Sunday, January 27, 2013

Menu Planning Calendar

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After just over a year, I have completed this project. In that old post- I gave three of the ideas that I was toying with to create a menu plan that worked for us. After starting, scrapping, starting again, and scrapping again, I have made a calendar that works for Hubby and I.

We do not have any kids yet, so I find it possible and feasible to plan the entire month out when menu planning. I then use those recipes to create my grocery list for the month, and then go shopping for the month. You read it correctly- I only go to the grocery store ONCE a month. That being said, we may have to go to the store towards the end of the month to buy more milk or if we have a special event or dinner we need to plan for, or for produce if we end up eating it all. But, that rarely happens. We usually are able to stretch milk and such a month before having to go again. It has helped us streamline, eat out or order-out less, and has minimized our grocery budget- all good things!

This is fairly new for us- we used to go numerous times/week. But, when I took on a part-time preschool teaching position, that left me with time to cook, menu plan, grocery shop, and do all things homemaking. I hate going to the grocery store for 4 reasons: 1- It is expensive when you go all the time, 2- You get suckered into buying things not on your list, 3- I find it overwhelming because all stores are laid out differently and I never know where stuff is, 4- It takes me forever to find my items because of number 3. I find that if I am only spending one day/month at grocery stores, I don't mind it as much. I typically have 4 stops- grocery outlets, Produce Junction, BJ's and Giant.

Over the last few months, I have come up with a system for us, and this menu plan is taking it to the next level. Typically, I pick my recipes, make an ingredient list. I then combine like items totaling the amounts of similar ingredients. Then, I go through our freezer (we only have the one attached to our fridge at this point), the pantry, and see what else I can scratch off or what we are low on. Then, I look at circulars and figure out my game plan for once/month shopping. I also started a pricebook to help track our grocery spending and who has the best buys. Lately, I have found that going to BJ's provides us with the best buy. That being said, if it's an ingredient that I only need a little bit of, and won't use it within foreseen future, I purchase it at a discount grocery store or Giant. Lastly, I like going to Produce Junction for our produce, unless I find great deals at BJ's or Giant. I also found a great Entenmann's outlet that I get bread out. I am still trying to perfect making my own sandwich bread, but until that point, I go to the outlet. I buy about 3 loaves, and we freeze them. That way, they keep longer and we can stretch them for at least a month- if not more.

My usual way of menu planning is to just write the plan on a paper calendar. It looks ugly, and is very blah. While the system works for us, I thought that if it was more appealing to look at, maybe I would enjoy the planning part as well. Also- I have color coded the food groups to help ensure that we are eating a balanced amount of vegetarian, poultry and beef throughout the week. I don't eat pork, so that isn't a group for us.

As far as the deets for this project- I used a bulletin board, covered it with muslin and cotton batting just to make it more "feminine". I cut the food labels, numbers, and month labels with Cricut- Designer Calendar cartridge. I used yarn I already had to make the calendar template. I printed the recipe names onto Avery Return Address Labels, and attached everything with pushpins. The only exception are the numbers- those are glued to earring posts because I didn't want the numbers covered up with pushpins. Finally, the days of the week labels, as well as the color key, in the upper left corner, are glued. Those aren't going to change, so I didn't need to move them around.

I am extremely happy with the result. As you can see- I am already planned for February, and I enjoyed doing it. Step one of my routine is done!

 What do you all think?

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