Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Time Saving Tips for Meal Planning and Grocery Lists

I dread planning my family's menu for the week and making a grocery list.  I don’t like tasks that I have to do over and over again.  (It is the making the bed argument all over again.) Recently, I came up with a solution so I would not  have to plan meals and make grocery lists every single week. (I still have to make my bed everyday, though--let me know if you discover a trick for that.)

First, I make a list of all the meals my family eats for dinner on a regular basis.  I put this in the front of a folder that I keep for meal planning.  I add to the list as I try new recipes.

Next, I look over the list and chose 5-6 meals that would work for dinner in the month that I am planning for. Since it is currently July in Southern Nevada, soups are not on the menu! I do my meal planning one week at a time--each of my lists only covers one week.  I know that we will have leftovers one or two nights so I only put  5 to 6 meals on the list.  (I always have a standby meal like spaghetti in case leftovers don't happen).   I also make a list of foods to eat for breakfast and lunch. Here is this week's menu:

Granola bars
Turkey burgers
Italian chicken
Barbecue Pork Chops
Sweet and Sour Chicken

Now, I make my grocery list on Excel.  You can download a blank copy of my list here.  My grocery list has these categories: produce, meat, dairy, frozen foods, breads/pasta, canned goods, dry goods, snacks, baking/condiments, beverages, and miscellaneous.  I also have three categories labeled breakfasts, lunches, and dinners where I write each of the meals I have planned as a reference.  This way the menu and grocery list are all recorded on one page. I now go through each menu item and add all the required ingredients to the appropriate category on my list.  Even if I have the ingredients on hand, I add them to the list.  Save your files so they are easy to find later; choose a name and file location that you’ll remember. I save the list as Meals for July 1. Now I have a menu and coordinating grocery list. Next week, I will make a new list and save it as Meals for July 2. 

Here is the glorious part.  For the 3rd week in July, I can return to the list labeled Meals for July 1 and my menu and grocery list is ready to go. I print the list, cross off the items I already have on hand, and add anything else I’d like to get.  I’m done and ready to go to the store.  For the 4th week, I can repeat the list labeled Meals for July 2.  Next year at this time, I can simply open my files for July and my meal planning and grocery list will be ready. I am working on creating two lists for each month that I can repeat.  You can create more lists if you’d like more variety.  You can also make lists for longer periods of time.  I make my menus for one week because my family uses a great deal of fresh produce.  Just remember to save your lists so you can use them AGAIN later.

I hope this method will help you save some time so you can spend it doing something fun!

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