A while back I shared my secret for making menu planning and grocery shopping easier. There are parts of this adulting gig that are less than awesome, but for me menu planning and grocery shopping are not a bad deal. My little secret to make things easier always seemed like a totally normal thing to do, but then I heard from friends, family, and acquaintances that my trick was not obvious and maybe a little unique. That prompted me to share my secret with the world! Or with the people of the internet looking for ideas for making menu planning easier. That little post got some attention which generated some questions for me about the process. And boy do I have answers. I like to be helpful, ya know?
How many times a week do you grocery shop? When? Where?
I grocery shop once a week. Sometimes more often If for some reason I spaced a key ingredient or something, but I try to hit the store once a week. I have gone on Wednesday for a long time, but now that Delaney is in school Tuesday/Thursday I’ve been shopping on one of those days. I generally shop at Costco a couple times a month to stock up on things we use a lot of and King Soopers (Kroger) just about weekly. In the summer I hit up the farmer’s market as often as possible, and I just add the fresh fruits and veggies into our already planned meals.
What percentage of your food are delivered to you?
As far as delivery goes we have our milk delivered. Every once and a while I’ll add some yogurt or cheese to our order but for the most part we just stick to milk.
When do you meal plan?
I meal plan the night before shopping – or the day of – and I plan for the coming week. I’m not coordinated enough to plan more than a week out. I like to make sure we have fresh foods in the house so I stick to a week at a time. I try to take advantage of current sales to help guide me when I meal plan.
How do you meal plan?
I look through the sales flyer for that week, check through our freezer and pantry and then I fill in each day for the coming week with a meal for that day’s category. I use OneNote to write my menu and list and it usually looks a little like this:
T: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage
F: taco pizza
S: bacon burgers, sweet potato fries, salad
S: turkey, veggie, and quinoa chili
M: Coconut chicken curry, brown rice, sauteed spinach, naan
T: Dinner out
W: Shrimp and veggie stir fry, brown rice
I work through the days plugging in meals based on sales, seasonal availability, and what we already have on hand. As I add in a meal I write what I’ll need from the store for that meal in a list below the menu. I like using OneNote because I can use my SurfacePro3 or my phone to write the list update the list and then use my phone to reference the list while in the store. I also like OneNote because I don’t misplace it so If I forget what I have planned for the week as the week goes along – I’m not a superhero I can only handle so much – I can reference the list in OneNote.
Do you have a set list of meals that you rotate through?
Do we have favorites? Yes. Definitely. Peanut Butter Chicken, Chicken Taco Bowls, Black Bean Soup, Mexican Burgers, Roasted Veggie Tacos, Pulled Pork, are always big hits. But no, I do not rotate through a set list of meals. I’m a big Pinterest fan and I pin ideas for dinners all the time. I also get a few cooking magazines each month and dog ear pages to go back and try out. I also have a big stash of cookbooks that I look through for new ideas when we’re in a rut. I like to cook, I like to introduce new flavors and ingredients to my kids, I like getting creative. For me a set list would be boring. That doesn’t mean a set list would not work with my meal planning trick. It definitely would.
Does your family feel like they are eating the same things over and over?
Nope, because like I said in my meal planning post, I have a pretty broad definition of our daily categories so we have wiggle room when I meal plan. And as I said above we try our new meals a lot.
Where does eating out occur in this plan? Is that ever scheduled? Is it ever spur of the moment? If so, how do you adjust?
Eating out is often scheduled (ie we’re seeing Luke’s parents on Saturday and we’ll eat dinner out, or Thursday is a fundraiser night at a restaurant for Madeline’s school.) When I plan out the week’s menu I look at the calendar to see what we have coming up in the week ahead and I plan around our life. Busy nights get easier or faster meals for example. We don’t eat out during the week very often because with work, school, and after school activities eating out actually seems like more work than just eating something at home and being able to put the kids to bed on time, and still fit in piano practice, nightly reading and such. Sometimes we eat out randomly. When that happens I’ll put things in the freezer or use that dinner to prolong my time until my next shopping trip if I can.