Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping

It took me awhile to develop my current system of menu planning and grocery shopping, but I've finally settled on something that works for me.  I'd love to hear about your system. 

Choosing Recipes
1.  Search through favorite cookbooks.  A few of my favorite cookbooks include:
2.  Search for recipe by ingredients I already have or on favorite sites.  A few of my favorites are:
  •  (in my experience, this one is hit or miss because the users reviewing the recipes tend to completely change the original recipe!)
  • Crockin' Girls  (They have a Facebook page and a website.  I've used my crockpot more in the last six months than in my entire married life thanks to these easy, tasty recipes.)
3.  Go to my saved, loose recipes.  I'm the process of organizing my recipes.  I have several on index cards, many in a three-ring binder separated by category, and plenty bookmarked on the computer.  I'm still figuring out how to organize them.  I'm considering making my own online recipe book using Googledocs.

Making the List
Going to the grocery store is quite the outing these days.  Usually, I can get a solid half an hour of shopping in before Janie gets ants in her pants or Walt decides he needs a new diaper.  Having limited time to grab the food and go means that I had to create a system to make shopping as efficient as possible.  To do this, Philip created this handy-dandy list in Microsoft Word. 

I print off five of these at the start of each month and stick them on the fridge with a magnet.  I add to the list as we run out of items, and I use this to organize items as I make the weekly shopping list.  Having the ingredients organized helps me to be more efficient at the store.

It's also important for me to be efficient with my cart space and position of items because I have Janie buckled into the front of the cart, Walt in the basket in his infant carrier, and the diaper bag on the lower area.  I don't know what I'm going to do when I finally get Walt out of the infant carrier.  He has an inch and two pounds left before he officially has to graduate from the infant carrier.  That's a whole different story, though.  Back to making the list...

Once I got to know the stores where I buy items, I noticed myself even writing items in the order I'd encounter them in the store.  For example, my produce is organized first by fruits and then by veggies.

Creating the Menu
While making the grocery list, I write out the week's menu on some cute stationery.  Philip bought me a cute magnetic pad like this that I have on the fridge. 

I use it to make my to-do lists and write out our weekly menu.  I've found that writing out the days of the week with what we're having for dinner each night holds me accountable to making that day's dinner.  Having a plan means that we eat out less often and we waste less money on food that we don't eat.  It translates into smaller waistlines and more fun money.  I write out the main dish, any sides, where I found the recipe, and any important notes like "crockpot recipe" or "marinate meat for 6 hours before prep." 

Take Time to Edit
During or after each meal, Philip and I talk about things we'd do to change the meal for next time.  Next to or directly on the recipe, I add ingredients, cross out ingredients, adjust amounts, etc.  This ensures that we're eating the recipe exactly to our liking for next time.  Very rarely, we'll decide that the recipe isn't worth making again, so I'll write a big "X" over it if it's in a cookbook.

What do you do?
So, what's your system?  I'd love to hear it. 

Someday, my dream is to do the shopping like my mom used to.  She could go to the store with several recipes in her head, three (or more) kids in tow, and manage to get every ingredient she needed.  How do you do that?!   

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