Hey all, Danielle here! With the economy where it is… has been for the last several years, most families are looking for a way to save a buck. Many ladies and gents across the country have taken to ‘extreme’ couponing to help in the area of groceries and health and beauty items. I will admit, I was a ‘couponer’ just a few short years ago. Played the ‘drug store game’ like a champ and spent endless hours clipping and searching the web for coupons then scouring the weekly adds to find those ‘can’t miss’ deals. I did get a lot of great deals and free or almost free items. The thing is… while I was getting a TON of stuff for just a little money, most of the food was garbage that I never would have purchased had it not been free/almost free. We went from snacking on fresh fruit to chips and fruit snacks. Thankfully, we didn’t do this too long and my family suffered no weight gain etc. I’m not saying there aren’t coupons out there for healthy foods. There are… tons of them. But when I was doing my price comparisons, even after the coupon the items were way more than the ‘not so healthy’ choices so I’d go for the Nutrigrain bars rather than the organic option.
*Note: For those of you who buy organic, watch for coupons… they could save you a TON in the long run!
Thankfully I discovered (or re-discovered) Aldi. I absolutely LOVE Aldi. My mom shopped there when we were young, there really was no other option when you’re feeding a family of 9 plus a daycare. She went in there 20 years ago with all the Amish and Mennonite ladies and walked out with two overflowing carts that would feed the little army for a month. I will say, having gone with my mom then, it is quite different now. They have SO much more variety including a healthy option (Fit n Active) and an organic line. I’m very glad about that because somehow, I’m now the one feeding the small army (family of 5 and a home daycare) and I do it on right around $500 a month (big monthly trip $350-400 and three weekly mini-trips $20-30). Because their prices are way low (lower even than the ‘store brands’) and just about always the same (if not lower than the previous month) I accomplish this by creating monthly menus, not worrying about what is on sale. This saves me a ton of time and money because I only go to the store once a month! We need to go weekly for perishables but my sweet husband usually does that for me partially because he’s already out and about (to and from work etc) and if I go to Walmart the $20 eggs and produce trip somehow turns into $50. It’s just better that he goes. 🙂
Now, I understand some of you may be loyal to your brands and while I get that, I encourage you to give it a try. Just one or two weeks. I’ve been shopping there exclusively for about a year now and just about everything in my house is from Aldi… ok, ok… except our Hershey’s syrup. Give us a break… we are in Central PA!! In the past year we have found only ONE item that we didn’t like (two if you count the chocolate syrup) and chose not to buy again. ONE. I’ve even switched FROM *gasp* JIFF peanut butter to the Aldi brand and after a week or so, we couldn’t tell the difference. I know, it’s shocking. 😉 Now, if you don’t live near an Aldi, I encourage you to experiment with buying the store brands. Before the Aldi switch, if I needed something I didn’t have a coupon for I would buy the store brand and was usually pleasantly surprised.
I will warn though… shopping once a month, you’ll leave with a cart looking like this…
And your kids may not fit on the ride home…
But you’ll have saved loads of money and that always makes me feel accomplished!
Now… the hard part. The menu planning.
My situation is a little different from most due to my home daycare. I have to offer healthy, balanced meals to the children in my care for breakfast, AM snack, lunch and PM snack. I do that using these menus and then do our family supper menu separately.
Most of the time I simply make a list of six meals I’m planning to make for the week and choose one each day. You’ll see that sometimes I put a certain meal on a certain day and this is usually because we have soccer practice or something else going on and it’s a crockpot meal or another easy to prep meal that works well on said day. When I started monthly menu planning about a year ago I sat down and made a list of the meals that were favorites. I then scoured my Recipes board on Pinterest and filled in the gaps. Now… don’t assume because I make a menu for the month that we never try new things. On the contrary… with my addiction to Pinterest we try new things ALL THE TIME. That’s one of the benefits of having a well stocked pantry… I almost always have all the ingredients necessary for new recipes. If I don’t, I just add them to my mini-trip list for the week. If it’s a flop we don’t do it again, if it’s a winner I usually boot something else off the next months menu and the new recipe takes it’s place! It works well for us and I like knowing what I’m to be making for the week.
One little tip I have for you, when you’re making your giant monthly trip list, go through and make your mini-trip lists on post-it notes and attach it to the menu for that week. I have found this saves me time because I already know what I need as far as recipes go for that week and I can simply add those odds and ends that may sneak up on us… like printer paper.
I’ll list all the meals I have on my menus below just incase you can’t read my writing. I know when I’m in a recipe slump I love when I stumble upon a site of some new ideas. Many of them have been featured on the blog and others can be found on my Recipes/Cooking Pinterest board. If you see a recipe that sounds good and would like it, let me know, I’d be happy to share!
Happy Menu Planning!!!
Chicken & Noodles
Chicken Corn Soup
Chicken & Rice Soup
Ham & Cheese Rollups
Cheese & Fruit Plate
Mac & Cheese w/ Ham
Oven Fried Chicken
Zuppa Toscana Soup
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Buffalo Chicken Pizza Strips
Bacon Cheeseburger Rollups
Ranch Chicken Pasta
Sweet & Sour Chicken