Monday, January 13, 2014

Menu Planning:: Grocery List Cards

In November, I was blessed to be at a women's event at which Sarah Roe was the guest speaker.  She shared her knowledge of couponing and price-matching in a very concise, easy-to-understand way...even for me...and some things that have never made sense to me started to click.  Then, a few weeks later, her sister Kristy Still of Mommy Hates Cooking just so happened to be the guest speaker at my MOPS group meeting!  Kristy taught us all about her menu planning methods, and combined with Sarah's money-saving wisdom, I felt ready to tackle the grocery store!

Both suggested shopping for at least a week at a time in order to lessen the number of trips to the store (because we all know how going into the store for one thing always leads to a basketful of stuff we don't need).  Well, I've always shopped for two weeks at a time to coincide with the hubby's pay periods, and I despise grocery shopping so much that I rarely go into the store between trips.  So, hurdle one down.

Both also pointed out the importance of a list, and how sticking with that list makes all of the difference.  Seems like a simple enough task, right?  Well, I'm the most scatterbrained human I know, and I am not kidding when I say that while writing a grocery list, if hot dogs is on the menu, I'd forget to write down hot dog buns.  And anyone who's ever had to eat bun-less hot dogs for dinner will tell you that just ain't right.

Since I'm a ninny, I devised a foolproof plan for writing up my meal-planning grocery list.  Pre-written lists for each meal.  I even include how many nights we'll have each menu item, plus a carb count if I have it, to make choosing the two weeks of meals a little less complicated, too.  I just hand the entire deck of index cards to Jason and let him choose enough dinners to add up to 14 meals.  Then, the only list you have to make before shopping is for non-food items and any snacks or desserts, and lunches.  If you tend to always buy the exact same items in any of those categories, it wouldn't hurt to write up an extra card including those items that you purchase every time, too!

The majority of the meals in my repertoire make leftovers, so we have them two nights in a row.  And since we have to count carbs for my diabetic hubby, I always record the carbs per serving on the cards of meals I've counted out.  I generally have tons of condiments and spices on hand, but if a particular meal requires an oddball item, I'll record it on the card, too, so that I know to double check my pantry before shopping.
I know they look like recipe cards, but they're not.  Ironically, I have a fairly decent memory for cooking, and rarely follow a recipe the same way twice...and I don't measure anything.  I don't record on the cards anything that is a staple item that I always have on hand....spices, flour, condiments, oil, garlic, butter, etc.  Because I replenish those items regularly anyway, and the less clutter on the cards, the better.  I'm sure you noticed, but I color code the items by category so that while I'm shopping, all I have to do when I'm in the meat department is flip through the cards and make sure I've got all of the meats, and so on and so forth for produce, cans, etc.

Another way to code the cards that you may find useful:  denote with a little clock any meals that are super-quick to make, and a dollar sign any that are super-cheap!  Because if you're like us, there are weeks that we need quick and cheap.

This is just the OCD in me, but I always record the items for each meal in the exact same order.  It just helps to keep me from inadvertently skipping a category when I'm harried or not paying attention.
Wanna make your own cards?  Just grab a deck of large index cards, and a handful of colored pens.  Personally, my mind can only handle a few categories, so a couple of mine are very broad.  For example, the orange includes bread, pasta, rice, grains, dried beans, tortillas, pastries, bagels, chips....see what I mean.  But because I know what is in that category, it works for me.  You get as creative and crazy as you want.  As for me, I'm all stocked up on crazy.

It'll be worth the hand cramp, I promise.  Not having to remember every single item for each recipe is such a wonderful thing...for me at least!

Once you've got a stack of cards, you can store them in your recipe box, or if you're a binder girl like Kristy and Sarah, the cards fit conveniently into 4x6 photo sleeves!  You could put a few sheets of these sleeves at the front of your binder (or buy one of those cheap little brag books) and place the cards for that shopping trip in them.  Then, you can use a dry-erase marker to check off items as you add them to your cart!  You can even slip any coupons you have for each meal into that sleeve behind the card, and note any price matches!

If you haven't already, I highly recommend you go check out both Kristy and Sarah's sites via the links in the opening paragraph!  Both girls have a heart for God, and readily share wonderful recipes and thrifty ideas!  Sarah has another site for food allergy recipes in addition to her regular blog, and Kristy's recipes are always easy, fast, and delicious!

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