10 October 2014

Dinner Planning and Grocery Shopping

If you are someone who frequently finds themselves deciding what to make for dinner at 5 o'clock in the evening, this is for you!

Being more prepared in your meal planning and grocery shopping, not only can save your sanity, but it can save you money, save you time, save you energy and it can help to make sure that your family is eating better.

Step One:

Make a master list (either on paper or on your computer) of the meals that your family enjoys eating. To make this job easier, you may want to think of smaller groups of food -- for example, think of meals that you make with mince (beef, chicken, lamb or pork), chicken, or other main ingredients.

In my family, we often eat meals from one of four "categories", so I have my list separated according to those:

-- Australian (meat & 3 veg, mince stew, meat pie, roast etc.)
-- Mexican (tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc.)
-- Asianl (fried rice, stir-fry, sweet 'n' sour chicken, etc.)
-- Italian (lasagne, pizza, spaghetti, etc.)

Step Two:

Determine how often you will shop. For example: will you shop weekly, every two weeks or monthly, and so on? You may find it easier to shop weekly, because that way you can take advantage of weekly store specials, and plan your meals accordingly.

I prefer to hit the supermarket once a month on the first Friday - it takes the same time as a weekly shop, and it is a lot to put away but I don't have the hassle for another month! Just 12 shopping trips a year!

Step Three:

With your list of meals, write down on a sheet of paper what meals your family will eat for your time period. If you do more than a week at a time, you may want to write the actual dates. You can use the grocery store ads at this time. If you notice a great deal on chicken, you might purposely plan a dinner with chicken -- and vice versa, if no chicken is on sale (and you don't have any in the freezer) you will not be eating chicken that week. Make sure to not to serve any two "categories" of meals on two nights in a row (for example, tacos on Monday and burritos on Tuesday).

Be sure to look at your family's calendar when deciding what meals to prepare. Because of our schedules with work and other activities, we also have designated meal nights e.g. Thursday is MOO pizza night because Wayne doesn't get home until late and often has to race out again to meetings. Sunday is always a roast so everyone knows to be home for dinner. Saturday night is always leftover night, we clean out the fridge and everyone gets a little of whatever is left over. I bulk it out with rice, potato or salad depending on the season and what's left over. I always plan something easy for Saturday nights just in case there are no leftovers to be used up, usually something like hamburgers or toasted sandwiches or soup, something that can be pushed to another night if necessary.

Step Four

Next to each meal list the ingredients that you will need to purchase for that meal. If you are having cheeseburgers, for example, look to see what makings you have and then list everything you need to buy.

Step Five

Now that you have your meals listed, along with the ingredients that you need to purchase, you are ready to go to the supermarket. However, if you shop for more than one week at a time, I recommend that you prepare yet another list - on this list you will want to list your needed groceries under headings such as produce, canned foods, frozen foods, etc.

By following these steps, you will be on your way to more organized meal planning and grocery shopping. Now the trick is just to stick to it!

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