Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meal Plans

Meal Plans have always been the frugal mom’s go to for saving money. For months I have tried to get on the menu planning band wagon, and it has always fell apart for the following reasons:

I could never find the time to sit down, go through recipe books or online recipe websites, and write down a list of recipes I wanted for a particular week and flag the books for referencing.
Writing out the grocery list for each meal planned was a daunting task
When I did write down the recipes I would forget to compare it with the calendar to coordinate all or our schedules so most of the plan would be useless
When I stuck to the plan, my family would not be thrilled with an evenings particular selection of meals

I have always known that keeping a meal plan is the best way to be
efficient in the kitchen;
to save money grocery shopping; and
to get the entire family involved in food choices and meals.

I have now found the best way for my way of life to plan our meals is through an online service. That way I can plan the menus both at home and at work. I can add recipes that I find online through my daily blog reading and through online searches, as well as input my favourite recipes from cookbooks and add them to the site to include in future meals. I can plan meals for months in advance. I can add or delete meals easily around the family plans changing. I can create a custom shopping list for days or weeks eliminating items I don’t need, items that are not on the pre-made list and include subsections of my favourite grocery stores. It is a user friendly service that makes my life so much easier.

The service that I use and that works best for my family is

With plantoeat, I can plan 3 meals and one snack each day for up to a month in advance. This plan can also be imported into my online calendar. I can see, at a glance in one location, if our schedule for the week matches with meal plan I have created. If our plans change and we will not be home or if we have an appointment I can easily adjust the meal plan to reflect the those changes. We do our grocery shopping on weekends, so I make sure that by Friday the plan is updated and set for the following week and I print out the shopping list.

Friday is when I go through the shopping list and add any items we need that are not associated with a recipe and eliminate those pantry items I already have on hand. I assign certain items to certain stores I most often shop at, like the Bulk Barn or Whole Foods Market. i print the list and away we go.

Sunday’s is my day to do my bulk cooking for the week. I make all snacks and package them in single serve packages for ease throughout the week. I make the majority of dinners and lunches that take any preparation time at all. I can freeze items that are made in larger quantities that what we will eat in the week and include them in the following week’s plan. That way I know what is in the freezer and I use up all food in the freezer in an appropriate amount of time.

I save money by buying only the items that I need. Food no longer goes to waste. I don’t buy junk food like the prepackaged cookies and chips and take away meals. We don’t eat out as often as we used to because the meal is already there in my fridge or freezer. Lunches are made already and just divided between the individuals to take off to work or school.

If a last minute rescheduling is needed that is fine, I can easily freeze that night’s dinner or move that dinner over to another night on the plan.

Plantoeat if very user friendly and is saving my family quite a bit of money, so paying the yearly fee of $40 is well worth the investment.

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