Start by reading all about Meal Planning (Link at the top) in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find a link to a detailed example of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through step-by-step.
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan.
3 portions ground turkey breast
3 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
3 portions Brats
6 portions plain pork sausage
1 portions Italian sausage
2 portions ground beef
1 portions made-ahead meatballs
1 portions made-ahead spinach stuffed shells
1 portion made-ahead calzones
4 portions made-ahead pulled pork smothered burritos
"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag.
Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. Then, I read the weekly and and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy that I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's) or at Trader Joe's. On shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy whatever is cheaper than Safeway; next, I stop at Trader Joe's; and then, I purchase everything left on my list at Safeway. Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients, specifically fresh produce and expensive items over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste.
Weekly Meal Plan
Beer-can roast chicken with macaroni 'n cheese and steamed broccoli
Whole chickens were only $0.49/lb, which is 1/4th regular price so, I purchased a 6lb fryer and will have David set it over a can of beer to smoke on our pit over the weekend. I also purchased a seasoning rub dubbed by Weber as "Beer Can Chicken Rub" (Buy 1 Get 1 Free) - I'll let you know how it turns out! ;) I love decadent, home-made macaroni 'n cheese with smoked chicken so, I purchased extra sharp cheddar ($2.40) and gruyere cheese ($4.10) from Trader Joe's. I have a steam-in-the-bag of broccoli in my freezer that I'll serve, too. I'll use the leftover dark meat that we don't typically eat in a chicken spaghetti casserole later in the week.
Brinner - Baked french toast, scrambled eggs and sausage
I've been dying to try Pioneer Woman's baked french toast so, I bought everything I didn't already have that I would need to make it: loaf of french bread ($0.99), whole milk ($1.99), and eggs ($3.99). I also purchased breakfast sausage to serve with scrambled eggs, which was on sale for only $1.25.
Taco soup with Frito's
Frito's Buy 1 Get 1 Free and ground beef only $1.67/lb after Just4U coupon made me think of taco soup. I already had a can of Rotel, cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, taco seasoning, and organic corn on hand so, I just had to purchase black and pinto beans ($1.19 each) from Trader Joe's, and a package of ranch dressing mix ($2.99 for 4 pouches). I love this meal, especially for leftovers throughout the week because it only gets better after a few days. I'll top it with some of the cheddar I purchased and green onions I purchased for my orange chicken meal later in the week.
Cream of ___ soups were 2@$1 this week and with a can of Rotel and cheddar cheese already on my shopping list, as well as leftover chicken from the roast chicken on my mind, this meal immediately came to mind. I just had to purchase spaghetti (only $0.99).
We ended up eating lasagna for two nights (it's soooooooo good!) so, this meal is rolling over to this week.
Orange chicken and snow peas over brown rice
I saw my canister of Brown Basmati rice and cans of tomato sauce in my pantry and knew green onions were only $0.39 this week so, this meal came to mind. I have all the other ingredients on hand to make the sauce from scratch, but I did need to purchase snow peas ($1.99) to stir fry with the chicken.
Looking through my fridge, freezer, and pantry I saw that I had fresh mozzarella and a package of fresh ravioli and knew I could easily throw this meal together. I just needed a jar of Organic marinara sauce, which I purchased for $2.50. Super quick, delicious meal that's ready in 30 minutes!
What did I purchase this week?
I spent $128.70 this week between Safeway and Trader Joe's and got A LOT OF FOOD! So many amazing deals that really helped me re-stock my pantry, fridge, and freezer after the big Thanksgiving clean-out.
Our typical, weekly staples that I purchased again this week included:
- Open Nature sandwich bread, $0.99
- Open Nature cage-free eggs 10ct, $3.99 plus Just4U $1.00 off coupon, limit 2
- Oscar Mayer turkey weiners, $1.99, limit 5
- Kraft American cheese 16oz, $1.99, limit 2
- Lucerne Mexican shredded cheese 32oz, $5.00
- Whole wheat frozen waffles, $1.99 at Trader Joe's
- Cheeto's and Frito's chips, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
- Deli Virginia ham, $5/lb
- Provolone cheese, $5/lb
- Lucerne 6pk yogurt, $2.49
- Bananas, $0.19 each at Trader Joe's
- Honeycrisp apples, $1.19 each at Trader Joe's
- Pears, $0.49 each at Trader Joe's
- Seedless purple grapes, $1.99/lb
- 4lb bag Naval oranges, $2.99
- Raspberries, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
- Oscar Mayer bacon, $4.99, limit 5
- Star olive oils, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
- Safeway brand canned peaches, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
- Precious brand string cheese, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
- O Organics brand spices, Buy 2 Get 2 Free
- Honeymaid crackers & cookies, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
- Miniwheats cereal, $1.99
- Cocoapuffs cereal, $1.99
- Pie crust, $1.99 after Just4U coupon