After the Safeway ad arrives in my mailbox on Wednesday, I begin planning my menu for the following week. The prices on the weekly ad are valid from Wednesday until the following Tuesday, leaving me plenty of flexibility about when I will shop. I detest weekend grocery store trips so much that I'd rather shop with both of my kids with me on Thursday or Monday than hit the store on Saturday or Sunday.
Here are five of my menu planning basics:
1. I plan dinner for five nights. For the two other nights, we eat leftovers from the other dinners or sometimes use up a freezer item such as tamales, ravioli, lasagna, or have breakfast for dinner!
2. Breakfast and lunches are fairly repetitive at our house but no one has complained so far. For breakfast, we rotate cereal, yogurt, smoothies, peanut butter toast, and pancakes/waffles. Lunches consist of grilled cheese, hummus and pita, pasta, quesadillas, or leftovers from dinner. Add in some side dishes or snacks like apples, bananas, berries, carrots, dry roasted peanuts, raisins, cheese sticks or pretzels and those meals are covered.
3. I create a weekly menu with some variety but I also keep in mind that dinners that "share" ingredients can help you stick to your budget. For example, if you are doing chicken parmesan one night, set aside one of the chicken breasts from the package, grill it and add it to caesar salad for another night's meal. Having bacon for breakfast? Do a BLT for dinner! Simplify and stretch those dollars out throughout the week.
4. Make sure at least half of your dinners are "leftover friendly". Tacos, soup, stir fry and pork tenderloin are examples of great dinner that you can enjoy for lunch later in the week. Or make some paninis with some leftover brie, honey and dried apricots from your weekend wine tasting night. Or put together odds and ends like chicken, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce with some sourdough bread for an italian sandwich.
5. Only include your favorite pre-packaged items on your weekly list if you can them find at deep discounts. Every once in awhile you gotta have a frozen pizza, right?! There are some Safeway brand pizzas to be found for $2.99. I taste tested the thin crust Pepperoni during Super Bowl week and it was good! But I wouldn't pay $5.99 for it.
Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are your menu planning tips and tricks? What are some great deals you've seen at your store lately?