Now, before I get into how I put my menu plan together, you have to know.. this is a REAL menu plan. "Plan" meaning, plan for days where you don't feel like cooking. Remember that just because you are on a tight budget does not mean that you have to throw out some of your more expensive meals. Having a plan gives you the control. For example. If you know that your husband's birthday is coming up, or you just want to go out to eat some time... just have less expensive meals prior to make up the difference. (This is where getting familiar with the millions of ways to use beans comes in handy) Same thing with more expensive recipes. Another thing, the glory of only going shopping once a month is that you have enough ingredients to make a months worth of different dishes! One of the reasons I don't make a cute, fancy menu sheet is because I know I will end up making changes as life can be pretty unpredictable.... changes are okay! For example, if it has been one of "those" days and you don't feel like making the meal you have planned, draw an arrow to switch nights with another meal and follow through. You have 30 meals you can make, just make sure to make one of them and you are still following your plan! We have to plan for REAL life. If something comes up and you don't have time to make the dinner you planned, keep burrito stuff on hand and eat that instead and save the ingredients for the meal for next month (of course I would swap things to make sure the ingredients to the recipe I don't make are non perishable.)
My menu plan is NOTHING fancy.... I Just draw lines to make a sort of calender, put the dates in each box and make a plan. Like I said, changes happen and if I spend time making something cute, I want it to stay cute.. not be messed up with a lot of scribbled out words and arrows :) - I have heard of people making stickers or magnets with all of their recipes and organizing it that way, I just haven't had time to and this seems to work for me :) - Do what works best for you! :)
The trick that I find helpful in menu planning is making a "theme" for each night of the week, for example: Monday nights at our house is "breakfast for dinner" night. That one stays consistent, but the rest change each month. You can have an Italian Tuesday, Mexican Wednesday, Comfort Food Thursday, Vegetarian Friday, Soup Saturday and Sunday Meal Sunday. This takes the overwhelming feeling out of the process. (I learned this from "The Food Nanny" on the BYU channel. :).. not my favorite show, but I have learned a few things from it :). hehe.) Here is an example of what I mean:
You didn't know how serious I was when I said it wasn't fancy hu? :) (as I was posting the picture I noticed a few spelling errors. I was multi tasking while planning the lesson..apparently spelling wasn't a priority.. hehehe)- Do you see how useful it is to have themes? You just need to pick 4 or 5 recipes from each group .. that seems easier then thinking of 30 recipes of whatever. Waiting until the last minute to decide what to make for dinner was always a "recipe for disaster" for me, Like the Food Nanny says ... 1/2 the battle of making dinner is deciding what to make.
Now! Dinner is ONLY one meal of the day. You still have snacks, breakfasts, lunches, desserts to make, etc..... I am a lot less organized with those because they seem to be easier to do. Knowing I have a stocked pantry of hot cereals that I rotate through out the week along with toast, eggs, fruit, and other things so I don't need to plan toooo much for that meal. (cereal can be so expensive, even when it's on a super sale... a dollar a box is still much more expensive than what you can get out of hot cereals.) - Lunch can be leftovers, sandwiches, kabobs... the list goes on, still not too hard. - BUT, if you are only going shopping once a month, you need to make sure you account for these meals on your shopping list as well. Just make a quick list of things you eat and rotate them through out the month - At the begining of the week I write a 'plan' for breakfast and lunch for the week, but not for shopping, just to keep my head on straight.
Look over your budget and decide what you have to spend for groceries ... make sure to define what "groceries" mean in your budget. For some it is just food, for others it is every thing you get at the store, and for some it's everything other than gas and bills. - Just make sure you know what it is. - Then take the amount of cash for the month and don't spend a cent more. With your shopping trips, be sure to save money to be used through out the month for produce. Having the cash on hand (something I am really working on implementing, but not perfect yet) really helps. It's not a magic card connected to all of your income, it is what it is. X amount. It keeps you in the right mind when you see that 75 cent candy bar or the SUBWAY sign because you also see money disappearing. You know that if you spend 8 bucks on Subway, it's 8 dollars less you have to spend on fresh healthy produce, or meat for your family.
It does take self control (again, something I am SOOO working at.. it's all about the journey right? :) hehe) - But where and when did we turn "self control" into a bad word? Think about it..... SELF CONTROL ...... YOU have CONTROL -
GOOD LUCK TO YOU!!!! :) :) :)