I have been asked many times why I stress each week having a "Menu Monday" and a weekly meal plan. It's simple. If you are prepared and know what to expect, you are less likely to spend extra money on unnecessary purchases.
For me, planning a list of 20-25 meals I would like to prepare and feed my family each month is important for multiple reasons:
(1) Prevents us eating the same thing all the time and helps me keep variety in our diet
(2) Helps me rotate food out of my freezer and pantry without it getting forgotten and spoiling
(3) Helps me keep within my monthly food budget
Each family has a different budget and different circumstances to work with. For some of us (like myself) planning one bigger grocery trip per month with occasional incidental purchases weekly is the best way to go. In my family, the food budget is set aside on the first week of the month. We also generally make several stops at 4-5 stores all on one day. It gets all the shopping done, saves on gas and helps prevent weekly or day to day stress in "what to cook" or "we have nothing to eat". For people who get paid on a weekly basis or a bi-weekly basis, it may be best to set a weekly budget and go once a week for groceries.
Adapt to what works best for YOUR family - not someone Else's.
I love to coupon. I love to save money. I like to get great deals on things we use. BUT, the distance for me to drive into town to our local grocery stores to do so, costs more money than is worth it, if I am doing it more than once or twice a month. It is just not financially smart for me to run back and forth to the store every week. Even though I don't get as great a deal on items as I could if I went back and forth each week, the bottom dollar still ends up being better for my family by doing it the way I do.
My way, does not necessarily suit YOUR family's needs.
Sit down one evening with a notepad and ask your family what you cook that they like to eat. Take into consideration every ones likes and dislikes and try to incorporate some of all in your menu. For some family's, it works well to let each person pick "a" meal for one night per week. Mom gets Monday, Dad gets Tuesday, Joe gets Wednesday, Susie gets Thursday, and so on and so forth. For others, it is simply done best by taking a list of commonly eaten meals and meals you want to incorporate more often, and writing them all down, and then shuffling around to suit your desires.
In doing this, you can also help put leftovers to go use. By planning ahead, I can put a beef or pork roast in the crock pot on Sunday for our after church meal, serve sandwiches with the leftovers that night and make sure I have enough tortillas and fixings to season and heat the rest of the leftover meat for Tacos on Monday night. Planning ahead helps prevent waste as well!
You Brew My Tea Family Menu Plan:
Chicken Spaghetti with Salad and Toast
BBQ Chicken Thighs with Slaw and Baked Beans
BBQ Chicken Tacos with Rice and Beans
Mexican Enchilada Layered Casserole with Corn and Black Beans
Chicken & Cabbage Chinese Dumplings and Fried Rice
Chinese Chicken Salads with Crunchy Noodles and Ginger Sesame Dressing
Hot Ham & Swiss Sandwiches and Chips
Philly Steak Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Fries
Beef Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Mushrooms
Beef Stew with Corn Casserole
Chicken Alfredo with Broccoli and Garlic Toast
Grilled Turkey Burgers & Slaw
Macaroni and Cheese and Hot Dogs
Grilled Chicken Breast and Garden Salad
Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Fresh Fruit
Brinner - Breakfast Tacos for Dinner
Pizza Night (Homemade or Frozen Pizzas on sale)
Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs with Salad
Spaghetti Sandwiches with Salad
Teryiaki Chicken with Rice and Mixed Vegetables
Pinto Beans, Corn Casserole and Ham Steaks
Mexican Chicken Casserole with Salad
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli
By writing down the various meals my family likes, I can then check my freezer and pantry to see if we have the needed items to make them, if not, add what is needed to my grocery list and then check my coupon binder and my sale papers to see what I can get for free, cheap or at a discount.
In the summer months, there will be more sandwiches and salads. In the winter more soups, stews and heartier/warmer meals. Sometimes we see something on TV that sounds good, like a recipe from a Food Network show. I'll check to see if we have what it needs already, if not, then I add those to the list for next month, or for a quick trip another day if we have money left in the food budget.
I stock up on meats when they are on sale, so often the monthly plan will feature more of one item than anything else, but we still make it as large in variety as possible so not to "burn out" on any one particular dish. I do ad match and check my coupons regularly for free items available after sale and coupon. This is how I get pasta for free all the time. If I see an excessive amount of one item in the pantry, I will look at my recipes and try to use more of it this month to work some of it out of the pantry.
Plan. Plan. Plan.