Author’s Note: I’m writing this from Panera where I’m desperately trying not to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. I just enjoyed a sprouted grain bagel flat and reduced fat hazelnut spread and a delicious cup of dark roast coffee. Yum!
Planning out my meals and snacks is the single most important part of maintaining my weight. Working out helps me reshape my body and maintain my mental health but I would never have lost 100+ lbs (and kept it OFF) without cooking most of my meals from scratch. And the biggest aspect of cooking for me is the planning process.
The Hubs and I go grocery shopping on Sundays, usually, because our favorite grocery store’s sales begin on Sunday, but planning begins much earlier than that.
Once a Month
Remember this from Frugal May Days? About once a month I go through my two freezers, my fridge and my cabinets and make a list of all the ingredients I have on hand. Since I stock up on things when they’re really cheap, this can take a while, but it’s important. This, combined with fresh ingredients, creates my menu.
Thursday is the day our grocery store’s sale preview goes up on Living Rich With Coupons. This website shows the flyer and has a page of the best sales along with accompanying coupons/rebates. I check there for the really cheap deals, and note the ones I think we need or will use on my menu planner in Google Docs. The meat department list is the most important, and will influence this week’s menu the most. This week we had pork chops, boneless skinless chicken breasts and round roast on sale, so those items go on the menu once, and the remainder of the meat gets packed away in the freezer for a later date.
Friday I start hunting down rebates and coupons for things at other stores, or in addition to the sales. I’m also thinking about what I’m in the mood for (am I feeling like I want Thai this week? Or Indian? Or a hearty stew?), what the weather will be like (sorghum risotto in 90 degree weather is no fun) and what my schedule will be like for the week (Wednesdays I work in the showroom so I get out of work late and then go to the gym, so a crockpot dinner is in order). I gather recipes based on what I’m in the mood for, what’s on sale and what’s seasonal. I also try to put my meat-based dishes on kettlebell days, and lean vegetarian for the rest of the week. Protein, baby! The recipes almost always come via Pinterest, which in my opinion is an ingenious way to showcase recipes, especially if you’re better than I am at taking photos of your food!
This week’s menu looks like this:
Now you may ask about veggies. We have a wholesale produce market chain around here called Produce Junction. It’s a small warehouse, with some displays where you can grab what you need, but the majority of items are pre-bagged and held behind a counter, old school style. You check the giant board for prices and quantity, then wait in line and tell the person behind the counter what you need. They provide it for you, total it up, and bag it. There are no checks or credit cards here, only cold hard cash and food stamps. This saves me a TON of money. I can get cilantro here, 3 beautiful bunches, for between $1-$1.50. At my grocery store one really sad bunch is $2.99, and we use a LOT of cilantro. Almost everything is cheaper than buying it at the grocery, and as we aren’t terribly concerned about organic or local (sorry folks, I have a budget), it’s what works for us. The only time we don’t buy from Produce Junction is when there’s a particularly good deal on something somewhere else, or if we only need a very small amount of something.
This week we got 2 pints of grape tomatoes, 2 10 oz packages of sliced mushrooms, 3 bunches cilantro, 3 bunches parsley, 2 acorn squash, 2 pounds of asparagus, 2 lbs of tiny eggplant, 1 giant head of cauliflower, and a bunch of fresh chives, all for $19.75.
Saturdays are the last minute scramble to fill out the recipes with sides and make sure I get everything on the list that needs to be there. I check to make sure I include my snack foods, my nut milk for my coffee (cashew, please), and any spices I may be getting low on. But, sadly, the planning process does not end there.
Shopping Day! I’m an early riser, and I’ve been getting up at 6, even on my weekends. I just wake up. I usually spend an hour goofing off on Facebook and sipping coffee, but on Sundays, I double check all of my shopping resources. These include:
This week that was especially important, because I found a TON of stuff that was a great deal to stock up on, like Aussie 3-Minute Miracle for 66 cents APIECE. (I got some exceptional deals this week.) My grocery list ends up looking something like this:
As you can see, I note the items that have coupons, digital coupons, free items associated with them, or app rebates. If they’re on sale, I also note the sale price.
So I gather my coupons, my phone and my grocery list and head out. I always start at Produce Junction first, because on occasion they don’t have something I need (although they always have 4 different kinds of eggplant and a lot of vegetables that are specific to Hispanic, Southern and Asian cuisines, so I can really get my hands on some awesome stuff).
We get everything we can at Produce Junction, then go immediately to Shoprite. We usually stop at home to drop off the food and then head out to Walmart to round out the rest. That’s usually only stuff that is guaranteed to be less expensive there, like cashew milk, Greek yogurt and canned goods.
As I said earlier, this week we got some amazing deals, and we saved as much money at Shoprite as we spent!
Are you this much of a planner? Do you think I’m crazy? 🙂
Last weekend, Bingley had some friends come to play. He couldn’t keep his face out of their butts THE WHOLE DAY.