We have been meal planning on and off for a few years, and we can tell that it really does make a difference, budget wise, and health wise, when we plan ahead.
We usually sit down for breakfast on Saturday, and talk about what we would like to eat in the following 7 days. We talk mostly about the dinner menus, since DH has free lunch at work, and DS has his lunch at daycare. Breakfast is usually oatmeal and milk, so no planning there either, unless there is a birthday or anniversary coming up… Then we have pancakes with jam and sugar (not the thick american pancakes, thin crêpe like things).
We use the advertisements from the supermarket to help us decide what to have, but we also try to get around the meat-groups every week (ie. fish, poultry, beef and pork). I fear that if we didn’t make an effort on this, we would never eat anything but ground beef. We mostly have pasta or rice on the side, since none of us are particularly fond of potatoes.
When we have found out the dinner menus, and I have made a note of what I would like to have for lunch during the week, we make the grocery list based on what’s already in the cabinets, and what we need for the menus. Then we go over any basic household supplies that are running low (TP, detergent, etc.) and any kitchen stables that we need (milk, fruit, veg, and so on). This all goes on the grocery list on my phone, in an app called ColorNote. I like to use this instead of pen and paper, because it allows me to move the items around so that they correspond to the layout of the supermarket we’re going to. I used to do this by hand, but I got all perfectionist and would rewrite the grocery list 3 times, because I made a mistake. This is much easier, and less wasteful, and I can send the list as a text message to DH, if I need to.
We usually go shopping right after breakfast (or when the shop opens at 8, if DS decided we needed an early day). That way it’s out of the way, so we can concentrate on other chores and just being together for the rest of the day.
One of the major things we need to work on, are the vegetable portion of our dinners. Mostly we have none (I know, I know), although we use a lot of vegetables when we make pasta sauce and lasagna and stuff like that. But my imagination is somewhat lacking in this department, and we usually end up with a salad, when the veg can’t go in the main dish. A salad can be okay, but I don’t like tomatoes or radishes and a lot of other raw vegetables, so it gets boring real fast – there is a limit to how often you really want to have an iceberg lettuce and cucumber salad with dinner. Maybe we just need to practice actually planning to have vegetables with our dinner, and then get more imaginative when we have gotten the habit in check.