Monday, February 1, 2010

The Monthly Rhythm Question


Our meal planning menu

I received quite a few e-mails over the weekend about my rhythm post on The Magic Onions, and I wanted to thank everyone for them. They mean a lot to me! There were a few questions asked and I am still trying to answer them all, but I did notice there was one question in particular that was asked quite a few times : Do we really only get groceries 1-2 times a month?! I have to start out by saying I did make a mistake on that post by saying we run errands/shop for groceries 1-2 times a month. I really should have separated errands and groceries; errands 1-2 times a month and grocery shopping 2 times a month.

Grocery shopping can be quite overwhelming to little ones and adults alike. Especially when you are on a tight budget and have to compare prices and write out the math to see how much you are spending the whole time. On top of that, we go to 2-3 different places for our food so it ends up being at least a half a day ordeal. With all of that in mind and our need for a strict budget I knew I needed to start meal planning.

I can remember my mother doing this when I was little. Every two weeks we went grocery shopping together and she would bring her list of meals she planned on making the next two weeks and she would always stick with it. That's just the way we did our groceries and what I was used to. It's funny because once I was out on my own I didn't follow that routine. It actually wasn't until we moved to Oregon that I saw how important my mother's wisdom was.

Our budget shrank dramatically and we really needed to save as much money as possible. Plus I was constantly getting burned out with the never ending question of what's for dinner. I became inspired to re-discover meal planning by my wonderful Season's Round Exchange (Autumn)partner Meg and her post on her family's menus.

Since my husband is always paid on the first and fifteenth of every month we planned our budget and meals around that. So about every two weeks, I sit down and plan our meals for the next fifteen days (with input from my husband and the girls) then we venture out and gather our food, armed with a planned out menu and list of needed ingredients.

I like to have the menu out in easy view for reference so we use one of the many watercolor paintings K makes every week and write out our menu on that then put it in a frame by the kitchen sink. Now, I should say that I don't follow the menu exactly. For example, I have subji and pooris listed for dinner Thursday night but if I have a hard day and don't have the energy for that I might pick something more simple from another day on the menu and make that instead. I always cross off the meal I made so that way I know what ingredients I have left without ever even looking in the pantry. Not only does this save us time and headaches but it also saves money. Before we would wander the grocery stores aimlessly just buying things that looked good but didn't necessarily make a meal. Now everything is organized and brings a better rhythm to our nights.


Preparing for Candlemas

Sorry, that was a lot of writing this time around! I hope that helped to explain our grocery rhythm a little better and answered any questions you had.

Wishing you all a joyful Candlemas tomorrow!!

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19 comments:

Joy said...

Wow, I find meal planning to be very difficult, partly because I never know what my day at work will be like. What do you do about fresh fruits and veggies? Isn't it hard to make it 2 weeks? I can't imagine. Before our big snow on Friday, I bought 8 lbs of apples, 3 lbs of pears, and 5 lbs of oranges, and we probably have less than 20% of that left 4 days later. I don't know how I'd store more than that at one time, KWIM? (Of course, I have 3 kids right at the age where they eat almost constantly, and they're happy to eat fruit so I imagine you don't go through quite that much fruit at a time. ;)

Jennifer said...

We do the same thing, have a list of meals that are going to be made, but there is still some flexibility in case of a rough day.

Michelle said...

How to you keep your fresh veggies fresh for so long? I buy fresh produce and by the weeks end if it isn't used it is showing signs of fading. I don't think my veggies would last 15 days...how do you keep yours fresh?

Earth Mama said...

We do the same thing for meal planning. The grocery store is so overwhelming to me with four little ones that I cannot do any shopping if I do not have my ever faithful list in hand. Then we just look at the list and like you said pick the meal that we have time to make that night.

:)Lisa

renee ~ heirloom seasons said...

We do our main grocery shopping only once a month too. And then I usually need to have Jason pick up just a few things if he is in town one day during the week. We have to go to at least 2 stores also! Because we are so far from town we even need to be sure to bring a snack so the girls make it through the day!
I really need to get more organized with the menu planning though. Thanks for the inspiration.

Nicole Spring said...

Joy - That's a lot of fruit! :) Yeah right now my girls eat about an apple a day and a banana every other day, or vice versa. We have an old potato bin (I think that's what it is called - It's wood with chicken wire on the front) that we store our potatoes and apples in which works really nice.

Hmm... you know, I am not sure how our produce lasts so long! Ha,ha. All of our produce is organic. Some things we buy frozen like our broccoli and spinach since we cook it for the meals anyways. I love salads and get 3 - 4 fresh bags of it to last the 2 weeks and it usually makes it until a day or 2 before the next pay day. The girls live off of apples and bananas. The rest of our veggies are things that last and last like potatoes and onions. Maybe it's because our house is so cold? With the cost of heating being so expensive out here it is set at 60 degrees in the day and 58 or so at night... I honestly don't know! I'm sorry, I'm not much help with that.

I would loveto hear how everyone stores their food. I need more ideas, terribly! Our bulk items are everywhere in the kitchen.

livingslowly said...

Having the menu out like that is such a great idea. I have to start meal planning better. We blew our food budget by a few hundred dollars last month. Ouch. That can't happen again. Thanks for sharing how you manage this at your home! And happy Candlemas to you also. I can't believe it is here already!

Kelly and Kelly said...

I do this too, plan two weeks out at a time. I still find myself going out for produce at least weekly though. Usually I try to make those quick trips and leave the girls at home with dad.

Marie said...

We do one large shop a month (at two stores) and a single small run each week for dairy and a little produce. I've put together a long inventory list that we keep on hand for a once a month inventory tally before we make the shopping list. The weekly list is strictly milk, butter, fresh local eggs, cheese and maybe 1 - 2 local seasonal greens or fruit if there is nothing in home storage.

We don't do meal plans, but I'd like to try it and see if that helps even more. As it is, we discuss a day or two in advance what needs using up, and make a plan for that. Since we cook all of our meals from scratch and use organic and local produce whenever possible we do a lot of cooking and love to be able to "shop" from our own storage.

As for storing produce...First of all we only eat seasonal local foods, and we live north of Boston, so unless it is a gift, we don't eat bananas or citrus. We eat much closer to home. That means at this time of year, we have lots of parsnips, onions, garlic, turnips, radishes, apples and carrots in cold storage in our bulkhead (purchased in the late Fall), we have sweet potatoes and squashes stored in the basement and either frozen greens we put up in the fall, kale and cabbage from cold storage or the occasional locally grown fresh greens. We eat our fruit mostly dried or canned in winter as that is what is available.

My weekly run takes only about 10 or 15 minutes and since we've been eating, cooking and shopping this way, our overall health has greatly improved, we've eaten delicous meals and we've saved hundreds of dollars off the monthly shopping.

Thanks for the tips on the menu plan. I'll give it a try!

Mademoiselle Oulla said...

I love this post. I have been making big changes in meal planning, and this is good inspiration. I was wondering if you would share where your favorite recipes are from and if you have a favorite cookbook. I am vegetarian and your meals sound right up my alley! Thanks!

boatbaby said...

meal planning is something I totally should be doing, and need to be doing, but can't seem to motivate. Your post is a great inspiration and reminder. Thank you!

Genevieve said...

Such a great reminder, thank you!

Simple Mama said...

We try to meal plan for 1 week. Grocery shopping on Saturdays or Sundays. And the crock pot is my favorite friend in the world. Just wanted to let you know I <3 you!

Gremlina said...

wonderful! I also have a hard time with meal planning & am a 'what can I make out of what's in the cupboard' type of girl, which can leave us waiting on dinner a long time...& we store. I'm like a squirrel in autumn! BUT, i will say that canning has saved dinner on several occasions. There's no meal adding some vine ripened, homegrown crushed tomatoes won't help! Thanks for sharing.

Angela Mobley said...

I took the planning out of meal planning completely and we are even simpler: we have the same thing eacdh night of the week. Tuesday is burrito night, Wednesday is soup night, thursday is pasta...and so on. My list is vague enough to include variety and stable enough to be able to shop for the same basics and limit my trips to the store.
I did this for chores for the little one:
http://theartistthemom.blogspot.com/2009/03/i-am-no-photographer-and-did-best-i.html

ImplausibleYarn said...

Thats a great idea! I get frustrated trying to think of things at the end of the day I should be more organized and this post was quite inspirational. Thanks!

*erin* said...

great post! I try to shop 1x a week but it never works out. We eat a lot of produce and my husband works at a market (Trader Joe's), so it is WAY to easy to have him pick up a couple items! I'm really struggling to keep within our budget, so maybe I'll try a 2 week plan!!(with just a little produce shopping trip in between) Thanks!

Nicole Spring said...

Thanks for the responses! I had to share them with my mother over the phone because I knew she would be thrilled. :)

A lot of our recipes are things just kind of made up in my head, some are meals I learned while helping out in the kitchen at the farm/temple I lived in when I was younger, and then some are from cookbooks/magazines. Veg journal magazine is used a lot in out home. :)
We don't eat meat, rennet, eggs, and gelatin but do eat a little bit of raw dairy. My youngest has a soy sensitivity so we try to not use a lot of that. The cookbooks I am about to list do seems to use a lot of soy but we just replace it usually.
Ok here are my favs in random order:

The New Soul Vegetarian Cookbook
The Native Foods Rest. Cookbook
Great Vegetarian Dishes - Kurma Dasa
The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking - Yamuna Devi
Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone
Vegan Planet


Those are the ones I use the most. I just got the Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook before we moved and it looks great but I haven't had the chance to try it out yet.

Shannon Angel said...

i just thought i would share that i also do a meal calendar to save money and know what's going on. I recently moved overseas (to ireland! gasp!) and not only is shopping overwhelming to me being in a new country, but so are prices. I have often thought that i was a nutcase for writing down each and every price. I usually round up to the nearest tenth though.

I feel better knowing someone else is counting and that i'm not the only one struggling (i mean no offense by that). I dont have any kiddos yet, but i sincerely admire those of you mamas who juggle a house, children, a budget, and crafts. Amazing! i really look up to yoU!

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