Now, those of you who know me will know that I ALWAYS plan out my meals. To wing it at the grocery store has not been an option for me since the first week of my marriage. Lately, though, as I have been adjusting to homeschooling and adjusting to an intensely active toddler, I've been rethinking my planning methods. My normal method has been to plan weekly based on the sales that are running here in Cincinnati. We have very competitive grocery chains here in our area, so I've had very good success keeping the costs down using this method. The problem has come more for me as I'm waiting too long to think through the upcoming week and find myself scrambling to write out my plan before running out the door. It's still successful, but I feel like we're repeating the same things way too often.
Not too long after this phenomenon began, I was reading a friend's blog post about planning meals monthly and seasonally. It sounded like a great idea so I gave it a whirl. Here's my opinion...for some people, it would be a great way to plan. I like the idea of planning once a month and not having to think it through so many times. However, I found that I was spending more per week following this method because it didn't allow for the freedom to buy according to sales as much. I think if you live in a rural area where your options for shopping are limited, a seasonal rotation would be a great idea. Here it would still be helpful for those of you who have a little more available fund-wise and would rather have a set plan.
What I've decided to do is a more tentative approach. I'm planning monthly, incorporating many dishes that I know we regularly eat and can make cheaply at any time. However, I reevaluate every week and make several changes as the ads come out. My monthly plan is not something I could print up and hang on the refrigerator. It's way too scratched out and edited! However, I've found that it's really helpful to at least have a starting point to go on for those weeks when my brain power is not at its fullest...something that happens more and more often as the pregnancy progresses. I've made a pretty comprehensive list of meals, separated into three sections...meals to be made every month, meals to be made every other month and meals that I make only occasionally. Next to these columns I've included a short list of new recipes I've been meaning to try for who knows how long. It's been a great help so far.
I'll keep tinkering around with my planning methods, and if I find that this system works really well for us, I'll post more particulars. I can't be the only one struggling with my planning skills. Either way, it never hurts to reevaluate here and there. I'll keep you posted!