Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Menu planning saves money!

I've posted about this before (August 2009) and I'm going to reiterate: meal planning saves money!

Last week presented me with a bit of a situation that I'm not used to: my main pantry was fairly empty except for rice, dried beans, and oatmeal, and my freezer contained 5 whole chickens (I can cut them up myself), 2 packages of chicken breast, odds & ends of fruits & vegetables, 6 pounds of ground turkey, and 3 jars of freezer jam. I still had several jars of home-canned foods like applesauce, pears, apple butter, beet pickles, carrots, green beans and relishes. I KNEW it was time to go shopping! So, I sat down, followed my menu planning rules, and came up with 19 meals. I listed the ingredients needed, checked against my list of what I already had, subbed a couple of cheaper meals for meals that were going to cost more, and made my shopping list. $181.24 later (reminder: do NOT take kids shopping with you), I had enough groceries to feed my family of 7 for 24 days (will need to get more eggs, but that's about it). That's an average of 36 cents per meal per person!!!

Here's my menu:

Breakfasts - waffles (from scratch), pancakes (from scratch), oatmeal (topped with fruit, syrup, cinnamon, &/or peanut butter), cereal leftovers from what was in the pantry, and 4 more boxes of cereal (all under $2 each)

Lunches - any leftovers, sandwiches (tuna, egg salad, cheese, PB & J, meat, PB & banana), homemade bagels with peanut butter, fresh fruit, canned fruit or applesauce.

Snacks - fresh fruit, applesauce, homemade cookies, brownies, cakes or muffins, popcorn, homemade popsicles and pudding pops, homemade sherbet

Dinners -
6/18 hot dogs & noodles skillet meal (not super healthy but a kids' fave), steamed veggies
6/19 tacos made with 1 lb. ground turkey, homemade taco seasoning, 1 can refried beans, topped with fresh tomatoes, cheese, shredded lettuce and homemade taco sauce.
6/20 (Father's Day) grilled bratwurst on buns, homemade onion rings, oven fried potatoes, marinated carrot salad
6/21 Chicken alfredo, green peas, fresh strawberry pie
6/22 Taco salad: lettuce, tomatoes, pinto beans, black olives, cheese, taco meat made with my homemade taco seasoning, bag of nacho chips (store brand, not name brand), homemade sweet French dressing
6/23 Cheesy chicken lasagna, homemade garlic herb bread, tossed salad with carrots, tomatoes, celery, green peppers
6/24 Crockpot chili, homemade rolls or muffins
6/25 meatloaf, homemade scalloped potatoes, green beans
6/26 Oven fried chicken, corn pudding (scalloped corn), steamed broccoli mix
6/27 Crockpot scalloped potatoes & ham, broccoli salad
6/28 Shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches (chicken breast cooked in crockpot with BBQ sauce, shredded) on homemade buns, pickled beets, shredded carrot salad (carrots, raisins, diced apples)
6/29 hamburger goulash, green beans, leftover shredded carrot salad
6/30 Chicken & stuffing casserole, mixed veggies in casserole, blueberry or apple crisp
7/1 Crockpot ham & bean soup, apple spice & blueberry oat muffins, tossed salad
7/2 Ramen casserole with mixed veggies added, tossed salad
7/3 Homemade pizza
7/4 grilled bratwurst, hot dogs with Red Dawg sauce, buns, baked beans, pea salad, brownies or jello dessert
7/5 Chicken Pierre, rice, green beans
7/6 Lasagna, homemade garlic herb bread, tossed salad
7/7 Chicken pot pie, carrot & celery sticks with ranch dip (homemade), blueberry cobbler or crisp
7/8 chicken stir fry, veggies in stir fry, rice or lentils, orange dessert
7/9 Copycat Manwich sloppy joes on homemade buns, carrot & celery sticks, pickled beets, corn pudding (scalloped corn)
7/10 Spicy roasted chicken, black & white bean salad with veggies
7/11 Bruschetta chicken bake, bean or vegetable salad, green beans

I know you're saying, "That's a LOT of food! How can you get it for so cheap?" Well, I shopped at the Amish salvage grocery store first. Don't say "Ick!" because it's a salvage grocery; I look for the least dented cans, the least damaged boxes (most have 1 corner crushed and that's it), and I can also get fresh produce, dairy, frozen, and bulk foods there for less than anywhere else. Taco shells for 35 cents, 15 oz cans of tomatoes for 35 cents, boxes of name brand cereal for under $2, 20 oz. ham slices for 99 cents, fresh eggs for 99 cents a dozen, cottage cheese for 79 cents/16 oz, 50 lbs. flour for $14.99...those are DEALS! Then I went to Save A Lot and bought the rest of my groceries except for milk. Meijer had a great deal on milk last week, $2 per gallon, so I bought 8 gallons and also found Johnsonville bratwurst for 3/$5, toilet paper and Cascade on sale, and a jug of store brand tomato juice that was cheaper than Dollar General by 6 cents (remember that I keep a price comparison notebook). Remember, too, that buns, bread, stuffing mix, and most everything else is made from scratch (almost every recipe I will use is in this blog). I don't shop strictly organic which helps lower the grocery bill, I know. That is personal preference.

$181 for over 3 weeks for 7 people. It's not a rice & beans diet, either! This is why meal planning is so important if you're trying to save $$.

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