The number one thing my wife hates more than anything else (besides cockroaches) is trying to figure out what to make for dinner. If we don't have a plan, it's really tempting to just say, "Nah, forget it, let's just go grab something real quick." So we do and then feel guilty we spent extra money and ate food that wasn't all that good for us. All because we didn't have a meal plan.
The other dilemma we commonly face is going to the grocery store, buying a bunch of groceries and then come home only to realize we forgot a bunch of items we needed. So back to the store we go, or we play another round of, "Nah, forget it, let's just go grab something real quick."
You may be thinking, "You could avoid all these problems if you would just make a meal plan and a shopping list." And you're absolutely right. Unfortunately, that's definitely one of those things that's much easier said than done. Too often, I start a shopping list on a notepad, and throughout the week it gets shuffled around the kitchen and by the time we're ready to go shopping, I have no idea where I misplaced it.
Technology to the rescue! Using two tools we have talked about before on Wednesdays on the Web, you can make meal plan lists and shopping lists that not only work, but work wonders. The tools you need are Google Calendar and Catch.
Catch is a great app that allows you to create lists. So, at the beginning of each week, I create a new shopping list. Throughout the week, as I recognize we're running low on something or wish I had something, I quickly pull out my phone, enter it in the list and move about my day. Because it's in my phone, in a simple checklist format, it's easy to input and I won't forget where I put it. And because the checklist is in my Family account in Catch, which is shared with my wife, she can see what I input and she can add her own things. This helps us stay on the same page.
Saturday is our shopping day. Before going to the store, my wife and I sit down with our phones, like little nerds, and create a new list on Catch. This is our meal list. We write down seven meals. Even if we won't be eating at home every night we still come up with seven meals. Why? Inevitably a night will come where the meal you planned just doesn't sound good. This way you have a reasonable backup.
Next, we go back to the shopping list we've been compiling all week and add the ingredients we need to make the meals. Word to the wise: actually look at the ingredients list for the meals you'll be making to be sure you don't forget anything.
Now, with a complete shopping list and meal plan, you can go to the grocery store with a clear plan of attack. Go through the aisles and pick up exactly what you need, marking the items off the list as you go. You'll be able to gauge how much you're spending by doing this. Then, once you have everything you need, if you're still under budget, grab some extras to build up food storage, or a nice treat.
It's amazing how shopping with a list keeps you from impulse buying and brings the price of your weekly spend way down. We've noticed our grocery bill is about $15 less each week when we shop with a list. That's $15 for something else.
Because you have meals planned each night, with things you actually want to eat, you're less likely to go rogue and eat out. This also saves money.
Now, just because you made a meal list in Catch doesn't mean you'll remember it. After all, it's in a list, not something you see all the time. Solution? Google Calendar.
Input the dinner each day at a specific time into your calendar and share it with your spouse and children (if they are old enough to have phones or calendar apps). This way everyone is on the same page and you plan to have a nice family dinner.
This may sound so obvious, and it is, but if you're a technology junkie like me, the very fact that these simple techniques use technology makes it fun and useful. It has been a great tool for our family. We've saved money and we're eating better, healthier meals because of it.