In our family we have pretty simple tastes so the menu is pretty basic, but even changing it up to your family's taste I am sure you can save a lot of money and time through out the month.
I will tell you right now I am not the "greenest" prep person, so you might see a little waste going on, if this bothers you I am sure you can work around it easily enough, but one of the reasons (outside of the big one: saving money) I am doing this because I am LAZY and also some times indecisive, so this makes it very easy to decide at the last minute what to have for dinner.
Here is what my meal plan started out like ( the little X a number means how many times in a month we will be having that meal)
January Meal plan
Meatloaf, twice baked potato, veggie and dinner roll x 3
Roast w/potatoes, onions, carrots – dinner roll –caramel apple empanada w/ ice cream
Leftover roast pulled and BBQ, chips, pickles and fruit
Grilled cheese and tomato soup x 3
BBQ chicken, flavored pasta, veggies and dinner roll x 2
Baja Hawaiian chicken, flavored pasta(or rice) veggies and roll
Smoked sausage, corn, pasta and fruit x 2
Burger steaks, twice baked potato, salad and roll
Egg taco – applesauce x 2
Taco bake – fruit salad
Spaghetti garlic cheese toast salad x 2
Pizza – salad – fruit x 2
Ham mashed potatoes veggie and dinner roll
Chili & crackers fruit ice
Hot dogs, chips pickles and fruit x 2
Veggie soup dinner roll
Taco pasta shells – salad x 2
Irish beef pies – salad
Beef and gravy over homemade noodles, veggie and fruit
Chicken/cranberry salad rolls sweet potato fries and fruit
Going from here I usually sit down with a pen and paper and write out every ingredient for each meal, because sometimes I will think, oh ya I already have BBQ sauce or something down and really not have done it, so I write it all out, then condense it down on the computer into my shopping list like this :
you will notice some * items, currently the boys because the adoption is not final qualify for WIC so these are items that are from that.
January Meal plan shopping list
80/20 ground chuck – 16lbs
saltines – 1 box
eggs – 2 doz (with 1st trip) 2 doz middle of the month *
onions – 1 large bag
western dressing – 1 lg bottle
potatoes – need 38
frozen green beans
frozen mix veggies
dinner rolls – 24
sliced American cheese *
tomato soup – 4 cans
chicken breasts – 16
egg noodles – 1 wide 1 thin
carrots – 1 large bag
smoked sausage – 2
soft taco shells – 1 from deli area
taco seasoning pack – 3
tomato – 3
crescent rolls – 2
Ragu – 2
Bagged salad – 2
Mozz. Cheese – 3
Pizza dough kit – 2
Canned fruit/frozen fruit
Chili beans – 1 lg can
Stewed tomatoes – 2 cans
Tomato sauce – 2 cans
Hot dogs – 2
Hot dog buns
Chips – 3 regular 1 BBQ 1 sour cream and onion
Chip dip – 3 large
Veg-all 1 lg can
Big pasta seashells
Sm head cabbage
Fridge pie crust
Apples lg bag green apples
Northern beans – 3 15oz cans
Chicken broth – 3 cans college inn low sodium
Cream of onion soup
Brown gravy pack
BBQ sauce – 2
Chocolate syrup – 2
Iced tea – 4 gallons
Case of bottled water
Bacon – 2
Sweet potatoes – 3
Coffee – 2
Creamer – 3
Sugar – 10lbs
Then with shopping list in hand I will sit down on a Sunday and view all the local grocery ads online, all the ones in our area also allow you to make a printable shopping list, which includes the item, size and sale price. Wal-mart will accept this printed list instead of taking all the ads in on shopping day. Then I look at one of the many blogs that will tell you what coupons are coming in Sunday's paper and decide if I buy a paper or not, I also look through my coupons that I have on hand.
Once everything is together I settle Craig and the boys in and head out on my own.
Once back at home all the cold items go into the fridge, only frozen fruit and veggies go in the freezer, don't want the meat freezing before I have time to work with it. Make sure the kitchen and dishes are done and I have my Dollar Store supplies on hand. I use the freezer bags, garbage bags and foil from the dollar store. They might not be the best in quality, but they WILL keep your food safe and fresh for the 3-4 weeks it's in there (no point in doing all this work to save money and blow it on expensive bags when they are not needed)
Finally on the day after shopping it's time to prep/cook. I say prep and cook as not everything is cooked, but it is prepped for easy, fast defrosting or cooking from the frozen state.
I usually start with getting little things together, we cook with a ton of onions so I peel and dice them all up, crush the cracker crumbs
Remember that LAZY part, well here it comes again. I get cheap trash bags at the dollar store, cut the end off so that it lays flat, use a wet washcloth to get the counter damp but not real wet and lay the bag out on it, this keeps the bag from slipping so much.
To do the meat loafs I throw on the ground chuck, make a little well, toss in the rest and mix it up right there on the bag
Oh ya another thing from the dollar store, tin pans. I line these with crisscrossing plastic wrap and fill with loaf mixture, fold in the wrap and mark. Since the burger was already cold, it can go right in the freezer and won't drop the freezer temp. You can either leave them in the pan as is and they will last 4 weeks if wrapped good, or if you are doing more than the number of pans you have you can freeze in pan for a few hours and then transfer to a foil wrap and mark.
Yep they are thin little things, but this is one of the PREP meals, so I want it thin so if at 2pm I decide I want meatloaf I can take it out of the freezer and still have dinner on the table the same night, or I can put it in the fridge the night before if we are really sure we are hankering for meatloaf.
The chicken is also mostly prep, wash and put single layer amounts in a bag and freeze for our baked BBQ chicken, or make up the marinade in bag, add chicken and let sit in the fridge while you finish the rest of the meals so the marinade soaks into the chicken
Next I started chicken boiling down for white chili and also the cranberry/chicken salad, while that was cooking I took the time to divide up the hot dogs and sausage according to meals
Notice they are all single layer and already cut to size I will be needing, these are prepped and ready to go with very little defrosting and some days with little ones hanging on your legs, even a simple step like slicing sausage is nice to not have to do.
Next up was the taco stuffed pasta shells, I freeze them in different amounts so that Craig can easily take some to work for lunch or I can pop a bunch in the oven for dinner. I must admit when getting these ready they smelled so good we had some for dinner that night. Here is where I got the directions, I will tell you that we did not use as much cream cheese as they called for.
For the dinner rolls I divide them up in sets of three, one for each of the men in the house, my hips really do not need them, I wrapped them tightly with plastic wrap then place back in the store wrap for freezing. About the same deal with the hamburger and hot dog buns.
For our potatoes for the month, I make up the twice baked potatoes since they freeze so well
you will notice cheese on only some of them, these are for handy potatoes for Craig to take to work with some leftover meat for lunches as they do well in the microwave. But again although I might have put in twice baked potato on the menu, we might change our mind and want mashed potatoes instead, easy - just take out the number of these you need, scrap out the innards and a little milk and mush (yep I said mush) together and warm in microwave. If in fact we do want cheese and bacon bits we can add them at any time, it's easier to add than to try to pick it off if you want mashed potatoes.
I will make another post in a few days with the fruit, veggies, caramel apple empanadas and pasta mixes I make.
This menu and shopping list was made for two adults and two small boys, so more like 3 adults. We are not HUGE eaters and when I serve a meal I like to have a lot of choices on the plate in case the boys decide they don't like something there is plenty more to choose from. So while 1/2 potato, one dinner roll and some meatloaf don't sound like alot, there is also the veggie and fruit on the plate too, more than enough to fill you up for sure, especially since it's really not good to eat 2 Big Macs, large fry and chicken nuggets, this may be the way the media has sent us in recent years, but you DON'T need all that to survive.