Since I'm now posting a two-week meal plan every other week, I'd like to tackle some of the meal plan challenges that come up. Often at my house, it's often running out of food! Please tell me this happens to you sometimes, too. I've tried shopping for one week's meals at a time or two weeks at a time and doing my usual stockpiling, and I still come across these problems:
- I go to make one of the meals on the meal plan, and we're missing 1-2 ingredients.
- Some ingredients magically disappear, possibly snacked on during the week (hubby?).
- We run out food the last week of the month, and I've already used up all my grocery budget.
It can be so frustrating, especially when it happens again and again (it's like I never learn…). Menu planning generally reduces stress and helps the budget, and I know that to be true for my family after doing it all these years. So it's worth it to tackle some of these issues. Here's what I'm going to try:
- Physically organize our food differently. I think that when you stockpile, and you see that volume in the pantry or fridge, your brain says “eat more.” We seem to go through the food faster and then run out. I'll just keep one in the pantry and the rest in basement storage (until we need it).
- Reduce my spending–add an extra vegetarian meal or use another grocery saving strategy to stretch my dollars a bit more.
- Maybe I'm not buying enough? Sometimes when I make my grocery list, I write “potatoes” not considering exactly how many I need for three meals' worth, and the same goes for shredded cheese and other ingredients. I'll be more specific when making my list.
- Portion sizes might be too big. Not long ago, I could make a 6-serving recipe and get dinner for all 5 of us plus a serving for lunch the next day. Now, all three of my kids are eating a lot more, and I find myself needing more. We either need to stick to portion control or I need to cook larger meals, or learn to stretch them with low-cost rice, pasta or potatoes.
- Spend more money–but not in a reactive way. If I just “spend more” at the end of the month grabbing what we need, it will hurt the budget. I need to look at the past few months and see if we need to increase our grocery budget. I know we've made a change to more whole foods and fruits/vegetables; that alone might be driving our costs up a bit. If none of the above ideas help, this could be it.
It's worth taking the time to identify and solve these small issues with my meal planning, because I'll see big returns with smoother dinnertimes and less budgetary stress. What about you?
What challenges do you have with meal planning?