Saving Time and Money With Meal Planning and List Sharing
One of the things I've learned being a working mom is that having a decent meal plan in the beginning of the week can help save time and money. Especially when your family follows a specific dietary lifestyle - in our case gluten-free and mostly "Paleo" - keeping a menu plan in mind with a running list is a huge help in budgeting and time management.
I have to admit that because I'm a WAHM, most days I do have the flexibility to run to the store for a forgotten item or scrap a dinner plan for another because I have that buffer time. That is, MOST days. Some days between editorial meetings, dealing with international authors, and shuttling my kids to school and daycare, I swear it's dinner time before I even sit down to work. My time feels so stripped and crunched into tiny minutes that every second of pre-planning helps.
One thing my husband and I use often to keep an updated grocery list is enlist the use of our smartphones. We both use a list sharing app so that anything he had to the list shows up on mine, and anything I buy and check off updates his, etc. You can also scan the barcode of an item you're low on and it automatically adds it to your list. We have different phones (I have an iPhone and he has an Android) and the app works across both operating systems.
Saturday or Sunday, we will sit down and talk about what we're in the mood for that week. I'll pull up blog posts I've marked with recipes to try, or we'll browse through one of my newest Paleo cookbooks, earmarking things that look good. I mark each recipe to try with a post-it note, and on it I will jot down the ingredients I don't have and need to buy. Then, we'll sketch a pretty decent outline of what we plan to eat and then create our list.
Of course, life happens. Ice skating lessons run late, my husband gets stuck at work, I stay late at the gym, one of us gets sick, etc. So to prepare for this, we usually only plan out three actual meals and then the other two or three for the week are leftovers or remakes (i.e., roast chicken one night, chicken salad on Romaine boats the next) or we plan Pick Nights or YOYO Nights (You're On Your Own) where we go through the fridge and salvage the leftovers. Truthfully, some of my most interestingly delicious recipes I've created have come from trying to make use of a weird conglomeration of leftovers on YOYO nights.
But meal planning and keeping/sharing a grocery list helps keep the random runs to the grocery store to a minimum and also allows us to buy only the food we need for the week, rather than buying stuff at the store that will end up going bad.
Do you set up a meal plan? Do you use any list apps or have any tips or tricks for keeping within your grocery budget and meal plans?