This week, my Frugal Friday tip is about menu planning.
As you probably know, resources about planning meal menus at home are plentiful - perhaps overwhelming. But today I'm going to share a little of what I've learned to apply in my own life... this is tried-and-true, and helped me save my sanity!
When I was single, I would decide what I wanted to eat based on what I felt like eating. If I couldn't find something at my house, I'd go out.
When I got married, I got a husband and an instant family overnight. My husband had two young boys - ages 6 & 8. The only children I had were the ones I taught at school...but I never had to bring any of them home with me. So in the afternoons, after teaching all day, I'd pick the boys up from school. Hubby worked construction, so his arrival home would vary. As soon as we hit the front door, it would start.
Boys: "What're we having for dinner?"
Me: "Why? Are you hungry?"
Boys: "No ma'am."
Me: "Then why do you want to know what we're having if you're not even hungry?" (See how naive I was?????)
Boys: "We just wanna know."
Me: "Well, I'll let you know when I figure it out." (Yeah. Nice answer. Never let 'em see ya sweat.)
So I'd go to the refrigerator. And I'd stand there, with the door open. Waiting. Hoping for inspiration to strike. And you know what? It never did.
After about a year, (yes, I'm a quick learner), I realized I needed a plan. I knew nothing about menu planning. My mother was always at home. I never thought about what she did all day, and she never told me what happened when I was at school. I was clueless. So I began to look for resources, and I found a couple of books that talked about knowing what to fix for dinner before dinnertime actually arrived. What an intriguing idea! The kids had been banned from asking me THAT question anymore. The words "What's for dinner" sent me into a deplorable mood. Could this actually be a solution????
I got a calendar. I made a list. I asked everyone what their favorite meal was (McDonald's did not count. Neither did Pizza Hut.) I put the meals on the calendar, and decided what side dishes would go with them. Then I made a grocery list, and I bought what I needed to make the meals for about a week. And when dinnertime came, I knew what to do. WOO HOO!!!!
I also discovered that this saved us LOTS of money. And I have adapted this strategy over the last 14 years of my marriage. And in times when we needed to watch our pennies, having a menu plan has proved invaluable. So if you think you can't do it, give it a try.... once you get started, it just might make dinnertime a little less stressful.
If you're still with me here, I've planned out our menu for the month of August. (Because now hubby & I both teach, and we don't get another paycheck until the end of August!!) I've left some days blank, because we invariably have leftovers, and sometimes thing change. But we have a PLAN, so I'm never caught flat-footed. (If you'd like a copy of my menu - it's purely based on food my family likes - I will be happy to send it to you. Just let me know.)