Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Little About How I Plan Meals

Slugmama asked yesterday what our meals were like on the $42 I spent on groceries last week. Good question, and reminds me that I used post my weekly meal plans here until I decided that, while I had the best of intentions, posted meal plans either cost me money or caused me to lie.

If I planned well-balanced and appealing meals with lots of variety, and stuck to them religiously, they often cost me more than if I improvised with whatever we already had on hand and used up all our leftovers.  While I'm perfectly comfortable serving chicken five times in the same week or serving leftover refried beans with spaghetti and meatballs, I'm not always comfortable publishing menus like that.

But if I don't publish menus like that, when they happen, then I feel like I'm lying.

So I just quit posting my weekly menus altogether.

Anyway, back to Sluggy's question (and my very wordy answer).  What are meals like around here on $42 a week?  Let's start with breakfast, because it's almost non-existent around here.  Shane doesn't eat breakfast most mornings.  Like me, he has little appetite that early in the day.  I have just recently been trying to put some food in my stomach in the mornings.  When I do eat, it's usually oatmeal with yogurt or just some buttered toast with coffee.  Kat is our only breakfast eater, and she usually has eggs, pancakes, occasionally a bowl of boxed cereal or maybe even a slice of pizza.  She might have toast or fruit to go with these.  I might actually make a traditional breakfast on the weekend about once a month.

Lunches are a little more substantial.  Shane makes his own lunches, usually sandwiches or whatever leftovers he can eat that don't require being heated first.  Kat will either buy lunch at school (a couple times a week, maybe) or I pack her lunch.  A typical lunch would be a half sandwich (turkey, tuna, pbj, etc.), some chips or pretzels, some fruit or veggie sticks, a string cheese or some yogurt and either water or homemade gatorade.  I either eat dinner leftovers for lunch or I snack on whatever is in the fridge throughout the day.  On weekends, we eat leftovers or I make a quick lunch of some kind, usually egg-based.

That leaves supper, which is the only meal I actually plan.  I plan my meals, usually on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning for the following week, by first checking to see what we already have in the freezer or the pantry and basing meals (especially the main dishes) around what I find.  If chicken is the only meat in the freezer and dry beans are the only protein in the pantry, then those are the only things we'll have the next week.  This is not a big deal, because I plan for leftovers anyway.  After I have the mains planned, I fill in with side dishes which consist of a starch of some kind, a fruit or veggie I know that Kat will eat, another veggie that she might or might not eat (but must at least try) and maybe some extras like garlic toast or biscuits or a dessert.  I also like to serve homemade pickles and relishes as extras.

Then I make out my grocery list of things I need to "fulfill" these planned menus, checking my list against the Wednesday grocery ads to see if what I need is on sale. If not, is there is something that is on sale that I can substitute?  Finally, with some or all of the money I have left in my weekly grocery budget, I'll stock up on other sale items, especially meats.  These stock-ups will be used for future weeks' menus.  This is how I never pay more than $1/lb for poultry or sausage, $2/lb for pork, bacon, ham and most beef (except occasional steaks), or $4.50/lb for seafood.  The weekly ads start on Wednesday here, but any special sales usually start on Thursday or Friday, so I usually wait until those days to do my shopping. 

Another thing I do religiously is to cook big so that there are leftovers.  We love leftovers here, and it saves a lot of time in the kitchen.  My typical week will consist of three "new" meals, three leftover meals and one super-easy meal like sandwiches, fish sticks with mac-n-cheese, or a mystery-shopped pizza.  Occasionally we'll have a snack night or we might even go out to eat.

OK, so after rambling on for so long, here is what we ate for supper last week:

Chicken soft tacos with toppings, cream cheese corn with green chiles, salsa green beans, tortilla chips x 2
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, lettuce salad, green beans with carrot strips and mushrooms x 2
Homemade pizzas (1 ham, 1 hamburger, 1 Italian sausage and veggie), lettuce salad, grapes x 2
Franks and beans over slices of homemade bread, lettuce salad x 1

And what we'll eat for supper this week:

Roast turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing, lettuce salad x 2*
Turkey and veggie pot pie, lettuce salad, grapes x 2
Roast beef with potatoes and carrots, green beans, applesauce x 2*
Leftover roast beef enchiladas, Mexican rice, lettuce salad, applesauce x 1

As you can see, no one goes hungry around here.  :)

* Depending on how much meat I can get from the turkey, the roast beef meals may be bumped to next week, with more turkey meals in their place.

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Sheila said...

"While I'm perfectly comfortable serving chicken five times in the same week or serving leftover refried beans with spaghetti and meatballs, I'm not always comfortable publishing menus like that."
I feel the same way--I some times think the things we eat would not work for others because it doesn't always "go together"--but it works for us. We don't always eat a perfectly balanced meal and I do use some processed--read boxed--things but it works for us and some times I just need easy.
I think whatever your menu and or cooking methods, if it works for your family then it is a good thing.

Annie Jones said...

The way I see it, a lot of people enjoy going to buffets (like Ryan's or Hometown Buffet) and picking out foods that would never go together otherwise. Why not the same at home...LOL!

Sheila said...

I never thought of that--and that is the main reason I like buffets!! Now I don't have to feel so bad!! Thanks.

Leanne said...

Don't suppose there's room for one more at your table, I'm only little, honest:)

My menu plans have slipped lately too, mostly because I'm desperately trying to use everything in the chest freezer to get it defrosted, I figure another week will do it and there should be room in the freezer indoors to fit any leftover bits and bobs.

At least it's reminded me that it's really important to label packages before freezing them. Fancy coming over Thursday for mystery meat surprise?

Annie Jones said...

You know I would if I could, Leanne. :)

slugmama said...

Sounds like a good plan.
I would eat the same thing for a week if it were up to me....I get on jags like that with foods.lol
I cook once, eat twice when I can but the only one here who likes leftovers is hubs....so I cook once, freeze one and eat one. That works for me.

And I only do dinners here. I don't attempt bfast or lunch. I had stuff on hand for bfast and the kids eat or don't eat it. They are 14 & 17 so they are on their own with bfast. Daughter makes/takes her own lunch and #2 son sometimes buys something or he'll not eat and wait until he gets home to eat...he's 14...he can handle that.lol Hubs is the thorn in my frugal side...he buys a hot lunch at the company cafeteria 5 x a week. I do my best to guilt him into taking a lunch(since the company lunches are quite pricey and he loves leftovers after all)....sometimes he will 1 or 2 times a week. That lasts for a week or two if I don't stay on him and then he stops. sigh

Food consumption is cumulative so it doesn't matter much when you eat the protein, veggies, carbs...as long as you get a good balance in the long run, right? ;-)

SonyaAnn said...

That is amazing. I'm still working on our meal plan but I think that shopping once a month may be the problem. And after careful analysis I may be the problem but don't say anything yet! It is still a work in progress.