New Monthly Series – E.H.M. Monthly Meal Planner

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Posted on Oct 22 2012 - 12:00am by Jill
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I was doing my monthly meal planning this morning while talking to some of my lovely friends in my Facebook communities when I was overwhelmed with a positive response to share my monthly meal plans. Please know that you will not find Top Chef Recipes in my kitchen (perhaps baking wise but certainly not daily cooking).  I am just like many homeschooling moms who cook out of pure necessity, not love; however I could bake all day every day if given the chance.
This meal planner includes all of our family’s monthly menus for the next 4 weeks. We typically spend $300-$350 (not including sundry items) for one month of food for our family of four. Since we live very rural, if I do not plan well in advance our family can end up spending more on the gasoline for our trip than we do for the food that we are actually there to purchase. When we do our shopping once a month it is a big haul but we do pick up fresh fruits, vegetables and milk every 2 weeks (but we still budget this cost in our monthly budget). Here are some of my tips from my experience:
Purchase your meats either on sale at your local grocery store or buy it in bulk at Costco (this can make for a tremendous savings) but be careful because bulk does not always mean it’s a better price unless you need all of those items. For instance, mac n cheese will be eaten in our house so spending $12.00 for 15 boxes is a good price and saves money; whereas, buying 8 of the same soups when we only need 2-3 might take us a year to eat those extra soups so we end up wasting budget and not saving any money. My husband would like to note that typically on Monday’s and Tuesday’s our Costco does not have samples so that is a free meal lost while you are doing your grocery shopping, LOL.
Shop your local Dollar Tree or Dollar Store.  I find that their pretzels are just as divine as are many of their pastas and believe it or not, some of their lunch meats!
Never-ever go grocery shopping without a clear cut shopping list or you will buy many items that you end up not using or did not need.  Even though they are a good deal you will be throwing out a meal here or there to get them and then all of a sudden you might see you bought a bunch of other ingredients too that are now going to go bad or sit until next month.
Keep track of coupons and do not be afraid to buy store brands.  They might just be a quarter or two less, but when you are buying lots of items it will add up.
Use your store’s rewards programs.  It might not seem like a lot, but even a few dollars here and there can end up adding up.  You do not have to go whack-a-do about it, if that makes sense, but especially around the holidays most reward cards offer buy this much between now and then and get a turkey free or other similar offers.
Like I mentioned above, leave a small amount of your budget for fresh fruits, vegetables and milk that might not last an entire month if you buy it all at once.  This will allow you to have fresh fruits and veggies all month.  We typically save some budget for milk, apples, bananas, bread, and various veggies.
One of the key elements a successfully monthly meal plan is to find recipes that you like, are easy to make, and sometimes have variables in them so that you can change them up easily.  Being able to mix things up means one recipe could be used 3 or 4 times, but in different ways so shopping those recipes is easy, functional, and budget conscious.  I have a set of recipes that I can do just that with.
Someone that I consider a very dear friend, Karyn over at Teach Beside Me, loves to cook in her kitchen and some of you may not be aware of her other blog Things That Make You Say MMMMM! For me personally, Karyn is someone that should she ever be injured or were to contact me and ask me for help I would pack up the kids and off we go several states over to help her out without a second thought. So for our family it means so much to have her recipes made in our home since it is from a friend. Even though we are states away it is almost like having her over for dinner. Sappy perhaps, but have you made her rosemary peasant bread?! I can make this bread in many different variations depending on what meals I intend to have it to compliment. I make it weekly and for the longest time it has been a favorite in our household.  She has a lot of other recipes to and I encourage you to go take a look for yourself.
You may find that a lot of my recipes this month revolve around a key ingredient, pumpkin. There are several reasons behind this craziness. The first is that pumpkin puree tends to be on wonderful sales this time of year due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday (so stock up!). The second and more important reason for our family is that after almost 9 years now (wow that’s a long time) of battling kidney and an overall whacky chemical imbalance in my body I have found that pumpkin is one of the only foods that helps to soothe my joints, lower my uric acid and send my aching kidney muscles into a lullaby. Supposedly it is on my list of what not to eat but because I have unusual genetic makeup and conditions, but it seems everything that tastes good is on my no-no list. So I have learned to eat what my body craves and reacts the best to, pumpkin!
In this free monthly printable you will find my monthly meal planners complete with links, some of our family recipes that I typed up, a blank Costco shopping list, a shopping lesson form for educational purposes and so on! Hopefully this will help make your planning a little easier, more fun or at the very least give you some new recipes. I will share my monthly meal planners with you each month as I create them for our family. Enjoy!
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