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Last post I emphasized the need to make price lists and offered our grocery list based on some of the cheapest and/or versatile items that I have found.
Next item in the Eating Well When You Can’t Afford To series:
Menu Planning Tools
Pre-meal planning, my lackluster menu was really a grocery list with a few mix-matched items I had picked from the sales ads. Many such lists were made in a moment of pregnancy or breastfeeding weakness – I craved some baaaad stuff.
In my inexperience, lack of imagination or inability to make decisions with the children running amuck, my shopping haul didn’t help me much. I just wasn’t able to put ingredients together to make a well-balanced meal. (Now we have allrecipes.com to assist in such quandaries. This was before I knew about such technological wonders.)
We had countless meals eaten past 9 p.m. or mad dashes with an entirely hangry family to a restaurant. Sometimes deciding what to have for dinner, pulling it together and then clean up was too much for my already overworked mama brain.
I was aware of how much time, energy and money was being wasted but I didn’t know how to stop it all.
My overly organized friend shared her menu tips with me (thanks, Ang!) which started me on the road to recovery. So, in case you are in the same spot as I was or just because the menu planning has now become a minor addiction for you, too, I share mine here with you…
Write it down
Maybe you also have had brilliant ideas that pop into your head (that you say you will come back to) only to be pushed straight outta your head by all the other great ideas that you will soon forget as well. (Seriously, people – my life.) So, write it down.
For the time that I was up from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. running daycare, farming, and homeschooling, Kevin made an Excel spreadsheet that I used for a 5-week rotating menu. It took a couple weeks of getting distracted on Pinterest, flipping through all our favorite cookbooks and asking friends for ideas to fill that beast up.
Now that I have slowed down, I still am busy. But not brain-dead busy. I prefer to hand write the menu and shopping list. It’s quite calming after spending so much time in front of a screen. For this purpose, I hide a pencil or two that have not yet been chewed on, had the eraser rubbed down to the metal or been sharpened to an inch long nub (or shorter.)
One of my favorite free menu planners is from Alex and Cassie, The Thrifty Couple. They have a ton of great ideas for menu planning tips. Check them out!
So, though I love having a planner that I can scrawl all over, my family likes to have a posted menu so they can get snacks or start meals without asking the mama. It’s also fabulous to have older children that can write down items that we have run out of.
This is a cute menu that I am proud to have on my fridge. It reminds me of my mom singing Hank Williams in the kitchen. I actually super love that – she’s adorable.
I printed out this menu planner, laminated it and have a supply of fine tip wet erasers that we use to fill it out.
I have had people ask which laminator I use, so you find it below, along with my other menu planning faves:
Do you have to have all these things? No, but I have found that when I enjoy the process of menu planning, I end up saving more. I enjoy the process more when I have a well-laid out and aesthetically-pleasing menu plan.
Up next, we’ll hit on some money-saving tips before we pull together meals for the menu!
Thanks for stopping by!
How do you keep track of your menu plan?