About a month ago I decided the budget needed to be tightened a little more and all dining out needed to be cut from the budget. We don't dine out often, but there are times when 6:00 rolls around and I have no idea what to make for dinner and I look like a dear in headlights when faced with the task of quickly feeding seven people. At those times it's often easier to grab a pizza or Chick-Fil-A.
So I decided to try planning a weekly menu. The menu must be planned mostly around what's on sale at Publix and what the produce guy has that week. And it has to fit in the budget ... or there'd be no point in trying this.
The first weeks menu took a lot of planning. From what I hear this gets easier. After planning the first menu I went through my recipes and pulled out ones that I wanted to add to my options. My son is also going to set up a program for me to enter recipes on the computer so I can search by item - so if shrimp is on sale I can pull up all shrimp recipes, for example. That should make things much simpler.
The first night I explained to the children what was going on and they were actually excited. And then I mentioned we'd be eating more beans and they said "oh", but an enthusiastic(ish) oh, I decided. One evening a bag of lentils ended up on someone's bruised knee ( I keep beans in the freezer so they make a great "ice bag") and after a few giggles and jokes they were ready to give them a try.
The first week went quite well. I cooked at home each night (I'm not planning breakfast and lunch) and we sat down and ate as a family each night. By the end of the week all our produce was eaten, none of it forgotten and wasted. In fact, all perishable foods were eaten. Friday, I think, was scheduled as "leftover night" but I had to make a casserole because we had no leftovers. One meal was a flop (it was the lentils!), but everything else met with rave reviews. I did exceed the grocery budget by $30, so that I'll have to work on. Most of the kids are with their father this week and next, so no menu planned, but I'm looking forward to getting back to it when they get back home.
An unexpected, really positive, effect of this was that I had time, while planning the menu, to really consider the nutritional value of the foods we were eating. I was able to make choices that were healthy and much less fattening than that pizza and Chick-Fil-A. In the last week and a half, without trying very hard, I've lost a little weight, simply by eating healthy balanced meals.
So, my opinion of weekly meal planning, so far, is a very positive one. I just can't believe I didn't do this sooner.
I will keep you posted regarding the results of this "experiment".