Menu planning and grocery shopping

Another large family blogger posted about how she does her grocery shopping, which made me realize that this is something I have never written about.  Surprising really, since the question of how I feed all these people is one that is recurring.

I do the grocery shopping once a week and if all goes well, recently J. and I have been going together as a "date".  It does make the process more enjoyable.  I have tried to go for two weeks at a time between trips but that hasn't worked for us.  I would need to go for a short trip anyway to pick up milk and produce, plus, I sometimes have enough trouble coming up with one week's worth of meals much less two.

I always, always, always go to the store (well, actually stores) with a list made from the week's menu plan.  It is a waste of time and money to go without knowing what you are going to be cooking.  You will almost always have to go back to the store to pick-up things you didn't know you needed... and how often have you walked out of a grocery store with just the one item you went to get?

So, step one to the grocery shopping is the making of the week's menu.  On really good weeks, I've been thinking about it during the week and writing down ideas, so there isn't much left to do.  But most weeks I have to come up with all seven meals.  I try to keep things varied and will rarely make the same meal more than once every three weeks or so.  I try to do several meatless dishes, some pasta, a soup, a crock-pot meal, and some beef or chicken, adding in side dishes as I plan.  I also look in the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to see what needs to be used and take that into consideration.  As I plan the meal, I write down the ingredients I will need on my list so I don't forget anything.  For lunches and breakfasts I just keep the same things on hand so there is little planning required. 

Some other thoughts about menu planning:
  • It is very helpful to do this with the family calendar near by.  On busy days I plan easy meals and save the more time intensive ones for the lighter days. 
  • In the summer I also look at the weather forecast and try to plan meals based on how much I'm going to want to be turning on an oven or stove.
  • I plan seasonally.  I try to only use ingredients which are currently in season.  Not only is it less expensive, but the food tastes better and I like the idea of children learning to experience the delight of having a food again when it comes back into season.
Once I have my list made up of ingredients for meals, items I buy every week, and staples which need to be replenished, it's time to head to the store.  I shop at two stores regularly:  Aldi for dairy and canned and boxed goods and a small, local market for produce, meat, ethnic ingredients, and whatever else can't be found at Aldi.  I usually stick to my list unless I see something that is on sale.  It helps to have a good working price list, either in your head or written down, so you know if it actually is a good sale price or not.  Sales are not always the bargain they purport to be.

Once home, the masses help bring in and unload the groceries.  By this time, I'm done with the entire enterprise and am thankful that my children are pretty good about putting away groceries; I'm putting my feet up and having a cup of tea. 

A couple of other notes based on questions I've received: 
  • No, I don't use a printed list.  There aren't that many items which I buy every week and it is simple for me to write those on my list.  My weekly menus vary so much that I'm rarely buying the same items two weeks in a row.
  • Yes, I shop at our local warehouse store.  I buy diapers, wipes, dishwasher detergent, and paper products there.  I'm pretty good about the impulse shopping... I dislike being there so much that I can't wait to get out.
  • No, I don't use coupons.  I know some people save tons of money with them, but I don't have the patience to do it.  Plus, I rarely see coupons for what I buy (I buy very little processed food) and stores in my area do not double or triple coupons.  I know you are all very surprised to hear that.
  • Yes, I keep a very stocked pantry.  While we would run out of fresh produce, I figure that we could probably eat for at least a month without going to a store.  It wouldn't be very interesting near the end of the month... but it would feed us.
Anything I forgot to cover?


Anonymous said…
I enjoyed my trip to the grocery stores with you. You have shopping for your large family down to an art form!! -Moriah
Thanks for joining in with us! Thanks for sharing too!

busymomof10 said…
i really enjoyded reading about how your family handles grocery shopping! Thanks for sharing and linking up with us!

I also like seeing your menus on the side bar. Great idea!
Ann said…
I also like your menus on the side bar. I wonder if you can post your granola recipe sometime? I need to go back to menu planning instead of flying by the seat of my pants so often. thanks!

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