Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blogging...the first six months, part 2

Since I started my blog, six months ago, I have put a more focused emphasis on menu planning. I don't always follow my menu plan completely, allowing for an occasional - not in the mood for x, having leftovers or an unplanned night out. But even with this occasional diversion from the menu plan, the process has really helped me in saving money and keeping us from getting bored with eating the same set of "no planning required" meals every week.

In menu planning, I start by focusing on what I have in the freezer and pantry and then look at where the deals are that week at the grocery. This has kept my stockpile items well rotated (I didn't always do such a great job before - stocking up at sales only to find it months later buried in the freezer or pantry). It also has allowed me to be more aware of what I have on hand, allowing me to look for stock up opportunities before we run out. This helps save money because it is more likely that I will get the items on sale, rather than paying full price.

I only plan week to week, finding that although monthly planning sounds good and maybe even more efficient, but I find it too be much harder to stick to that menu and therefore, feel it leaves me no better off than if I hadn't planned at all.

As I plan the menu for the week, I usually run it by my husband, asking what meals I haven't made in a while that he enjoys. This again ensures that the family is happy with the menu and that we keep it interesting. When I cook, I have also started making double size meals, consuming one that night and freezing one for a quick meal another night.

With menu planning, I have found the added benefits of reduced stress and less running around. I am able to make sure that I have the ingredients that I will need for that week's menu when I make my trip to the grocery store - saving me from so many last minute runs to the store. Plus, since I know what we are having for dinner the next night, I can pull stuff out of the freezer the night before and set in the refrigerator. This saves me from having to remember to do it the next morning or trying to figure out at 5 AM what I could possibly want for dinner that night.

I have also found that participating in Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie helps me stay on task with menu planning. Assorted recipe swaps through the week allows me to find new dishes to try out for the main course or side - another way to keep it more interesting and maybe find a new family favorite.

I would say that overall, menu planning has been a real positive for me.