maandag 25 november 2013

How We Meal Plan For Our Clan (Overig)

Monday, April 9, 2012
After the recent stint on HGTV, I have been getting quite a few questions about my meal planning process. I actually did a post on it quite awhile ago here, however, it's since evolved a bit and I thought it was time for a little update.

First, it is important to take a moment to chat about why I go through the process:

To prepare for the week: We typically meal plan on Sunday and plan out what we are having for breakfast, lunch and dinner each week. Because we know what we are eating each morning and night, it means less stress, less money eating out and the ability to pull anything frozen out of the freezer the night before. When my husband gets home from work, there is none of that, "What is for dinner?" banter.
To save a little moolah: We save money on items we purchase often when we can combine a sale and a coupon, or even just use a coupon. We also save money by only purchasing the items we plan to eat within a given week, vs. going to the grocery store hungry and winging it...
Scheduling: We always keep our weekly schedules and appointments in mind when we meal plan. Nights we have baseball practice or golf league means quick and easy dinners and family nights mean we can pick something new to make and spend a little more time preparing a good meal.
Awhile back I wrote down all of the items we eat ALL the time. Our family staples. Items we like to have on stock for super quick dinners, produce we love to eat each week, items for packing lunches and snacks for after school...

I would reference this to quickly check it against our inventory {which is easy since I don't over purchase and everything is in clear containers}. I would hate to not have any popcorn on hand when family movie night rolls around... This also ensures that if for some reason a last minute obligation comes up on a night where we had a bigger meal planned, we have a couple of quick items to fall back on to avoid rushing out to eat... It is also great for our weekly after school snacks, which typically include things like veggies, apple slices, raisins, graham crackers, etc...

Eventually, the list was engraved in my brain, but I always kept a copy on my meal planning clipboard, just in case. I also found I needed it less when I was really good about writing things on my shopping list for the next week, as soon as it ran out.

When it comes to coupons, I just look for items that we often enjoy and use when preparing our meals...

I spend $1 for the Sunday paper for the coupon inserts and the rest of the coupons are printed off online. So once I find enough coupons to cover that one dollar investment {which is very easy}, then the rest is gain for me.

Now, I will NEVER claim to be a crazy couponer, nor do I think I ever will be. Here are a couple of reason's why it's just not for me personally:

I only wish to dedicate my kitchen space for storing my foods, and my kitchen isn't all that big. I could sacrifice some of my laundry room for overstock items, but it's downstairs and much out of the way, therefore, it wouldn't be A} Convenient or B} Always thought about. Many of the foods we purchase are perishable which we can't buy in abundance anyway.
I don't wish to purchase items we don't/won't use. We have been trying to eat more naturally and organically, and we find many of the items that end up in the ads, are not things that we would typically purchase without a coupon. Same with cleaning, we either make our cleaning products or purchase "greener" brands, so you won't find ten bottles of KaBoom under my bathroom sink. Having a bunch of stuff we won't use or don't need, just because it was free or a really great deal, just is not for me.
We live quite a distance away from most major grocery stores, so I go once a week and I go to one {maybe two} places and that is it for me. I just don't have the time to run to each market that has the best sale combined with coupons, or to even plan and map out grocery trips.
Time. I never feel like there is enough in the day to accomplish everything I want to do, so adding in the time many invest in couponing just isn't realistic for me personally. Could I do better? Absolutely! Are there websites that will make it easier for me? My guess is yes. Do I always try to improve and streamline our process. For sure! That's the important thing to note. Our system works, but we are always looking for ways to make it work even better.
It's all about finding that balance. If I were to invest more time into the couponing process, I would have to give/sacrifice time in another area. I do have endless respect for those that can spend $6 on $200 worth of items, and even have some amazing couponers right within our family that have put those coupons to fabulous use.

Here are some couponing questions I have received:

Does Bryan really help clip coupons? Yes. He does help meal plan and occasionally clips {although the kids typically love to own the clipping part since it feels like craft time to them}. He is the chef of the family so it is really important for him to weigh in on the meals we are planning for the week. Back when I did daycare, I owned the daycare meals and he actually owned all of the planning for our meals. We are a cheesy team I tell ya!

How much do we save each week couponing? Sometimes $20, last week $60. It really just depends on how good the sales are and how well I did meal planning around sales and coupons. Some weeks I find the sales are not all the great for us, other weeks I feel like we hit the jackpot. It's hard to put a number on the money we save by planning our meals, but I love that I am not over purchasing and that we rarely toss out food because we only keep on hand what we eat in a given week and plan based on our inventory first.

How do you store your coupons? I have tried every single method I can think of, and finally have landed on the one that is working for me. I used to sort my coupons by type and product and alphabetically, blah blah blah.... However, I would get to the grocery store and it was so frustrating digging through so many categories to find what I wanted. So now, I just store them all in one coupon envelope, by simple categories:

Fun, Dining, Fuel, Grocery and Clothing. That is it. That way, depending on what we are doing, is where I go for a coupon. So much easier. And the grocery section has a giant stack in there, but I go through them when meal planning, take out the ones I will be using that week, put those in a separate pouch and put the rest back here. That way, when I am at the grocery store, I am only holding the ones that match my meal plan/grocery list, and not dealing with the extra clutter of all of the other ones I don't need.

Do you ever purchase in bulk? Yes. If something we eat frequently {something on our staples list}, is on sale plus there is a great coupon deal and I know I have the room to store it, then I will purchase a few extra. Spaghetti sauce, chicken and waffles seem to be when this happens most. All things we eat every week, and then I will just be sure to consider those items when meal planning down the line.

So once I have all of my coupons clipped, I start meal planning!

When I meal plan, I consider:

My current food inventory
Trying something new

I start by taking a quick glance at the foods we already have and plan accordingly. This might get us a meal or two since we really don't over purchase much.

Then, I look at the coupons/sales and also flip through our recipe binder, and plan the remaining meals accordingly. A tip I actually learned from my bestest is to plan a different type of food each night, so we have a night where we make a type of sandwich or wrap, a night for an Italian or noodle dish, a night for a Mexican meal, seafood night, etc.... This gives us variety in our meals so we aren't just eating spaghetti every night/week.

We try to try something new each week, schedule permitting. If we have weeks where we are home without too many obligations, we will scour Pinterest, cook books and our recipe binder to try something new, and we often time cook it with the kidlets, since they love to help in the kitchen. We make this some of our family time.

Speaking of recipe binder....
It's basically just a binder that has pocket dividers and sheet protectors. We keep it as simple as possible, organizing by type of dish. When we find a recipe in a magazine, I clip it out and put it in the divider. If I find a recipe online or from Pinterest, I print it out and pop it in. If we have favorites from our cookbooks, I make a copy and put that in. I like having one place for recipe reference. It's super simple to maintain, and when I pick a meal for the week, I just put a flag on that page so we can quickly find it when the night comes to make it.

The pocket dividers are great for holding meal planning tools like extra shopping lists, weekly ads, etc...

We keep the shopping list {sold here in my shop} on a clipboard hung in our pantry cabinet...

By keeping it in the pantry, we can write things on it as we run out throughout the week {this is great for snacks and staple items}. I put our meal plan items on the left and then jot down the items we need to prepare those meals, onto the list section on the right. Then, I can just easily check things off as I go through the store, remember what we planned, etc...

I also toss the weekly menu on our menu board so the whole family can be on the same page...

When shopping, I whipped up a simple, laminated/reusable list for each of my younger boys to keep them busy at the store. The items are again, items we purchase frequently and simple enough for them to be on the lookout while shopping. Even just holding the list has been helpful in keeping their hands busy.

I started meal planning when I started doing daycare almost four years ago, because there was no way I was going to be unprepared each day with what I was making all the kids. Then, I found the benefits and meal planned for our family as well, and it's stuck ever since. That said, it's gotten easier and quicker each week. If time is tight, I have even meal planned and clipped coupons in the car {of course not while driving, only as a passenger}. Does it take a little time up front to save time and money in the end? Yes. Quicker grocery shopping trips, less time during the week figuring out dinner and meals and some money saved by using coupons.... All wins for me.

So feel free to let me know what other questions you have about our process, or chime in and share your money saving meal planning and coupon clipping tips! What are your favorite websites to use for meal planning or scoring mega deals?

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