Benefits of Menu Planning:
It saves time during the week nights. If you're like me, then having time to think about what to make during the week is pretty much non-existant. Taking the time to pick meals for a whole week (or two weeks like I just did) takes some time, but you suck it up and do it once then you don't have to think about it for the rest of the week (or two)! This gives you time to hang out with your family more and will add to your quality of life I've been doing it for only 3 weeks and it has helped me maintain my composure through the weeknight frenzy.
It requires less grocery store visits. If you plan your meals ahead of time, you will be aware of exactly what you need for the remainder of the next week or two. How I do it: I just came up with a new way to make a grocery list; I choose 12-14 recipes (for 2 weeks) that I want to make for the following weeks and write down the ingredients and put a tally next to it to indicate that 1 of my recipes calls for it. Going on, I just tally if another recipes calls for the same ingredient. For example:
ground beef - II
shredded cheese - II
tuna - I
Based on the information above, I have 2 recipes that need ground beef, 2 that need shredded cheese, and 1 that needs tuna. Easy enough? You can pretty it up later if you want a more organized and neat grocery list.
It saves you money! Making a grocery list alone saves you money if you stick to it. Something might look like an awesome deal and you may even have a coupon for it, but if you don't need it, it's not really a great deal - it's a waste of money. You can also scope out which grocery store has the best deal on the items you need by looking through the circulars or online at the weekly ads. Gather up coupons for the products and you have yourself a great deal. Just an FYI - I just created a draft list of what I need for 13 dinners as well as lunch meats, produce, and dog food and I will spend about $125 before coupons. I know for a fact that I have coupons for most of the products on my list; I'm really excited to share with you all how much I actually spend. That is a little less than half of what I used to spend before I decided to plan and will go well over half of my old budget with the coupons I have.
It's better for you than eating out. This is stating the obvious, but no matter what you make at home - even hamburgers and french fries - it is WAY better for you than going to McDonalds. Don't get me wrong, I, admittedly, love a good fast food run every now and then, but we all know it's not beneficial for our bodies or minds. Chances are, one of your New Years resolutions involves becoming heathier or loosing weight - this is a great way to keep that resolution so you don't have to make it again next year.
Where I have gone 'wrong' with Menu Planning:
Menu Planning is relative - there is not a true 'wrong' way to do it, but I've found way to do it better for myself. This week is the first time I've decided to plan 2 weeks based on recipes and not based on the coupons I have or the deals going on. It occurred to me last night that getting 100 bottles of juice for $5 sounds like a great deal, but not if I will never use 100 bottles of juice (for the record, my son could probably go through 100 bottles of juice). I started off planning my grocery trip by looking at the ad. I found myself saying, "AWESOME" a couple times to deals, but if I don't need it for the next couple of weeks, I won't buy it. This may not be good advice for you because some of you might not be on as limited a budget a I am right now. If you have the money to spend, stockpiling is not a bad idea, but I want to stick to my budget first and foremost - even if that means sacrificing a coupon that's about to expire ::SIGH::
I also realized that planning meals for a specific day ahead of time is unrealistic. If I have a list of recipes, I can just as easily choose which one to cook the night before (so any meat is thawed) based on how I'm feeling or what comes up. I've forgotten in the last couple of weeks to take meat out, so instead of freaking out that my menu isn't going to be right, I'll just cook something that doesn't involve thawing or use a meat that thaws faster.
Tomorrow I will post my planned meals along with some recipes and my grocery total to give you all more of an idea and to PROVE that this does work.
I really hope this helps you all as much as it's helped me. I've got a lot of financial responsibilities that probably don't even touch what some of are experiencing. I'm not embarrassed or insecure about sharing it because I know I am one of a million going through the same thing. I had a mini meltdown today when I calculated how much (or how little!) money I have to work with this pay period, but when I calmed down and started planning, I found that I can do it if I stick to my budget. What a relief! My hope is that, by sharing my personal experiences, you will find that relief, too.
Have a fantastic Friday!