As a foodie and aficionado cook, I used to follow my cravings when it comes to cooking and eating, which can be satisfying in the short term but not always good for your pocket or your health in the long term. When shopping for groceries, I would end up buying a lot of things I thought I might want to eat, a lot of vegetables with no specific idea of what I was going to use them for, and I'd stock up on a lot of carbs thinking that they are easy fixes when you don't have time to cook. This seemed like a good idea initially, but then I'd find myself making pasta a few times a week, and using a few of the vegetables while others would lay in the back of the fridge, forgotten, to rot away. What a waste!
One day looking through my many cook books I decided to widen my "repertoire" and try my hand at making new delicious dishes. I wrote down a list of ingredients I needed for that week, and shopped for items to create those dishes.
My husband and I realized that we were spending less money and wasting less food by having a "menu plan" for the week. Plus it gave me a chance to try new dishes from my books and magazines!
Menu plans not only save money - you buy what you need only- and time - no need to go to the supermarket every day - but also improve family's nutrition. By planning ahead you can add a variety of healthy side dishes and make sure you get all of your food groups for the week.
I make sure that I add lean protein, carbs/starches, vegetables, dairy and grains to the week's menu, never repeating the same protein twice in a row (to make it less boring) but possibly twice a week (to save $$)
This is a sample of what I would do:
Monday: Chicken with sauteed veggies (broccoli, carrots, corn) and a side of rice
Tuesday: Pasta with tomato sauce and green salad (lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, onions)
Wednesday: shrimp with cous cous and slaw (cabbage, onion, green apple)
Thursday: Beef with seasonal veggies and salad (parsnips, squash, potato)
Friday: fish with potatoes or quinoa and salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber)
Saturday: beans and veggie rice with fresh salsa (tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime)
Sunday: chicken soup with Asian veggies and soba noodles (snow peas, broccoli, cabbage)
Of course these are not the specific dishes I make but the main ingredients in them. As you can see, by making chicken twice in one week I can buy a whole chicken and use, say, the thighs for one day and the breast for another and make soup with it.
And by making veggies or salad every day I can make sure that I don't waste any vegetables because I use a specific group of veggies in different ways throughout the week. (broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, etc)
You can also make your meal plan more specific by assigning specific types of meals to a day for example:
Monday is vegetarian day
Friday is fish day
Sunday is crock pot/ slow cooker day
And why not make it fun like Friday pizza day! And you can make different varieties of pizza every week, experimenting with a new combination of ingredients and even dough!
If you don't know how to start or don't think you have the energy and time to sit down and plan a menu for the week, there are may resources out there to help you
Here are a couple of websites:
I actually find it enjoyable to sit down once a week with my many cook books and magazines and create my own personal menu, and of course I cook international foods as well!