That's a great question! And the answer is...both. It completely depends on how you approach your month. I used to shop the flyers- every Thursday night when the new flyers came, I'd find out what was on sale, and plan my meals and grocery list for the following week accordingly.
When I first wrote this post more than 3 years ago, I wrote:
"Over time, though, we've started to do more of our shopping at one store, rather than several. We found that for about the same price for most foods, the quality of just about everything is better at Costco. Because of this, I now meal plan for the month, rather than the week, and do one big grocery shop based on the entire month's plan."
But meal planning and grocery shopping work with you as you are NOW, as your life is TODAY. As your life changes, so will the way you structure your meal planning and grocery shopping, and I want to tell you that it's a good thing to look at how it's working for you and adjust accordingly. There really isn't a right or wrong answer.
For example, summertime shopping may be impacted by garden-fresh fruit and vegetables, farmers markets, and other seasonal foods. I like fresh fish tacos, salads, and other lighter meals in the summer, such as grilled souvlaki with a big Greek salad on the side.
You may be travelling more or camping often, and that dictates how you plan your meals as well. And today- well, it's cold outside, with blowing wind and snow- winter is here which means hot food for me. Salads just don't appeal when the wind is howling and snow is hitting our windows.
How does the time of year impact how you shop?
It's budget day today~ and I'm also setting up our meal plan for June, because tomorrow is my "big" shopping day for the new month. There's a constant tug-of-war going on in any budget; balancing the fixed and variable expenses can be a source of frustration for many, including myself.
One of the places you can really adjust your monthly spending is in your grocery budget. Over the winter I was able to stretch our food budget a little further by planning a huge pot of soup once a week. The leftovers became a secondary meal, usually rounded out with a vege tray and sandwiches. Whatever didn't get eaten became individually-frozen lunches.
I love soup, because you take a little of this, a little of that, throw in some flavourful herbs and spices, and end up with something delicious. It's a great way to use of tiny amounts of leftovers and create a full meal.
The problem I find in June- August is that planning soups isn't really logical. It's the warmest time of the year for us, and hot soup doesn't feel right.
I do expect some rainy and gloomy days, so I've pencilled in 2 soup dinners for June. Take today, for example. It's so cool, rainy, and gloomy that you can see your breathe outside. We're making a big pot of Minestrone for dinner.
I've also decided on quick meals, like wraps and stirfry's. And of course, lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables. I've cut out roast beef, something we enjoyed once a month in the winter, and replaced it with grilled fish. I think our grocery spending will be right around where it's been all winter, despite rising food costs. Of course, the kids would be happy with hotdogs or macaroni-and-cheese from a box, but the nutritional component would be lost and I just can't do that after working so hard on cleaning up our eating.
How do you approach your meal planning and budgeting? Do you repeat favorites each month, try new foods, a bit of both?
If you have any questions about some of the recipes I'm thinking of trying, or wondering how to start eating better, drop me a note! I'm happy to help.
I found this great article online about meal planning. There are a few meal planning personalities. I think I'm in between a couple of them, both a geek and a maven. I rarely pre-cut vegetables, for eg. but I almost never fly by the seat of my pants either.
How would you define yourself?
I took my husband to the big mall for his birthday this weekend. We needed a reprieve from the day-to-day and enjoyed every second of it. And I got to have Breakfast at Tiffany's! (yes, I know. I had to do it).
Something we especially enjoyed was going out to eat. Our choices are usually limited by locale, budget, and kids, so this weekend we chose to eat at places we don't usually get to.
For lunch one day we went to Moxies, who created this great entree- sushi cones- that I'd like to try at home.
Now, I'm not sure I can get my kid to try actual sushi, given that I'm not confident I could prepare or even find the right kind of raw fish locally, but I think I could make a variation of it with cooked salmon. I love all the flavours involved with sushi, the presentation of it, etc.
Our last night out to eat we went to Oranj Sushi Bar and enjoyed that very much. Our server was friendly and helpful and all her suggestions were amazing. The little city we live in doesn't have sushi readily available, unless you count the packages you find at the supermarket, and I'm not sure how fresh those are. We really enjoyed the Unagi Rolls that she recommended.
This week I'll be playing around with various vegetable side dishes and trying something new with tilapia. Stay tuned!
Tell me, does this sound familiar to you: dinner time rolls around, and that kid of yours takes a bite of something, makes a face, and runs away/gags/whines/complains/vomits? Or eats the only thing he/she likes on that particular day- carrots, maybe, or a piece of bread?
You're not alone. In fact, take a peek at the "Verdict" section on almost all the recipes I've posted so far. I think none of them have captured my second son's heart.
So how do you deal with a picky kid? In my (somewhat) limited experience, I do nothing, really. I remember hearing that my brother chased his kid around the house with a carrot in hand. Not me. I'd rather really enjoy eating my dinner than come back to it later, cranky and bitter.
My first son was the same, basically. He ate a little more fruit and a little less soup, but he was that kid. His kindergarten teacher played a huge roll in him learning to try new foods, and I learned from her as well: offer what they like, make them taste what they don't- a lick, a couple of chews, whatever- even if it doesn't get swallowed, their tastebuds will start to learn the flavour.
You could have knocked me over with a feather the first time he asked me to make chili for dinner. I remember asking him "It's got beans in it? It's a little spicy? That's the food you want?" Prior to that it was a tiny amount of chili, him gagging though every bite. And now he's amazing at food. He still doesn't like some things, but he'll give it a try. And I know eventually those flavours will be enjoyed as well.
So I'm not stressing out about my second son. He likes lots of things my first-born didn't at this age already, like chili and just about every kind of soup I've ever made. He gets something from every food group every day, and even if his diet isn't as varied as I would like it to be, I know he'll get there at some point if I keep offering.
Feel free to comment on your experiences and your thoughts about picky eaters! I'd love to hear them.
I get asked a lot about lunch, and why I don't provide meal plans for it. The simple, short reason is that lunch isn't usually planned in my house. When I'm hungry, I see what's around. Sometimes it's leftovers, sometimes a couple of eggs or a sandwich. Sometimes when I'm busy and heading out the door I'll have a piece of fruit and a protein shake.
Dinner time is when we connect with each other. By that time of day we're ready to eat together, talk about our days, and relax. Sometimes my family loves what I cook, and sometimes they don't. I never take it personally, either. If I like something but the kids don't, I won't make it often, but I will make it again. Eventually their taste buds will catch up.
What do YOU do for lunch?
If you've used my meal planning or grocery shopping services in the past, please share your experiences with the rest of the world! Please include a specific reason you would recommend me!