The holiday season seemed to fly by this past year, and shortly after New Year’s I discovered that I hadn’t done something that normally is second nature to me: I hadn’t planned a menu for over two months! Christmas preparations interrupted my meal preparations, and it was painfully obvious in our grocery bill. The price of food has risen quite a bit in the past few months, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t shopping the sales or using coupons to keep our budget under control.
Maybe this has happened to you, too! So what to do when you’ve fallen off what I like to call the “menu planning bandwagon“? How do you reclaim your grocery budget when you take one look at the random ingredients in your cupboard and just want to forget it? Let me share with you some tips on how to pull yourself up and where to start bringing your food bill under control once again.
Take a look in your pantry, cupboards, fridge and freezer and make a list of what food items you have and how much of each. This might take awhile the first time you do it but it will most definitely help you as you create your menu. It will certainly help you save money because you won’t be buying so many new ingredients!
Make Meals with the Food You Have on Hand
If you discover you already have a reasonable amount and variety of food, create a week’s worth of menus utilizing only that food. Even a couple of days’ worth of meals is good, giving you time to prepare and shop for your upcoming week. If you’re out of creative juice (or just feeling lazy, like me!), use a website like All Recipes to come up with meal ideas. You can enter up to four ingredients on the website and it will generate a list of recipes based on your input.
Check the Grocery Store Sales and Plan a Menu
Once you’re armed with your inventory list, check your local store flyers to find out what food is on sale. Using your family, favorite cookbooks or All Recipes, create meals based on your food inventory combined with any desirable sale items. If possible, check for any coupons you may have found that can be stacked with sale items for additional savings. Remember also to account for breakfast and snacks.
Try to use as much of your inventory as possible, substituting recipe ingredients if needed. Many ingredients can be swapped with others in a favorite meal and still taste great! Start by planning a week’s worth of meals at a time if that makes the transition to full-time menu planning easier. Remember, it’s what works for you!
Restock Your Fridge and Pantry
Hopefully you can find an opportunity to go to the store by yourself, but if not, there are ways to survive grocery shopping with your children! While you’re at the store, don’t forget to restock pantry and fridge staples like milk, eggs and bread.
It may take some time, but it’s definitely possible to get back into the swing of menu planning – at least, until next Christmas!