Thursday, June 7, 2012

Frugal Living: Practical Ideas for Menu Planning

Menu planning is a big deal to me. In the past, I would just go to the grocery store clue-less. I would spend too much money and leave without knowing if I had everything I needed. Yes, I would usually do some kind of list but it still really didn't help me as much as I needed.

Without menu planning, I would buy convenience foods because if you don't plan what you are going to eat, you don't know what goes into those recipes.

As forgetful as I am, that is not a good thing. Even these days with all the preparation that I take before going to the grocery store, I still occasionally forget to write something down or didn't see it on my list.

I'll give an example of what happened a couple of weeks ago. I did not take my own advice to check my pantry and refrigerator before menu & list planning. I just made my menu and list and went to the store. When I came home, I had realized that I had purchased at least 2 items that we already had! I could have kicked myself! One of them is something we only buy once a year! Grrr... oh well, next year we will have it huh. I told Michael I could take it back but it wasn't really expensive or worth wasting the gas.I am all for buying in bulk, but I don't like buying something unless we need it. I guess that's why I am not a big coupon user.

Coupons are usually for convenience items that I can make way cheaper from scratch, or get an even cheaper generic brand. Therefore I am not really saving money using them. Some people play coupon games and enjoy it. Nothing wrong with that; it's just not me.

Another thing I do just to stay organized and make sure I am getting everything on my list is to write my grocery list by the aisle. I use Aldi which has very few aisles so it is very easy to remember where things are. I get a piece of regular notebook paper and divide it into sections the way the store is laid out. As I am writing out my actual menu, I write what I need for each meal onto my list in the actual location it is at the store. I used to write the approximate cost beside the item as I listed it (and sometimes still do if I'm not sure), and then added it up at the end of my planning to make sure I stayed in budget. Then as I would be shopping, I would write it again as I was buying my groceries (because they raise and lower prices!).

Here is a rough drawing of a grocery list sample by the aisle. I just added a few items to the list and where they are approximately located. I made this in excel, so when I copied it to this blog the lines disappeared so I apologize for that, but I think it gives you a general idea.


3 blks cheese pkg salad 1 box of butter 2 ct eggs, 1 sour cream 4 gallons milk {dairy} {case}

aisle 5 aisle 4 aisle 3 aisle 2 aisle 1
1 loaf oat bread
2 bags apples

1 bag bananas

1 bag potatoes

5 cans of diced tomatoes cereal

1pkg broccoli

2 pkg carrotts

4 cans green beans 1 pkg choc chips

peanut butter

1 bag dry rice oats

1 bag dry beans 1 ea brown sugar. plain sugar

5 cans mushrooms


tortilla chips
1 bag frozen peas

corn chips


If you don't have an ALDI and you use another grocery store, you could write your list for the first time in the best order you know. Then as you are checking off the items on your list you could write the aisle number and price. Keep that used list, so that next time you will have a better layout of the store. There are probably other better ways but that was what popped into my head. :-)

I hope these ideas help and I will hopefully add some menu ideas soon!

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