A Menu Planning Argument






Do you menu plan then shop or shop then menu plan? It is not a new argument, but it is worth talking about.

I believe that if you are really trying to save every penny then shopping 'specials' then planning your menu around those specials has better fiscal merit. Mrs HM disagrees however, as she feels that shopping specials, whilst noble, does not always produce a balanced or nourishing set of weekly meals - looking at all the stupid stuff 'on special' at the shops lately, she just might have a point.


Invent your own coleslaw - break the rules.


I guess it all goes back to stockpiling and making sure that we are only buying things 'on special' that we will use and like. Just because it is 'on special' does not mean it is worth buying. Less and less staples go 'on special' compared to five years ago when we were first starting our frugal journey.

How do you menu plan - pre shopping or post shopping? Or maybe something entirely different?


Making your own sauces and dressings is cheaper than
buying it on special anyway.


Take care folks and stay nice now.

Mr HM

Comments

  1. Menu plan then shop. Rarely do we find anything special we really wan. If we do we adjust the menu to accommodate it, then use the meals we swapped the following week, thereby reducing that weeks bill.

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    1. I agree that it is hard to find specials that we really want.

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  2. I think that a lot of "junk food" regularly comes on special (chips, chocolates etc.) rather than good, healthy staples. That frustrates me no end! I have a set list of stockipile items that I look for and buy up when they come on special. Things like toothbrushes, chocolate chips and a spelt pasta that we use sometimes. I usually menu plan before I go shopping and make a list as to what I'll need from that. Meg:)

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    1. Mrs HM has the same regime as you by the sounds - yes.

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  3. I jump online, and check out the coles and woolies specials, which often gives me meal inspiration, then I menu plan, then I shop. However if I get to the shops and find a great special, I might just grab it, and create a meal around it.

    I agree, most of the specials are on poor quality 'food' (which is a term I use loosely to describe it) but it's the staples I'm looking to buy on sale and stock up on. Tinned goods, pasta, frozen items, meat etc.

    Either way as long as you ARE menu planning you should be out in front, because if it's done well, there is so much less food waste. Better for our wallet, and better for the planet.

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    1. Ah - jumping on line first is wise. Lists of meals get made at our house too.

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  4. Hi Phil. This is something very close to my heart. I menu plan for a month. I have a master plan of recipes that I work off and rotate so we don't get sick of eating the same thing every week. Once I have worked out our menu for the month I order our meat accordingly. Our meat comes from a farm near Toowoomba in Qld - a paddock to plate set up and when we buy in bulk it is much cheaper. I always know what is in my stockpile and on shopping day I only buy exactly what is needed. I allow $25 of my budget each week for stockpiling and I only buy things that are on half price special and that we regularly use. The menu plan is not inflexible - sometimes it has to be changed but that is ok. I find it better to work within a framework and I find it certainly saves the dollars and the headache of what's for tea tonight!!! Kindest Regards, Shona

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    1. A month ahead - gosh you are organised Shona - impressive!

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  5. We take a list for staple items, but when it comes to meat, we buy the offers, veg is purchased on the quality not price. This does work for us, we always overbuy specials, to freeze later. So using our freezer we do have balanced meals.

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    1. That is a good mix Marlene. We have started shopping at Harris Farm for fruit and veg we need. The produce seems more real than Coles of Woolworths

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  6. Menu plan then shop.....honestly I think we all know stuff in the supermarket goes on rotation and same with one supermarket has it one week and the other supermarket the other week. In Australia we don't really need to stock pile that much like climates where they get snowed in. I think regardless of specials or not making sure what you buy is used up is by far a better way than any 2 for 1 special. Only today I actually bought one of the sauces for a dinner and if you bought 3 you got a discount. Normally they are 2 for 1 and I would buy it but 3 was going to cost me nearly $6 and I only wanted 1 so I paid a little bit more today. I did also pick up half price dish washing liquid which when I see it I buy one or 2 but that's it. It will be half price again soon. Using up the food you buy during the week matters so menu plan and only buy what you need.

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    1. I must admit that I 'sense' the special cycles exist but are not clever enough to predict the specials cycles with accuracy. I buy the 1/2 price specials like tuna and coffee etc

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  7. I can see both sides of the argument, I always scour the reduced shelves, but sometimes I just want to cook something nice/different from a cookbook which requires going out and buying specific ingredients. I always buy any meat when its marked down for the freezer as that's where most of the money goes, its so expensive.

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    1. Yep, I hear you. Meat about to expire goes straight into the freezer at our house - never had an issue with it.

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  8. That's a very good question!

    I don't menu plan but I am pretty good at making a meal without much thought. I never have much on my list except the essentials that might or might not be on sale when I need them. When those daily essentials are on sale, I do buy a lot to store. But my favorite way of shopping is discounted items. Meats, veggies, the discount grocery store and from those items, I plan my meals. Sounds strange but I also find it very fun to make something out of an item I have never used before. If it is freezeable, then in the freezer it goes especially if it is a discounted meat.

    I am not able to pay full price for anything (most of the time) and we rarely waste food. But there is care to be had as well when buying items that are close to end date. We buy milk for .50 gallon and freeze some for later. Or cauliflower that has brown spots on it that I can scrape off, peppers that are beginning to wrinkle and potatoes that might start to wrinkle but those things are indeed good enough for my family. No, I haven't killed them yet by giving them low grade food! I figure if a store can still sell it then it still must be edible. I even bought deer apples and made myself 4 containers of fresh applesauce!

    Making a meal plan also works because we have a freezer full of things that I can pull out to use to work with the reduced priced items to create some very good and well-balanced meals!

    When we lived in the country and had all the kids at home, we stock piled and had a bountiful pantry. Now we live in the city, closer to stores, and have kids that aren't home all that often anymore. So we can run to the store more often to check for those reduced items.

    Come and take a peek in my pantry and freezer.

    Alice

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    1. You take a very 'organic' approach Alice - I like it. Mrs HM cooks entirely form out of her head and rarely uses a recipe so often her shopping list is changing as she is shopping as she sees ingredients that she can utilise or leverage. She will often say "Oh - I can use that" and into the basket it goes.

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  9. We don't menu plan at all instead we keep a large stockpile of most groceries we have purchased on special and pick what we want to cook each day. Our vegetables are sourced either fresh from the gardens or from blanched and frozen produce in the freezer. Mostly being just DH and I we will cook enough for 2 meals so we can reheat the second night.

    Even though there are not a lot of specials on basic staple grocery items we can still save by buying grocery gift cards for the supermarkets off RACQ which gives us a 5% discount on everything we buy. Also recently I did find Woolworths supermarkets selling $350 e-vouchers for $300 so we buy those around twice a year which gives us a 16.66% discount on the price of everything too. We try and couple both of these discounts with half price specials where possible to save more.

    It works for us :).

    Sewingcreations15.

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    1. I have never heard of grocery gift cards - I must look into that! Thanks for the tip.

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    2. Phil and most welcome I thought with a large family it might help with the grocery bills.

      The seller on eBay that sells the Woolworths e-vouchers shop name is called woolworthssupermarkets. They sell grocery vouchers twice a year in about February March and again in October November and with the $350 e-voucher (pay $300) you get free delivery if you are near one of their stores.

      If you are a member of a roadside assist club here in Australia you will find the rewards that are available on the front page of the website under RACQ gift card rewards. According to ours you get from 5 - 15% off a variety of retailers and 5% off Coles, Woolworths, 6% of JB HI-FI & Myer, 7.5% off KMart and Target and the list goes on. From what I have heard from others in most Australian states it is available through all the roadside assist clubs.

      Some of these are e-cards which they will email you a code you can use online or in our case once we order the supermarket RACQ gift cards they take 10 days to arrive via post and we use them in the store.

      I hope this helps you and others to save on your ever rising grocery costs.

      Sewingcreations15.

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  10. I don't menu plan at all...stock up on meat when on special...cook and portion to eat and freeze some...then I'm ready for salads, omelettes, a little pasta...anywhere I can add the protein...local fruits and veggies in season...

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    1. We do batch cooking too. Eat half and freeze the other half for another time or in smaller portions. Yep.

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  11. I don't menu plan.
    I have a basic stockpile. Normally I buy veggies, fruits etc. if they are around $2/pound and sometimes I buy something new that I'd like to try. I like trying new recipes and sometimes I make recipes up as I go depending on what I have in the fridge.

    I'm rarely tempted by specials. Mostly because I don't eat/use those. For examples the store frequently has an offer for free bananas if you buy two boxes of cereal. I don't like sugary cereal, so I just buy a couple of bananas. :) So I don't plan my shopping around grocery specials.

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    1. So you have a price threshold in your head - that is a good approach - very canny actually.

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  12. You caught me at the computer doing (for real) menu planning after checking the online store specials and digital coupons. We never have a problem finding things on a budget that are also healthy. For example, broccoli and bell peppers are not on sale this week, but squash and kale are. Beef is not on sale, but smoked sausage is. We are having a big pot of sausage-kale stew. We're also having tuna sandwiches because we have a coupon for tuna. We completely skip over coupons and sale items that are junk food . . . narrows down the list quite a bit!

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    1. Caught red handed menu planning hey Pricilla :-) ha ha. Couponing intrigues me as we don't really have couponing in Australia as such.

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  13. I choose the meals first, then shop from the pantry before shopping from the store or market. If something good (and worthy) is on special I can purchase it for the following week's menu. Always looking forward. :-)

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    1. % years ago so many good foods came on special - these days it is rare in our area. Even sausages are not a cheap meat any more.

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  14. Definitely shop then menu plan. For example.. I know of folks who rather fancy having a fresh fruit salad in the middle of winter!!! And then complain about how tasteless the strawberries and watermelon was! Really..! And not to mention the cost!! That is food disconnectedness at its very worst. Always, always plan menus around foods that are in season. They will always be cheaper. If buying meat, supermarkets often have specials on trays of meat that have reached their use-by date. I know plenty of folks fill up their freezer on these items and then plan meals around them. Personally, as we grow most of our food, I plan our meals around what's growing in the garden plus whatever meat we feel like from our freezers. (Please excuse my overuse of !!! but I feel so strongly about the food disconnect in our western world.)

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    1. Town folk and out of season fruit and veg annoys me to billy-oh too. "Oh I just can't get nice nectarines at the moment Trudy" - "Me neither Prue!" (No, you daft plonkers, they are out of season I mutter to myself)

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  15. Hi Phil,

    I menu plan but adapt as I go depending on the cost of the ingredients, most of which is often veg.

    I have had phases of buying my fruit and veg according to what is cheapest by the kilo. As I've always cooked, it's not hard for me to do this and adapt my meals around it. The other thing I do is 'shop the pantry' before I go out, and base my meals around what is in there. For example, this week I noticed I had a lot of polenta, rice and French lentils so planned dishes around those ingredients.

    Madeleine.x

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    1. Shopping the pantry can be quite fun actually - a real challenge when someone says "there's nothing to eat" ! - Stand back and let me show you what you can rustle up from your version of "nothing" :-) hee hee!

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  16. We don’t menu plan but cooking always start in the kitchen with left-overs or perishables, followed by what else is needed from the larder. Shopping is done from a shopping list adding whatever we would have bought anyway that is on sale (if the brand on sale is cheaper than our regular lowest price brand that is). We often make up new dishes with variations of staple items, for example cauliflower or different lentils, using new spices.

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    1. Left overs - you are the first to mention this. Left overs is a lost art I think and deserves greater merit. Yes.

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  17. I shop then menu plan. Saying that I always have the ingredients for the things I like to cook/eat and that is what I buy. So maybe I plan then shop?? Specials always seem to be processed/ junk food. Lisa, Tasmania.

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    1. Oh when will there be specials on flour, tea, canned meats and things we actually use??
      Putting convenience foods on special only encourages processed food habits (hmmm, maybe that is why they do it?)

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  18. Wow, this post, sure garnered a lot of interest! But then, it's an interesting topic. With diabetes and gluten intolerance to deal with, we pretty much HAVE to menu plan, and then shop.

    Second decision making process though, is based around ease of meal preparation. Then what's in season. I peruse the specials, only to see what fits in with our system. It's great to buy something at half price, and stock up!

    To summarize, we buy specials only to support, to our pre-existing menu plan arrangements. :)

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