Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How I Menu Plan and Shop for a Month

In the last few years, I have learned a lot more about food, what we are putting into our bodies, what "healthy" is, and how I want to be feeding myself and my family. Ok, honestly, it is still such a learning curve. There is so much I want to do, but those darn cravings. BUT, we have changed our eating quite a bit and learned and applied what we feel is how we should be eating. For our family, that has been eating as close to nature as possible. Real foods. Not packaged foods filled with preservatives, and stuff that we shouldn't even be putting in our bodies that is considered "food". Yes my kids still eat crackers sometimes. We are not perfect-you'll see that when I share my menu! But we are aiming to be better and continue learning more about food and making a little more from scratch each month than the last. We buy organic when we can, we try to buy the best quality dairy and meats when possible and affordable. 
So the whole point of this post is to say that I had to start shopping at several different stores to get the best prices/best quality on different things. It was getting to be too much. I am not dragging my kiddos to 3 or 4 stores every week to shop, we would all go insane. So last fall, I decided to try menu planning out the whole month in advance. I have avoided this in the past and done it week by week because I don't always know our schedule a month in advance and it is a lot of work to plan a whole month of meals at once! Now that I have been doing it this way for quite awhile, it has really been working well, so I thought I would share how I do it!
First step...planning the menu! 
If you don't already menu plan, DO IT! It saves so much time, money, and is way less headache. I do not plan out day by day. I might not feel like having tacos on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. I get out my planner, look for any events we might have or times we might be eating out, and try to count out about how many days I need meals for that month. Yes, we usually end up eating out a few more times than I thought we would, but then I just move those extra meals to the next month's plan and it isn't a big deal at all. I take into account days where I need a quick meal (like Life Group or soccer nights), birthdays/events, if we might be having people over/going to someone's house, etc. It's not a perfect system and sometimes I have to run to the nearest grocery store to get a side dish to take somewhere, but it works well for the most part. 
Next, I make a list of what I want/need to buy from which store. Like I said before, I had been going to several different stores to try to get the best quality at the best price. Now I know the absolute best price I can get on organic diced tomatoes is from Costco. The most affordable organic, grass-fed beef I can get is from Aldi. The most affordable produce with more organic options than many other stores I can get is from Sam's. I basically have what I need to buy from where memorized by this point, so I write out what I need to grab from where based on all my meals that month. 
At the beginning of the month, I do a bigger shopping haul. I go to Aldi for a good majority of my dried goods. I get nuts, couscous, some dairy items, dried beans, some canned goods, spices, etc. from Aldi. I try to list out all of these types of things since the shelf life is going to be longer than milk or produce. I also go to Walmart at this same time (luckily for me, they are right next to each other!) and get a few things I can't get other places or that are better quality/price than what I can get from Aldi. I will buy produce and milk, eggs, etc. on this day only for the week. 

Then, the next 3 weeks I just do a much smaller trip to Sam's to get perishable things. Milk if we need it, produce, possibly some meat, etc. My cart is typically filled 80+% with produce at Sam's as I have already gotten most of the other things I need to make my meals during the first week. I typically buy meat in bulk, either because I'm buying it from Sam's or Costco, or because it was on sale, and then I freeze it, so we almost always have meat in the freezer, which I take into account during my menu planning. 
I have set up a small bookshelf in our storage room in the basement for some dried items so I don't have to store a month's worth of food in my small pantry. This has worked out awesome for us! If I need something for dinner, I either grab it when I'm down there doing laundry, or ask one of the girls to run down and grab it for me (like canned tomatoes or things like that). It is nice to have everything on hand and this has actually helped out a lot with not being so tempted to eat out, since I always have what I need on hand! It also has worked out great because we go through SO much produce. My kids crush Sam's/Costco sized bags of apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, etc. every week so there is no way I could buy produce for an entire month at one time. This way, I only have to make a quick trip to one store on a weekly basis and do the one bigger trip once a month which isn't terrible at all. Our Costco is about 30-40 minutes away and we actually just recently became members so our plan is to go there pretty infrequently and stock up on what we need for awhile. We did the math on a lot of their organic options and it was way cheaper than anywhere else and way more than made up for the cost of the membership, so we felt like it was worth it since we get down that way semi often anyway.
So that's pretty much how I menu plan and grocery shop for the month! I do miss the days of just going shopping at Aldi or Walmart, BUT I definitely am able to get better quality on some things elsewhere and sometimes for better prices, depending what it is. How far out do you menu plan, and how many different stores do you shop at?! Tomorrow I will share my menu for the month of May and what I bought on my big shopping trip this month! 
post signature

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...