Monday, May 25, 2009

Meal Planning for the Large Family

For a large family, the grocery bill can be one of the biggest household expenses. There are a few tricks to cutting it down, but basically, a family has to be fed, and planning ahead can go a long way towards reducing the grocery bill and can also cut back on leftovers that often end up going into the trash or the dog’s dish. It will help keep your mind clear at the grocery store, where everything you see can look pretty good, and put you in a confused haze before you are finished.

One of the best ways to reduce your grocery bill is to both ‘stock you pantry’ and to sit down with paper and pencil every week or two, or even once a month, depending on how often you grocery shop, and make out menus.

Purchase a three ring binder and some index cards. Copy some blank grocery list forms and menu planning forms from one of the many homemaking sites on the internet, or draw up your own. Then, sit down with the index cards, and on the front, write down a complete meal your family enjoys on a regular basis. On the back of the card, list all the ingredients you need to make this meal. Continue to do this, one meal to a card, until you have at least two weeks worth of cards for each meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can even include cards for snacks. Keep these cards and your copied forms in your binder, where they will always be at hand when you are ready to go shopping.

You are now ready to beginning your planning. Take these cards and a grocery list form, and write down every ingredient you have listed on the back of the cards. You now have a master ‘stock your pantry’ list. These are the things you will want to try and keep in your pantry on a regular basis. On you master list, you can also include toiletries, over the counter medicines, and cleaning supplies you need. Add a misc. column to add those things you want to buy that may not be on your list regularly. It might take you a few shopping trips to perfect this master grocery list. Once you have it like you want it, make a neat copy of it, then make several copies of your finished list, and put the copies in your binder.

When grocery buying day is at hand, sit down again, this time with your menu planners along side your master grocery list. Take out your index cards, and decide what you want to feed your family over the next week, or two weeks, or however long you like to have between trips to the grocery store. Once you have filled in all the spaces on your menu planner, turn the cards over to the list of ingredients, and see what you need to buy to make these meals. Either circle or underline them on your master grocery list, or mark them with a highlighter. You now have your grocery list to take to the store with you. You might tape your menu planner onto the refrigerator door to help you remember what you have planned to make for each meal, and also so the children can see what you have planned, so they will not beg for something else that day.

Once at the store, stick to your list as much as possible. Always be willing to compromise, though, if something is on sale that you know is on your master list. Stocking up on these sales will go a long, long way to reducing your bills. You can plan a trip to the Dollar Store as your first stop, and buy as much as you can there at the reduced prices. Stop off at the day old bread store, and any other discount store along the way. Mark through the items as you buy them, so you will remember what you have already picked up.

It can be a plus to bring your older children with you. For a really large shopping day, you can give each child a section of the list, and let them go find the items you need. You can send each child down an isle as you walk along, especially if you only need one or two things from that isle, and let them retrieve it for you, saving you from going down that isle, and possibly buying something not on your list. They are also handy as you stand in line to check out, and realize you have forgotten one or two things. Either you or the child can continue to stand in line, while the other one runs back for the item you forgot.

You can cut your bill even more by clipping coupons and collecting grocery flyers to find what the loss leader at each store is for that week. These are usually found on the front page of the flyer.

Grocery shopping doesn’t always have to be a dreaded chore. With a little planning, you can come home with a good feeling of a job well done, and a little extra money in your pocket!

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