So, I started back with my Menu Plan Monday’s but I never actually stopped menu planning. It’s become the norm for me. Menu planning saves me time AND money! It’s really one of the best things you can do to help keep you within your budget and also help you plan healthy meals. I typically try to menu plan the day before I grocery shop after the kids go to bed or at nap time. There are several things I think about when I start menu planning… Are their meals I didn’t prepare last week? Did I stock up on anything at the last grocery shopping? Are there any special events in the next week?

This is where I start. If I have a meal(s) from the previous menu, that’s the first one to go on my list. Then I look at my meats. Sometimes there is a particularly good sale on something like chicken legs and I buy extra, so I’ll add chicken legs to my menu. We eat lunch at church on Sundays, so I always check to see what I need to bring. If we have a particular busy day with appointments/field trips/soccer practice, then I might just plan something simple like sandwiches and fresh cut fruit/veggies. I also make sure to check the online sale ads for any deals on produce or meat.

After I get my meals written down, I think about what I already have (staples or extras!) and what I need to make those meals happen. Sometimes I start writing down the ingredients and think… nope, not gonna happen on our budget! So, I’ll subtract a meal and add a cheaper one! Sometimes you don’t realize a meal is going to cost so much until you start writing down all of those ingredients!

(Sometimes, I get a little help with my list…)

Often times if I need a side dish, but don’t really need anything particular, I’ll just write ‘veggie’ beside the main dish on my menu. On my grocery list (which I make on the back of my menu), I will list “veggie for …”. I may find a great deal on a particular fresh veggie or I may just go with something frozen if a good deal is nowhere to be found. Last, I list other lunch, breakfast and staple items that we may need.

Once I get in the stores, I check prices and look for any sales I might have missed online. I try to keep a running tally in my head of my total cost. Sometimes I have to put things back or even tweak my menu right there in the store to make it fit the budget. And then, sometimes I can afford to get something extra. My point is that I try to be flexible! We have green peas as a side a lot because of budget! And that’s perfectly fine! When we’re back at home, I hang on to my menu (even though it’s looking pretty rough by now), just so I remember what all I have planned!

So, tell me, do you menu plan? I think it’s one of the best tools in sticking to a budget AND eating healthy!