Ever since I've started planning a menu, things have been going so much better for us. I know I keep repeating myself, but I just don't think I can say it enough! It really helps!
I don't menu-plan in the "traditional" sense (i.e., these are our meals for Monday, Tuesday, etc). Instead, each month I plan a number of meals for the following month. Since I'm just planning for two (the baby's still nursing quite a bit) , I'll choose three or four meals a week; that gives us a few days each week to finish up any leftovers.
I try to make my menu around what we currently have stocked in the pantry, so we don't need to buy a bunch of new things. If I want to try new recipes, this is when I write them in -- planning ahead means I won't need to make an impromptu grocery run and spend money we don't have.
Next, I'll write out our grocery list around our menu; of course I add staples like flour, sugar, etc to the list as needed. We do one large shopping trip at the beginning of each month and get everything we can. Then, during the month, I'll go back for things like milk, eggs, and produce.
This is what I've found works best for us at this time in our lives; fewer shopping trips means I'm less likely to spend more money on things I "think" I need. It's gone so well that I've even got another woman at church starting this with her family! :o)
I've been trying to keep our grocery budget around $150 each month (almost $40 weekly). In Japan we spent well over that limit, but since arriving stateside, we have been working harder to be better stewards. It's taken some time, but the past few months we have actually started coming in under budget! :o) I've learned to take small steps at cutting my budget; it won't happen overnight!
This month we've spent about $135, and shouldn't have to go back to the commissary for anything else. That comes out to roughly $34 a week... my husband is so proud of me, and I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of myself! ;o)
Having everything on-hand means that when it comes time to decide what's for dinner, I look at my list of meals, choose one, and check it off the "menu." Then it's a snap to pull out the ingredients and get cooking!
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