Make a Menu for the Week

Menu for the week:

Going through college and my single days, I was a like a wild animal.  I scavenged for food, and when food could not be gathered, I ventured to the jungle (grocery store) to hunt.  This wasn’t a big deal in college.  I seemed to have enough extra time to hunt, and I didn’t really care what I ate.  I can’t tell you how many nights I waited for 9:00 when the store’s morning doughnuts went on “reduced for quick sale” price.  But alas, the days of the four-doughnut dinner have gone the way of the samurai.  After Crystal and I had been together for a while and were sharing most of our meals we realized a couple of things.  1:  We spent WAY too much time deciding on what was for dinner that night.  This would sometimes lead to an argument which in turn would lead to a fast-food dinner.  2:  We spent WAY too much money at the grocery store when we finally got there.  Once we figured out what we wanted, we were so hungry that everything in the store sounded good.  We would go in with intentions of buying chicken and broccoli, and would leave with sweets, empty carbs, and beer.  For health and financial reasons, we knew we had to do something.

My solution to this problem was to drink a beer and not worry about it.  Crystal pointed out, with great eloquence, that this would in fact solve nothing.  I disagreed, so Crystal set to work figuring out the best fix scenario, and I drank the aforementioned beer.  As I was drinking the beer, Crystal remembered that when she was growing up her mom had always planned the meals for the entire week.  This reminded me of how little money I used to spend on groceries when I was teaching in Drummond.  For me, it was a matter of not really being able to buy groceries in Drummond, so I had to plan a menu for the week.  We agreed that we would try making a menu for the week that would let us know what we were eating on which nights of the week.

We’ve been doing our weekly menu going on two years now.  It shaved at least $200.00 a month off of our food budget.  I’d like to point out that my initial solution to the problem seemed to work.  I drank the beer, and the solution revealed itself to me.  Hooray beer!  Anyway, here’s how we do it.

Step One:  Print out a menu.

We like to print out a menu once a month.  The template we use can be found here.  We don’t actually type on ours.  Instead, we put it right on the fridge, and every Sunday morning we sit down and figure out what we want for the week.

Step Two:  Figuring out what to eat.

A great place to go when planning your menu for the week is to your pantry and fridge.  We look around, see what we have, see what needs to be used up, and start building the menu.  We like to have a few easy, go-to basics on the menu every week, like stir fry, soup and sandwich, pizza and salad etc… Using up the things you have around the house will help keep you within your budget.

Step Three:  Placing the items on the menu.

This step seems like a no brainer.  In fact, it might not even need to be a step.  It’s a lot like the first step in hotel hot tubs.  You know, the one that is really only about three inches down?  I’ll assume that the hot tub experts hire engineers to decide the proper step placement.  Anyway, even though this seems simple, it can really help.  For example, I like to go have beer with the fellas on Thursdays.  When planning the menu, it would not be wise for me to put roasted duck with smoked gouda mashed potatoes on Thursday.  That would definitely cut into my beer-drinking time.  Instead, place simple meals on nights where you know you are busier, and the more involved meals on nights where you have the time to do it right.

Step Four:  Making the List

Once you have your menu all sorted out, make yourself up a shopping list.  When we make our list, we divide it up based on which goods we need to buy from each store.  A more detailed post on what to buy at each store can be found here.

Step Five:  Sticking to it.

Ok, so you’ve got all your items, and you’re ready for the week.  You come home on Tuesday night, which we will say is a taco night according to the menu.  Delicious, tasty tacos.   You take a look at the menu and decide you don’t want to make the DTTs (Delicious Tasty Tacos).  Here’s where the saving money part comes into play.  You could move the DTTs to a different night, and still be on track.  If you decide to blow off the DTTs entirely and go out to eat, however, you’ve now wasted a meal, and whatever money you end up spending at the restaurant.  Also, you hurt the DTTs feelings.  I’m not saying you can’t be flexible if something comes up.  What you need to do though is adjust your menu accordingly.  Put items in the freezer and roll them over to next week’s menu.  You can even plan on going out, so long as it’s on the menu.

With these few simple steps, you too can help to tame your food budget, cut down on wasted food, and be healthier.  With all the money you save, you can afford to splurge a little every now and then.

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