every night… however when my husband requested that we start buying organic meats, my stomach took a turn. Organic meats can be expensive… so instead of ‘themed’ nights such as mexican or italian, I listed my days as follows: Mondays: beef; Tuesdays: fish; Weds: Vegetarian; Thurs: beef; Fridays: chicken; Sats: Vegetarian; Sundays: leftovers or pasta.

    I also leave room for flexibility, meaning that I can interchange one, or just not have them at all. I recently went on a vegan detox diet and found out that I really like it. My husband does as well. I do like to eat cheeses and things too though, so vegetarian won out for a couple of days during the week. I could go on and on.. I am also in the middle of putting together my notebook for planning, keeping routines, etc. VERY EXCITED! thank you so much for your blog. Very much a blessing!

  38. Julie September 15, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    Thank you so much for this article. I really needed it. My husband and I are trying very hard to stick to a reduced budget and I know this will help.

  39. Rebekah Randolph September 15, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    Yes! Such a good idea. I use a two-week plan (if I try to do more than that, I always end up changing it due to unpredictable specials at the store). I’m fortunate enough to have several excellent grocery stores within 20 minutes of my house, but all the same, I prefer not to go there every four days! And it definitely does save money, if I am stubborn and stick to my plan, rather than falling for impulse buys.

    Oh, and I use “categories” of meals too, with a little wiggle room. :) Monday is pasta, Tuesday is “meat and starch” (anything from roast chicken to beef stroganoff), Wednesday is pizza, Thursday is a “sandwichy” meal (hamburgers, pita, soft tacos), and Friday’s kind of a wild card– baked potatoes, quiche, chili, etc. I make sure each meal has plenty of quality protein but don’t serve a “hunk of meat” every day. It’s working very well for us so far. Like I said, I allow myself wiggle room so I don’t feel guilty about shuffling the days around, but having that basic template is very helpful.

    • Rebecca September 15, 2010 at 8:55 am #

      I agree about the wiggle room! I just have to start narrowing down the number of stores I visit. I have a 16 year old, so it’s not hectic like the above for me, but I am still on a budget… and have to consider the gas it takes to get to each store…

  40. Amanda September 15, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    Thanks for the inspiration to go back to monthly meal planning! I used to do it prior to having my first child last fall, but have only been able to manage a weekly plan for the past year. I am going to simplify A LOT and make one plan to last us throughout the fall/winter. Simplicity is the key to sanity in this season of my life and monthly shopping for staples and bi-monthly shopping for produce/fresh dairy will help tremendously!

  41. Jessica September 15, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    I have begun to do 1 wk at a time and I shop after diner when my husband gets home or on a Saturday. 1 wk is working for us but you are right, it might be nice to stretch it to 2. Kate, try planing 1 week with just diners and then eat leftovers for lunch and have some simple things on had for breakfast. I only plan dinners and we eat whatever for the rest of the time. I think perhaps I would benefit from some more breakfast and lunch planing. Thanks Lindsey for your tips and time it takes you to write!

  42. Sarah @ Budgeted Life September 15, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    I like to go to a few different stores, but if I do it at the same time I spend more. So I rotate the stores weekly. One store a week and each store about once a month. I have been contemplating a monthly menu and your breakdown makes it feel much more doable! Thanks.

  43. Cath September 15, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    great ideas. In January I started monthly menu planning and master lists. It is great and now I make one trip monthly to our local supermarket for toilet rolls etc., I have a monthly order with the organic shop which deliver straight to my door and then I just have to buy fruit and veg from the farm shop and dairy/meat from the dairy once a week . Jared loves helping at the farm shop and gets to see/pat the Jersey calves at the dairy so it is all good fun.

    It is worth the effort

    Cath

  44. Kate September 15, 2010 at 7:44 am #

    ok… perhaps i need the meal-planning primer that comes before Meal Planning 101 – the 1-week meal plan. Lindsay, do you have any tips on getting started with knowing what i am making today? :) do you recommend starting at a week? or may i start small with just three meals?

    you know i have no excuses or even decent reasons… no kids. no husband. no potty-training a puppy even. i just am a mess when it comes to meal planning. any suggestions you have on the Meal Planning 060 or 095 class that comes before 101 would be nice. :)

    thanks! love you!

    • Lindsay September 15, 2010 at 8:20 am #

      I love you Kate! I am impressed that you want to pursue this despite your lack of interest in being in the kitchen. :) I use these same general principles when I started general menu planning as well. I definitely recommend starting with a weekly plan – it is more manageable and saves you significantly from making daily trips to the store. I always use a theme for each day and plan 7 meals around those themes. Make a list of 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners and shop all at once for the ingredients for all these meals. If you like a special dish, make it on the same night each week until it becomes just habit. Friday night is pizza night at our house and so it makes it easy to always remember. It also keeps my shopping list the same. If you like making unique or new recipes, limit those to once a week, so as to simplify it rather than making a new meal every day. Find your favorites and rotate through them. Does that help? Love to chat any time!

  45. Rachel -- Following In My Shoes September 15, 2010 at 7:04 am #

    I currently have a weekly menu plan schedule going — mainly b/c I cook with a lot of produce and it (most of it) doesn’t last very long if I try to put more time (i.e. 2 weeks) in between shopping trips.

    I may try a 2-week schedule again though; you’re right — I HATE taking the kiddos. I have to pack so much just to help them last!

    Great tips. :)