January 8, 2012

How to Create a Monthly Menu Plan, Part 4 of 4 | Saving Money on Your Menu Plan Ingredients

This is the fourth and final installment of the four part series on How to Create a Monthly Menu Plan that I began in September 2011.

Menu planning is an easy way to save time and money - and stress!

If you missed the first two installments of this four part series, be sure to read them: Part 1: Make a Master List of Dinner RecipesPart 2: Build Your Menu Plan to Match Your Family Schedule, and Part 3: Make a Master List of Key Pantry and Recipe Ingredients

This week's topic: Saving Money on Your Menu Plan Ingredients

If you've been following this series and taking the action steps I've outlined each week, you should have created your own master list of dinner recipes that you use time and time again in your kitchen and you should have also sat down with your family's schedule for the coming month and created a monthly menu plan that matches your family schedule by taking into account how much time you have each day to devote to cooking dinner. You also should have created a a list of key pantry and recipe ingredients that you consistently need (bi-weekly, weekly, or even daily) to cook the recipes in your menu plan.

For the final week of this series, I want to point you to some methods you can use to save money on those key recipe ingredients.

:: Think coupons. If you're a regular reader of TNFM (or any other blog that covers coupons, deals, and offers help on how to save money on your grocery budget), you likely already understand the basics of how to use coupons matched with sale item each week to save money.

Couponing doesn't have to be extreme to save you money (more of my thought on the TLC show by the same name are here); instead, strive for consistent couponing to help you save money on the items you use consistently in your meal plan.

If you're new to coupons, you can read these posts to help you get started:

:: Back to Basics | How to Coupon
{This is a four post series that covers the basics of learning how to coupon, from finding and organizing coupons to planning and executing your store trips}

:: 8 Tips to Organize Your Coupons Each Month

::  Couponing Terminology
{Do all those couponing acronyms and abbreviations look like jibberish?  This is a brief list of some of the most common ones and what they mean.}

:: Think stockpiling. Whether you coupon or not, you can certainly identify key grocery items from your master list of key pantry and recipe ingredients that you will use every week of the month in your menu plan. If you know you will need approximately 5 lbs of ground beef for your monthly menu plan recipes and you see ground beef go on sale at a low or rock bottom price, buy what you'll need for the month and freeze it until you need it.

This type of simple stockpiling (again, nothing extreme), for your monthly menu plan can be applied to several pantry ingredients and freezer friendly ingredients.

Using coupons to help you in your simple stockpiling will help you save even more money; however, you can  certainly stock up on what you need without coupons and still reap savings over the long term both by simply shopping the loss leaders (generally the first page of the weekly ad)  to your advantage or by shopping at member clubs such as Sam's, BJ's or Costco.  But be sure you have a list of your key pantry and recipe ingredients and to stick to it so you don't overspend your grocery budget.

:: Think leftovers. When planning your monthly menu, note the meals you have planned where you will be cooking a larger cut of meat such as a roast turkey (Thanksgiving), a ham (maybe Easter), or a pot roast, a pork roast, or a roast chicken.  You can often plan a second dinner (and sometimes a third) based on a recipe that uses the leftover meat.

If you've never cooked a whole chicken or a pot roast or a pork butt, rest easy - they are sometimes the simplest of meals to prepare!  If you have a crockpot, they are even simpler.  Take a look at the resources below for help with crockpot cooking:

A Year of Slow Cooking


Slow Cooking Tips at AllRecipes.com

:: Think seasonal. Deals on produce and fresh meats vary widely from season to season.  Use the seasonal shift in sale offerings on those items to your advantage when planning your monthly menu.

Also, be on the lookout for great "after-holiday" sales on holiday dinner meats such as turkeys and hams.  You can often find great deals on these items in the weeks following the holidays as the grocery stores try to clear their inventory.  These can be frozen for future menu plans.

:: Think flexible.  Be sure to check for manager specials on meats and produce when you are in store.  You may find a great deal on items that aren't part of your menu plan but could be easily substituted in a recipe.  Grocery stores often mark down items for quick sale at the beginning of a new sale week or just before the weekend shopping rush.  Ask your produce and meat managers what day of the week they do the bulk of their markdowns.

I certainly hope this series has helped you to not only create a monthly menu plan but to save time, reduce your level of dinner hour stress, and save money on your grocery budget.

:: Need to read the first three installments of this four part series?  Here they are:

Part 1: Make a Master List of Dinner Recipes

Part 2: Build Your Menu Plan to Match Your Family's Schedule

Part 3: Make a Master List of Key Pantry and Recipe Ingredients

Do you have any suggestions, ideas, or input on creating an effective time-saving and money-saving monthly menu plan?  Please leave a comment below - I'd love to hear what you think. 

This post is part of Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie - a GREAT weekly resource for menu plans from hundreds of bloggers!

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