I've hit a snag in my housewifery.
Monthly Menu Planning.
AAGH!! While I used to feel so on top of it when I finished making a monthly menu, those words which used to bring a creative explosion of delight at the endless possibilities now strike dread and terror into my innermost being.
Once a month grocery shopping, while great for my budget, just isn't cutting it for me anymore, for four reasons.
#1. Planning 90 meals in one sitting requires brain surgeon-like concentration. I don't know about you, but it's really hard to anticipate our cravings a whole month in advance, plus add variety, new recipes, and flexibility into the mix. On the occasions when I've actually done this, it takes a really long time to plan out a month of dinners (even figuring toast and eggs for breakfast and leftovers for lunch) and write down all of the ingredients for the shopping trip. I lose interest an hour into the venture.
#2. When I inevitably stray very far from the plan, I feel like a failure. Flexibility is necessary with any plan, but I get ambitious when crafting the menu plan and think I'll actually wake up 45 minutes early to make blueberry muffins on a Tuesday three weeks from now. When I sleep in on that Tuesday, I realize I've set myself up for failure.
#3. I miss some really great sales. Chickens: $0.79 lb. Two pounds of sharp cheddar cheese: $3.99. Avocados: 4 for $1. It invariably happens that after I've spent our grocery budget, there'll be a great sale like this. "Do I buy it for next month?" Once or twice this would be fine, I suppose, but it happens just about every week which leads me to #4.
#4. Mammoth waste. I started monthly menu planning last Summer when I was getting most of our produce from the garden. But now that I'm getting a lot of produce from the store, the amount of waste as the month draws to an end is disgusting! It seems like such a "duh" thing (did I really think a head of lettuce would last indefinitely? or a gallon of milk would never expire?) but it still surprises me anew each time my wilty soggy fuzzy green dripping cauliflower hidden in the back of the crisper drawer needs to be tossed onto the compost pile.
The obvious solution would be to buy the bulk of the food once a month, and then do weekly or bi-weekly trips to the store for perishables. But I'm just not controlled enough to stick to a budget with that many trips to the grocery store ("but the Shitake mushrooms and imported Dijon mustard were on sale, darling!").
It's been said that a man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs, but a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need. Amen to that!
So I'm experimenting with a new method. Bi-weekly menu planning.
By cutting my budget in half and allowing myself to spend it in full every two weeks, I seem to have reached a compromise. It's not nearly as overwhelming to plan two weeks. I don't dream quite so big when the deadline for the meal isn't so far away. I can take advantage of the loss-leader grocery ads. My broccoli stays crisp until the next shopping trip. Voila, works for me!
One tool that's always really helped me with meal planning is this simple Weekly Meal Plan PDF.
So, I know there are as many ways to meal plan as there are women to do it, but how do you do it in your home? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Freezer cooking? Skin of your teeth?
This post is linked to: We are THAT Family.