Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Meal Planning 101

Recently it came to my attention whilst looking through bank statements (online, of course) that we were spending WAY over the budgeted amount on groceries. I mean ...WAY over. So I thought there was no better time then now to revise our 'planning method' as clearly our current one has been failing us.

I keep a binder friendly-plastic sleeve system in my Family Planner which holds all my Meal Planning 'tools'. Since my budget and actual spending's are not matching up, I thought it was time to revise my tools and make sure every template I have, is there for a reason.

Food Preference Chart
Recipes Section
Menu Planner
Inventory Lists

The Food Preference Chart acts as a 'favorites' list for my family meals, with the recipe section holding recipes that we don't generally eat as often as we do say, spaghetti bolognese. My Menu Planner and Inventory Lists go hand in hand as they are both great tools, I just needed to refine them and make them both more applicable to our family needs. Along the way of trialling new recipes we have discovered foods that we all do not like, and would rather not try again, and of course there are recipes we all absolutely love.

So I don't have to try and recall if a recipe falls into the love or loath category, the food prefernce chart becomes very handy. I have also made up a simple Menu Plan using Microsoft Excel, which you can download your very own copy (it's free, no strings!!) by clicking here. My Fiance Luke does shift work and our daughter Lily is just about to start preschool, so I needed to accommodate for these circumstances in our grocery shop.

Below is an image of what the free download looks like :)

I keep an inventory list of; the pantry, fridge/freezer, bathroom and laundry which saves me even more time when it comes to making a grocery list as I can quickly refer back to my lists. This not only saves time, but eliminates the chance of me re-purchasing an item that I might already have 5 of.

You can download your free copy of my pantry inventory by clicking here.

If you're wanting to meal plan but thinking, okay..how do I start... then a good place to begin is by writing down on a piece of paper your staple items for each inventory, items that you reach for all the time and would hate to run out of. Here's an example:

Fridge Staples: Milk, Margarine/Butter Spread, Cheese & Eggs
Freezer Staples: Beef Mince, Chicken Breasts
Pantry Staples: Cereal, Bread, Tomato Sauce, Sugar, Dishwasher Tablets
Laundry Staples: Detergent
Bathroom Staples: Toilet Paper, Hand Detergent, Shampoo/Conditioner, Body Soap

You get the point. Start with all the items you love having (like toilet paper!) this gives you at least a starting point. From there you can work on your menu planner, then your grocery list, knowing the food/items you already have are going to be used and not left to waste, and the items that you're purchasing during your shop will be needed and not fall into the 'impulse purchase' category.


The books I refer to are:

Healthy Family, Happy Family by Karen Fischer
The Australian Women's Weekly fresh food for babies & toddlers
The Family Kitchen; Healthy Fast Food

All 3 of these books were purchased from my local Coles Supermarket.

It's often when we only need 1-2 items from the Supermarket that we come back with much less money in our wallets than expected due to the lack of self control when it comes to impulse purchasing. I'm rather annoyed and shocked at just how much we have gone over budget this year on just groceries alone, we should have a pantry that rivals those seen on Extreme Couponing at this point!

It is from this point forward that I am stepping up my Meal Planning and vow to only have takeaway 1-2 times (maximum) a fortnight! I pledge to use more self control with sales at the supermarket! Better preparation will help eliminate all these random trips to our supermarket!

I'd love to hear from you! Let me know how you go about saving money at the checkouts, do you meal plan? If you do, on what basis? Weekly, Fortnightly..Monthly? Feel free to share this with your friends/ family if you found it helpful, I've also added the option to 'Pin' posts to Pinterest now so hopefully that helps a lot more people also :)

Until Next Time,



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