I *try* to do meal planning every week...honestly, if I didn't we'd either be dining out or eating bologna sandwiches every night (i kid...i can't even remember the last time i had bologna). I get flustered when I get home and realize we don't have a game plan for dinner...which is no good for anyone in my house. So...to help resolve that issue I set a menu at the beginning of the week and do my grocery shopping around that. I look at the sale ads (even though we do the bulk of our grocery shopping at the beloved Trader Joes and they don't do sale ads...they give you the bottom line price from the get go:)), check our cabinets, and talk to the hubs about what we haven't had in awhile and if there is anything in particular he might be jonesing for...oh, and of course I check out what's on Pinterest. I try to buy single ingredients that I can use in multiple meals...especially with fresh herbs in the winter (during the summer I can get those jokers from the garden which is a major reason why I love having a garden). Basil and cilantro cost more than a gallon of gas these days and that's saying a lot...SO, I generally make sure that if I have one dish I'm using it in I can find something else to incorporate it in (behold the power of Pinterest...you can search for this stuff y'all!). And even simple things like fresh french bread with spaghetti one night and that same bread as croutons for the next night's salad. Black beans are another favorite of mine...they work well in chili, on top of a salad, or in a burrito..but you usually don't use a whole can at once and I hate to waste stuff so I just incorporate it in to a few things. We keep the plan flexible at our house so that if we just aren't feeling what we've got slated for that particular night we can switch it with something later in the week. That being said, I also try to plan around what will make a lot of leftovers (behold the power of casseroles and crock pot meals) and what's just good for one night (fried fish just isn't as good the second time around) and alternate those out so that we have leftovers to take for lunch...more savings there because then you don't have to dine out for lunch or fork over extra cash at the store for lunch stuff. I'm not much of a couponer...I'm pretty ashamed to admit it but I haven't been able to devote the week in and week out time it requires to build up a stash that's well organized so I can take full advantage...but I hear that that makes this whole meal planning business even better. And...if you're looking for some super cute ideas on how to do organize your meal planning...mine is usually on the back of a legal pad...check out Pinterest...I've seen a ton of cute stuff dedicated to ways to make meal planning mindless and even a little fun!
I'd love to hear from y'all on how you do it in your house or other ways you save money on the food part of the monthly spend...I'm always looking for ideas to do this better!!