Thursday, April 4, 2013

meal planning, or something like that.

ill be the first to admit that i do a lot of things that one would associate with those moms. i bake everything from scratch, i make homemade sauces, heck, i even made most of alices baby food, including oatmeal. but lets get a few things straight, i do NOT scrapbook, i do NOT make quilts, and i most certainly do not, and will not, make an elaborate monthly calendar of freezer meals. yes, i will occasionally make soup or beans and freeze half of it for later, but thats mostly because theres only three of us and i cant seem to make a three-person pot of soup, but i am fundamentally opposed to cooking food just to put it in the freezer and IMMEDIATELY TURN IT INTO LEFTOVERS. i dont care about all the "time i could save" by cooking all our meals for the month on one day, i refuse to feed my family what are essentially full-sized leftovers for the entire month. plus our schedule is super irregular so theres no telling what our plans will actually be more than a day in advance, and im really terrible at remembering to thaw things in a punctual manner. 

so when it comes to meal planning, i had to come up with something flexible that allowed for spontaneity and fresh dinners every night, but kept me from having to go to the grocery store every couple of days to fill in the gaps for that nights dinner (this was our model for the first two years of our marriage, and it wasnt so bad when it was just the two of us, but once alice stopped sleeping through the grocery shopping, it HAD to stop). a couple months ago i FINALLY found a good routine thats not only saved us a lot of time and money, but its also been really easy to stick to. 

see, i used to keep FOUR grocery lists going on at any given time, one for target, one for vons, one for smart and final, and one for the local mexican grocery store (sometimes id even make a spontaneous trip to sprouts), cause each store has its different things that are cheapest, and different days of the week with different specials, thats what my mom always did, etc. etc. THIS WAS A TERRIBLE PLAN. basically i was in some kind of grocery store every day that i didnt have to go to work (and some days that i was working at night), WITH A BABY, buying a couple things at each store, and frequently finding myself one key ingredient short of the dinner i wanted to make, AND i was over budget almost every week. 

im really happy with my new routine, mostly because now i go grocery shopping exactly once a week, two if theres an emergency, which has saved a lot of gas, and has given me what feels like infinite free time. its also helped us eat a better variety of healthier food for less money, so im kind of kicking myself for not figuring this out sooner. 

the plan starts on tuesday, when the grocery circulars come in the mail, and once i know what vons has on sale, i can start analyzing what we already have, what staples weve run out of, and what meals we could make with minimal additions. i pretty much exclusively shop at vons because im kind of obsessed with and their "just for u" app, which has extra digital coupons that you can load onto your card (many of these can be combined with sales and manufacturer coupons, and most weeks theres an item thats completely free), and what they call "personalized deals" which are sort of like price matches on things that other stores have on sale, but mainly for items that they know you already buy (its kind of creepy but its save us a ton of money, especially on produce). plus, going to one store, once a week has REALLY cut down on impulse purchases, keeping us UNDER budget most weeks. 

anyways, all of the new deals online dont go up until wednesday, so i have to wait until then to figure out approximately seven dinners requiring as few items as possible, as well as what fruits, breakfasts, and lunch supplies are going to be cheapest. then i write all the dinners in no particular order on the incredibly ugly dry erase board thats on my fridge (i really need to find something more attractive). then we go to vons on wednesday afternoon or evening since thats the day that they do all their clearance markdowns, and we have the best chance of getting some super cheap salmon or 50 cent pasta, occasionally adding a meal or two to the list while at the store. 

and if you dont believe me that this is a cheap way to shop, here is an actual photograph of my actual vons receipt from last night, for a whole weeks groceries, PLUS some extra canned goods:

basically, every day until the next wednesday, we can pick any of the dinners from the list knowing that we have everything we need on hand. i love it because if we dont feel like having pizza on thursday, we can have something else, if i dont have time to make pasta salad on whatever day or we spontaneously have dinner at my moms or go out or whatever, no big deal, and most importantly, we almost never have to rush to the store to get that one thing we ran out of to make dinner. its awesome, cause you know, i get to be frugal AND flakey, and whats better than that?

p.s. i just joined bloglovin, so now its easier to follow me or whatever. 

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