This post is sponsored by Woolworths.
Waiting outside Immy’s dancing class recently, I was trying hurriedly to finish my menu plan (whilst also simultaneously keeping one eye on my toddler partner-in-crime) when I got talking with two of my fellow mum friends about menu planning. It started out as a conversation about how hard it can be to think of new meal ideas (that everyone in the family will actually eat!) and then evolved into a discussion about menu planning and online shopping – two of my biggest grocery shopping timesavers.
I can’t remember exactly when I discovered the virtues of menu planning. It certainly wasn’t in the footloose and fancy-free days before children. I imagine it was in fact about the time of the global financial crisis, when our family income took a bit of a battering, and all of a sudden how we spent both the dollars AND the cents really started to matter. What I do know is that I have been menu planning for about three years now and online grocery shopping (on and off) since I was pregnant with Immy – almost six years ago!
How I menu plan and shop
1. Tie shopping in to pay frequency. We are paid fortnightly and so we shop for the majority of our groceries fortnightly. I have the order for the bulk of our pantry and general household items (including cleaning products and toiletries), our meat, freezer and dairy goods, and some fruit and vegetables ready to go on pay day. We buy bread as needed and purchase the rest of our fruit and vege via weekly trips to a local market.
2. Look at where YOU need to feel more organised. Menu planning for me is about the dinners. If I needed to think about what to cook for dinner (and whether we had the necessary ingredients) each and every day it would honestly do my head in. As a busy Mum, I find the more I can automate these sorts of everyday decisions the better. That being said, our menu plan is flexible in that the days allocated to each meal are not set in stone, we do switch it up depending upon what we feel like eating or cooking.
3. Consider your family’s regular commitments and special events. When I menu plan I consider which after school activities we have on for each week so that I can arrange to have a meal that can be prepared ahead (usually in the slow cooker) on the days we will be out. It also prompts me to plan around special events and celebrations.
4. Variety. I find that menu planning prompts me to get out of the rut of eating the same foods over and over. It’s a visual kick in the pants to keep periodically introducing new things.
5. Keep it simple. My menu plan isn’t fancy. In fact, it is just a meal list in one corner of my shopping list because it sort of makes sense to me that the two go hand in hand. When a system is easy to use, you’ll generally use it more.
6. So what about breakfasts, lunches and snacks? When it comes to breakfast we are pretty much creatures of habit – porridge, baked beans and toast or muffins during the week and a cooked breakfast one day of the weekend – so these are things I always have on hand. I keep a good stock of a range of pantry and fridge choices for lunch and we generally decide on the day which to have.
7. Sticking to a budget. Hands up if you have ever stood at the checkout of the supermarket with a look of amazement at how much your groceries for the week/fortnight/month have added up to. By shopping for groceries online, I know how much I have spent before I even reach the checkout, which certainly makes sticking to a budget a whole lot easier. There is a whole lot less impulse shopping and I can adjust what is in my shopping cart to remain within my budget before I checkout. No more surprises – I know exactly what I am spending.
8. Timesaving. When talking with other mums, many have mentioned to me that shopping online takes too much time. I actually find that it saves me time. With Woolworths Online I can use my previous shopping trips to maintain a master list of items that we regularly purchase. When I go to create a new order it is as simple as working down the Master List and clicking the items we need into the shopping cart.
The Master List also prompts me so I don’t forget things that we use regularly.
9. Convenience. I remember the time (when I wasn’t shopping online) that we had about six bags of desiccated coconut in the pantry because every time I went to the shops I forgot to check if we had any and I really, really wanted to make some Anzac biscuits! By shopping from home, it is super easy to check the pantry before submitting my order. And I couldn’t talk about convenience without mentioning the fact that I can grocery shop at anytime from virtually anywhere…without the kids in tow…and in my pyjamas! That is a BIG win in my book!
Win FREE groceries for a whole year with Woolworths
Woolworths are giving Australian readers the chance to win FREE groceries for a whole year! Every time you shop online, placing an order before December 22, you will be placed into the draw to win!! There are six prizes to be won and you can find all of the competition details here.
Do you menu plan? And/or online shop? How has it changed grocery shopping for you?