My First 30-day Meal Plan: Intentional Shopping

Posted on Sat 01/25/14 in The Dinner Table

I combined 2 ideas and came up with a really great way to meal-plan. This is the first time I’ve ever experimented with mealplanning over multiple weeks, but a recent conversation got me thinking that it could help me save if I knew what meals I was going to make for the month because items could be purchased with intent, and coupons I spot would have more substance.

30-day meal plan is at the bottom. But here are my thoughts on how I got to it. Floating around on the internet has been this idea of meal-planning using a memorable category list. For example:

Idea One

Monday – Pasta
Tuesday – Soup & Sandwich
Wednesday – Wraps or Stir Fry
Thursday – Crockpot
Friday – Pizza or Mexican
Saturday – Something We Love
Sunday – Something Easy

Idea Two

I combined this with a simple system from Money Saving Mom’s Plan a Menu on a Budget printable. I didn’t actually print out her printable, because I found it so memorable, and I’ve been able to scratch out a big plus sign on any scrap of paper & write in the 4 sections.

Like this:

Items On Hand / Recipe Ideas

Things Needed / Coupons I Have

The best thing about this method?

It encouraged me to scour the kitche and freezers, where I came up with a handful of items that were close to expiring! And it took me all of 10 minutes. Items like these:

  • Ricotta cheese, a full unopened container!
  • Cube steak
  • Pillsbury Grands
  • 1/2 jar spaghetti sauce
  • the end of a bag of Lay’s
  • 1/2 bag of open saurkraut

It also gave me some quick insight into what we might be out of, and I jotted a few things down on my paper for Items Needed.

I really loved using this system because as I found things that needed to be used, I was drafting ideas on the right about what to use them for: a brand new carton of ricotta expiring in a week that I didn’t even know we had & 1/2 a jar of spaghetti sauce in the door? Easy – I guess we’re making lasagna! I’m not going to let that ricotta go to waste now that I know we have it! The end of a bag of Lay’s regular potato chips- it’s time for a casserole, crumble those chips on top! This is a brilliant brainstorming method, easy and memorable, and took me about 5-10 minutes. And was extremely useful too.

I felt like a success, knowing I’d just salvaged what was about to be wasted money!

I sat down with two bottles of wine & DF on Friday night; and while he played his game, we cuddled and I drafted this 30-day meal plan, plugging suggestions into the food categories above.

Here’s the outcome:

S – Lasagna
S – Reubens

M – Sweet & Sour Meatballs
T – Chili
W – Turkey bacon wraps
F – Nachos, chix
S – Scalloped potatoes & ham

M – Tuna noodle casserole
T – Grilled ham and cheese & tomato soup
W – Quesadillas, chix
F – Layered Mexican Pie, vegetarian with beans instead
S – Meatloaf
S – Jambalaya

M – Goulash
T – Baked Potatoes, crockpot
W – Leftovers
F – Pizza
S – Cube steak
S – Sausage biscuits & gravy

M – White chicken pasta
T – Broccoli potato soup (freezer leftovers)
W – Tacos
F – Beef & broccoli
S – Chicken Parmesan casserole
S – Salmon & Tenders

It was really easy to pick meals because of the categories for each day.

Thursdays are blank because those are crockpot meals and we’ll just pick something from the freezer. (See my post on the freezer crockpot meals I made in November! We’re totally loving Chicken Caccaciatore!) Nights like Potato Broccoli Soup I plan on throwing the leftover soup that we froze the last time we made it into the crockpot. Many of the items, like salmon & meatballs, are so quick to make because they’re from the frozen section of the grocery store and we can just take out what we need and cook within 20 minutes. With this meal plan, I was able to determine how much ground burger we would need FOR THE WHOLE MONTH! Imagine the possibilities for cost savings simply by knowing! Final changes included realizing that we had an awful lot of burger on the finished agenda, so I changed quesadillas, nachos and mexican pie to chicken and vegetarian options.

My final game-plan with this strategy is to freeze the other half, or make two of meals like the lasagna, chicken parm casserole, chili, and scalloped potatoes & ham —- so that we have those casseroles for the freezer for next time.

I’ve gotten a lot of meal-plan ideas from many of you on Facebook, and I’m so happy with this combined brainstorming approach – it’s memorable, it’s easy, it saves food from going to waste in our fridge, and it means I can keep an eye out for particular coupons and sales well in advance.

Care to share how you save money on your grocery bill? Need any of my recipes from up above? Just pipe up with a comment down below!

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