January 11, 2010

How I Build & Shop for My 5 Week Menu Plans

"Can you tell me how you shop for food? Do you go every week or do you shop for all of this once at the beginning?! It seems like so much to figure out!" - Karin (and I am ever so sorry that this comment got deleted by my too tired fingers!)

A couple of you commented and/or emailed with questions last week after I posted my latest 5 Week Menu Plan. I thought it might be useful for me to explain a bit more about how I make my plans every month or so.

I do have a brief Q&A post here about my 5 Week Menu Plans as well.

How do I decide what to cook?

I rely on tried and true favorites for the most part, things I've made for years that my family enjoys. I might try one or two new recipes during the five weeks, but that's about it. I also pay attention to what's in season and what time of year it is; while hot soups and stews are just right to warm the belly during the middle of January, they wouldn't be a good fit for the middle of August!

Do you cook it ahead?

No, I'm not as ambitious as my friend Tricia over at Once a Month Mom; her site is geared toward once a month cooking so I encourage you to visit her if that's something you're interested in. She's very organized!

What I do ahead of time for that five week period is plan the menu. So I'd call myself a once a month planning mom, if that makes sense.

Why plan ahead so far? Don't you save more money week over week by planning your menu around the weekly sales?

Well, yes, if you're planning for only a week at a time, you'll save the most by planning your menu around what's on sale/what's on sale with coupons.

Planning further out, say a month or five weeks, allows me to stockpile when those really good sales (rock bottom prices) come along. For instance, my Save-a-Lot has ground beef on sale this week, 5 lbs for $6.45 or $1.29/lb which is a rock bottom price for my area. I'll buy the 5 lbs and freeze it in 1 lb portions until I need it later in my menu plan.

Planning further out also allows me to better see which weeks will be super busy (meetings/activities every night) and which weeks are less scheduled. I can plan for easier meals during the busy weeks and plug the meals that take a bit more time to prepare during the slower weeks.

Do you buy it all in advance?

Nope, like I mentioned above, I stockpile shop when the deals are good. So when I'm building my five week menu, the first thing I do is take stock of what I already have in my pantry and freezer. Those items will likely make about 5-6 meals; I'll pencil those meals in first for whichever days they fit best.

But you do some cooking ahead, don't you? I mean, you double some of your meal items and freeze them, right?

Yes, and that's a smart way to save time for yourself if you can do it. Things I'll typically make double of and freeze include taco meat, grilled chicken breasts, oven baked chicken drumsticks, meatballs, meatloaf. I usually cook a "doubled" dinner about three times during a five week period; I freeze the doubled amount and save it for one of our super busy nights.

You have some free nights in your schedule, too. What's that all about?

Some weeks, we have plans with family or friends, so that night I won't need to cook. Some weeks, we'll treat ourselves to pizza or even a night out at a restaurant (with coupons, of course!). And then there are some weeks when the kids or one of us is sick and I don't cook as much; the free nights are perfect for leftovers, for cooking a meal I hadn't gotten to yet, or just for eating eggs and toast if we're under the weather.

Did I cover everything? Have any more questions? Please leave a comment and I'll get to it as soon as I can! ;-)

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

1 comment:

  1. I just found your site - not exactly sure how I ended up over here, probably from the Once a Month site - but I love your idea of planning on a 5 week schedule! I try to plan on a 3 week, but I'd like to try your way!

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