Thursday, August 2, 2012

To Plan or Not to Plan ...

Plan, definitely plan.  That does not mean I always create a plan.  That is a mistake because then I have to revamp my budget because I went over in the grocery allowance.  I hate budgeting.  It makes me so cranky.  Thank goodness our paycheck is once a month (and heaven forbid it coincides with Aunt Flo - you don't want to go there with me mood-wise).  So plan it is, and how I do I do that?

When I plan my menus, I pore over the sales ads for the upcoming week.  Well, not pore but I do read them, making circles on good prices.  You have to know what is a good price.  Sale does not necessarily mean a good price.  I can find the ads on-line so I can have one more excuse not to move from my comfy chair.  I also compare the different store ads.  If Store A has chicken breasts on sale for 2 cents less than Store B who is having fruit on sale for 30 cents less a pound as well as frozen vegetables, I will go only to Store B.  It isn't worth my time or gas money to go to Store A - especially in this heat.  One less outing in the outdoors oven is fine by me.  Add kids and car seats to that and you might as well throw a bottle of pain killer in your basket for the headache you will get.

If I take my children, I have to orchestrate that more than my meal plan.  I cannot take #5 and #6 together because they like to shop and go to a zillion stores - they feed off each other and quadruple not just double each other's need to shop and ask for everything.   #3 likes to shop too so nix that child.  #1 isn't always home (college kid now), and #2 would rather be on the computer.  He is a big help carrying in the groceries though as is #4.  #7 can go ONLY if my phone is charged enough so he can watch a movie (thank you Netflix app) and not in a french fry mood.  So I like to go alone and assign a sitter in charge of #7 if possible.

So what is on sale around here?  Chicken and ribs - hence the chicken dish and a meal of ribs.  We have over 200 pounds of beef in our freezer so I am good in that area.  I also try to plan two meatless/low meat meals a week.  It saves money.  Have you seen the cost of meat lately?  I remember when I didn't have to pay more than $1.69 a pound except for special meals.  Now, I am lucky to find meat for under $2.69 a pound (I prefer lean cuts).  That is why we bought a side of beef a couple of weeks ago.  It balances out cheaper than the regular store.  I also get the added bonus of helping a local farmer who happens to be certified organic for their livestock and produce.  When I do buy meat at the store, I try to buy the reduced price ones.  That means shopping about 9:30 a.m.

SQUIRREL!  I am not doing too hot about staying on topic am I?  Now that I have an idea what is on sale, I plan my meals according to my family's tastes, what I have that needs to be used, and what my home store aka pantry has in stock.  If I need an expensive item, I cut somewhere else.  Buying a gallon of oil because #2 made fried bread without checking if I needed the oil for a meal means cutting back on say a ready-made item and cooking it from scratch instead.  For example, I usually have a take-out night but that was nixed and replaced with breakfast for dinner.  So I have a list of ideas for the meals and added a new recipe or two to try out.  It gives me something to learn and helps the monotonicity of the same-old-same-old meals.

Sales - check!  Ingredients - check! Schedule comes next.  I look at our schedule for the week.  If we are super busy, then simple 15-30 minute meals or the crock-pot are my friends.  A slower week means I have more time to cook.  Now I set out my meal ideas, create my menu, and write out a shopping list.  I pin any new recipes to my Pinterest board and locate the others I need.  Tossing recipes everywhere as you search the recipe drawer at a quarter to five knowing it was just right here is not cool (BTDT).

So that is how I plan my meals.  I am comfortable enough and familiar with what food I have at home that if I find another meat - say, pork steaks - cheaper than the chicken breasts, I can whip up some pork fajitas or salsa pork chops over rice instead.  It also pays to keep some simple things like a can of chili on the shelf and hot dogs with buns in the freezer. Because we all have those days when ... SQUIRREL! ... it's 5:00, and we need something super fast and easy.

No comments: