Friday, April 16, 2010

Preparing for the Monthly Shop

(What the freezer inventory looked like before I went all high tech and made it into a table!)

I'm sorry, this post sat in the "edit" queue a bit too long. Obviously, the first Tuesday of April has come and gone. However--over at simplify 101, there's another brave soul who wants to attempt planning her menus for the month--and so--here's my process--typed up and ready to go-- just for you Megan. ;)

Well, the first Tuesday in April is coming up quickly. And so it is that time again to do the Monthly Menus. Some have expressed interest in how I have done this: so, since I'm still fairly immobile, now seems like a good time to hobble through the process with you.

I feed a family of four. My kids are home during the day: so lunch is always a hassle. Nonetheless, these menus I make up are for dinners only--oh--and I make a pot of soup once a week (as well as a batch of muffins) for my husband to take to work for his lunch.

My system has evolved over many years. I started with just the "Master Grocery List." For that, I simply kept and collected of all the grocery lists I'd made in a month and then entered them into the computer. Some advise making the list in the same order as the aisles of the store where you shop--but I did not do that: instead I grouped things in categories which made sense to me.

I used to use it weekly: I don't anymore. Here it is as it stands now.

It is one of the last sheets of paper we will use in this process.

First, I take inventory of the freezer and pantry. This is a fairly recent evolution of the process: and it was born out of the need to save every penny I could a while ago. I just go to my pantry in the basement and note what kinds of items I have. I have a one out, one in kind of rule. In other words, if there's ketchup in the fridge, but none in the pantry, we need ketchup. (Really, it's just a way of saving me worrying about what's in the fridge!)

That form looks like this:

You realize, of course, that neither of these forms are essential to meal planning. They are essential to shopping. I say that because you can just figure out what to eat when without them--that's a meal plan.

So, to the Nitty Gritty.

Sundays we have either Roast Ham or Roast Chicken.
Mondays are for leftovers. (Chicken corn Chowder soup and Chicken pot pie for the Roast Chicken, Hoppin' John soup for the Ham)

This month the rest of week breaks down like this:
Tuesdays: Pork or Poultry.
Wednesdays: Vegetarian
Thursday: Pork or Poultry
Friday: Beef (usually of the lean ground variety)
Saturday: Soup. (These are for the husband to take to work during the week. I actually make them up on Mondays along with the weekly muffins).

Going through the cookbooks, I write them all down on a calendar with side dishes. I record the cookbook and page number where I can find the recipe.

THEN--and this is where it saves us money--I go through the handwritten copy and type it out onto the computer. How does this save money? Well, as I do this, I look up each recipe again and write down what I need on my pantry inventory list. For example, tomorrow night we're going to have Turkey Pot Pie. I'm going to use the Campbell soup version of this: so I write down "can of cream of celery soup" on my inventory list. I put "1" under the category "plan to use."

For the next item, Italian Pasta and Bean bake, I record on my pantry list that I need
1 can 14 1/2 oz tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 jar of pasta sauce
8 oz (226g) mozzarella cheese.

The first three ingredients are merely tick marks on the pantry inventory form, the last is recorded on the shopping list.

And so on and so forth. After I've tallied everything up, I do some simple 'rithmetic. So, for example, let's say I'd noticed (and recorded) that we have 2 cans of 14 1/2 oz tomatoes in the pantry already--and my menu plan indicates I need five. So, on the pantry list, next to the listing for tomatoes, small can, I record 3 in the "NEED" column.

My system has some redundancy in it: the grocery list also includes "tomatoes, small can" where I may or may not write "3" beside it. I usually do, the goal being to take one piece of paper to the market and not 3 or 4, but I tend to bring everything--especially as I like having the meat detailed. Here's the shopping list ready for shopping:

And so, here it is, the star of our show. You've seen it before: the colour coded monthly menu plan.

But she certainly wouldn't work well at all with out her supporting players:
  • the grocery list with everything we buy regularly
  • and it's supporting actor: the pantry and freezer inventory.

Hope this helps, Megan.
Happy Shopping!


Christine in DC said...

This is very impressive. I've just recently started actually planning what to shop for and what to make...and that was prompted by budgetary cuts. I only feed myself, so it's not as big an issue, but it's miraculous what you can come up with when you know what you have. Your system is great!

Melissa said...

Great plan and explanation. I just popped over from the Wellness Journey class to check it out. It's just the two of us at home so I don't meal plan but my sister does a similar monthly plan for dinners and it works so well for her.

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