October Meal Plan

I strayed from monthly meal planning over the last few months, and I’ve really noticed how much of a difference it’s made; and not in a good way. I find when I revert back to a weekly routine I don’t seem to stick to the plan as much, which seems a little strange because it’s less regimented and there is more freedom in it. I also find that I get slip into a rut of meal planning a lot more easily when I do it week by week. With this in mind, I’ve made the change back to monthly planning, and I intend to share it with you all. You will be able to access my monthly meal plan on the sidebar, and I’m hoping that you’ll notice more and more new meals making their way into our regular rotation as the months progress. If you have any tried and true meals that you’d like to share with me, please feel free to do so in the comments section. I’m always open to some new ideas! Here’s what’s on for October –

Sat 01/10 – Homemade Pizza
Sun 02/10 – Japanese Beef Curry with Rice
Mon 03/10 – Moroccan Chicken Salad
Tues 04/10 – Hard & Soft Beef Tacos
Wed 05/10 – Eye Fillet Steak & Chips
Thurs 06/10 – Out
Fri 07/10 – Take Away Night!
Sat 08/10 – Homemade Pizza
Sun 09/10 – Spaghetti Bolognese
Mon 10/10 – Moroccan Chicken with Pea Cous Cous & Roasted Carrots
Tue 11/10 – Taco Bowls
Wed 12/10 – Beef Chow Mein
Thur 13/10 – Southern Fried Chicken with Roast Potato & Carrots
Fri 14/10 – Homemade Pizza
Sat 15/10 – Date Night
Sun 16/10 – Massaman Chicken Curry with Rice
Mon 17/10 – Moroccan Chicken with Pea Cous Cous & Roasted Carrots
Tue 18/10 – Hard & Soft Beef Tacos
Wed 19/10 – Eye Fillet Steak with Roast Potato & Broccoli
Thur 20/10 – Tuscan Chicken Salad
Fri 21/10 – Take Away Night!
Sat 22/10 – Hot Dogs & Salad
Sun 23/10 – Roast Lamb & Vegetables
Mon 24/10 – Crispy Skinned Salmon with Sweet Potato & ‘slaw
Tue 25/10 – Taco Bowls
Wed 26/10 – Moroccan Chicken with Pea Cous Cous & Roasted Carrots
Thurs 27/10 – Southern Fried Chicken with Mash & Sweet Corn
Fri 28/10 – (pending holiday plans)
Sat 29/10 – (pending holiday plans)
Sun 30/10 – (pending holiday plans)
Mon 31/10 – Japanese Beef Curry with Rice

Weekly Grocery Haul + Meal Plan

I love watching grocery haul videos on YouTube, but I do really enjoy watching the most mundane things on that platform. I decided to share with you our grocery shop for the week, and the meals I’ve planned out for us. My goal this week was to keep the shop under $150, and I even went so far as to cash in some of our Flybuys points for money back on the shop (which ended up taking $30 off of the total for the week – not too shabby). The grand total came to $109.61 which was under what I had budgeted for the week and I’ll be carrying across the excess $40.39 for future shopping trips. Here’s my meal plan for the week –

Breakfast
Monday – Friday: Gluten free weetbix w/ lactose free milk

Lunch
Monday: Leftover spaghetti bolognese
Tuesday: Out
Wednesday: Toasted cheese sandwich
Thursday: Noodles
Friday: Slow cooked beef massaman curry

Dinner
Monday: Chicken w/ roasted sweet potato & steamed broccoli
Tuesday: Burritos
Wednesday: Moroccan seasoned lamb w/ cous cous & roasted carrots
Thursday: Chicken schnitzel w/ mash & steamed broccoli
Friday: Homemade pizza

Snacks
Monday – Friday: Strawberries / carrot sticks / gluten free crackers

Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping

Buckle up guys, because this is going to be a long one. I decided that 2015 would be the year of monthly meal planning. I have always planned our meals, but last year I did mostly weekly planning which did work fine for me, but I want to give monthly planning a try to see how it went. The benefit for me when it comes to monthly meal planning is mostly that I can bulk-order groceries from Coles and actually have the delivery fee be worthwhile. Last year we resorted to going in-store because we couldn’t justify the $11 Woolworths delivery fee each week for the small amount of groceries we were ordering. To be honest, I don’t mind grocery shopping, but having to try and fit it in on a Saturday morning just doesn’t work for me. I usually write up a plan the week before the new month, so on January 27th I will be planning for February’s meals. Here is a step-by-step run down of how I do it.

Step 1 – Set up the monthly plan: I keep my meal plan in an email format, and at the end of each month I write in the dates for each day for the following month. I’m sure there is a more convenient way of doing this, but this works for me because I can work on the plan during any free moments that I get at work. Once I’ve written in the dates, I go through and add in the ‘staple’ meals that we have every week/month. For example, we have steak and salad (or vegetables) once a week. Sebastian is a huge fan of steak, so I like to include this meal weekly because I know it’s something he enjoys. We have a roast every second Sunday, so that goes straight into the planner without any further thought.

Step 2 – Check the specials: I shop at Coles (I was a Woolworths girl for many years but the quality, price, and service that I’ve received from Coles lately was enough to convince me to make the change), so the week of my meal-planning I’ll hop onto their website and take a look through the current specials catalogue. I find this is a great way to save money, and can also be a prompt for meal ideas if you’re feeling stuck. For example, in the current catalogue soft taco kits have been reduced by $3.13 each. If I work soft tacos into our meal plan, say once a week, I can save $12.52 for the month. Which in the long run could work out to be a saving of $150 a year. If I can get a saving like this for 4 kinds of meals for the month, I can reduce my monthly food bill by $50. It all adds up, and I try to get as many items on sale as I can. For the most part we eat a lot of basic meals without too many processed additions, but if we’re going to have things like pasta or these kind of pre-made meals, I’m definitely going to get them on sale.

Step 3 – Fill in the blanks: As I notice things that are on sale that we could work into our weekly meals, I start to add them into the meal plan. As a general rule, I plan two full weeks of meals and just repeat them all again for the following fortnight. If you’re feeding fussy eaters, this will work out pretty well because you’ll have less options to choose from, and are probably used to repeating meals from week to week. I like to mix it up every month to keep things “interesting”. Here is an example of two weeks worth of meals for us –

Monday 2nd February – Steak & Veggies/Salad
Tuesday 3rd February – Chicken Enchiladas
Wednesday 4th February – Southern Fried Chicken & Salad
Thursday 5th February – Lamb Steaks & Cous Cous Salad
Friday 6th February – Oven Baked Fish, Chips & Salad
Saturday 7th February – Pulled Pork Rolls
Sunday 8th February – Beef Roast w. Veggies

Monday 9th February – Steak & Veggies/Salad
Tuesday 10th February – Burritos
Wednesday 11th February – Portuguese Chicken Bowls w. spanish rice
Thursday 12th February – Greek Lamb Wraps
Friday 13th February – Take Away!
Saturday 14th February – Chilli Con Carne
Sunday 15th February – Homemade Burgers

Step 4 – Grocery lists: Writing a grocery list for me (with this meal plan in place) is a breeze. I buy all of our meat and other basic grocery items from Coles online, and do a weekly shop at our local market for fruit and vegetables. With the meat that I order (mainly because we have a small freezer space available, and also I don’t like keeping meat frozen for too long), I only order 2 weeks worth. I will either pick up the remaining meat from the local market at the end of the second week of the month, or I’ll pop into Coles and do a very quick meat-only shop. (This is a lot less hassle than having to do a full grocery shop every week, let me tell you!) I start out by writing in any of the essentials that we’re run out on (we keep track of these on a running list on the side of the fridge) – which I will buy on sale wherever possible. I then go through and add in the food that we get for Breakfast/Lunch/Snacks. We’re creatures of habit, so these remain the same for the most part and I don’t have to think about them at all (eg: Milk, wholemeal saladas, soy yogurt tubs etc). I then go through the meal plan for the month and write down what’s required for our dinners for the month. Eg: Beef Steak x 2, Chicken x 3, Lamb Steaks x 2, Burrito Kit x 2. I write two separate lists – one for Coles, and one for the market (I do this part one week at a time).

Step 5 – Shopping (the fun bit): There is always a way to make money by spending money. If you regularly shop at a large supermarket chain and haven’t opted in for the available extras, now is the time. I have both an Everyday Rewards card (which is linked to my Qantas frequent flyer account), and a Flybuys card. I always log in to FlyBuys before placing a grocery order to activate any offers that are available. EG: right now I can get double points for any order that I place online, OR I could opt-in for free delivery if I place an order over $100 (plus $2000 bonus points). Which I will do, as I am placing a month’s worth of groceries (more proof that shopping monthly is a better option). These kind of points systems come in handy, if you’re really keeping an eye on your budget. Right now I have enough points to earn 2 free movie tickets. Movie tickets are $20 each, and getting two for free would impact our entertainment budget for the month. Making money by spending money. I highly recommend it. The act of online shopping for the groceries is pretty straight forward. I make my way down my list, and add things to the cart as I go. For any items that I wasn’t able to spot in the specials catalogue, I’ll search for them – sort by price, and choose the cheapest/most appropriate option available.

How I reduced my grocery bill: The first thing that made a major difference for me was of course having this meal plan in place. Having a set menu is great because it means you’re not ducking to the shop every few days to buy ingredients (which can lead to spending extra money on yummy things you spot in-store), and you can make the most of the ingredients you do have by not buying an excess of various condiments/sauces/seasonings etc that never get finished up. Having a plan in place also means that you resort to take away/going out for food FAR less often (at least in my experience). Another thing that’s made a big impact on how much I’m spending is buying items on sale where possible. It takes a little bit more time and effort, but it’s well worth it in the long run. I also buy home-branded products where possible, but this is an ongoing experiment with what can/can’t be skimped on (word of warning: do NOT buy homebrand minced garlic). Having a clearly organised and well-stocked fridge/freezer/pantry makes a huge difference. Knowing what you already have is a great way to stop yourself buying more than what you actually need. I’ve also found that eating smaller portions has made a bit of a difference. Because we’ve reduced how much food we’re eating at dinner time, there are nearly always leftovers available for lunch the following day. This has stopped me spending money buying my lunch on the way to work. Sounds silly, but it’s made a big difference. Also, eating less processed foods. The majority of what we eat will be meat/vegetable based dishes. Cutting back on “extras” = cutting back on $. The most expensive items in any grocery shop for me used to be cleaning/personal products. I now buy these in bulk every year (household cleaning) or every few months (personal products). I buy all of our personal kinds of products (soap/deodorant/toothpaste etc) from Chemist Warehouse, because everything is always on sale. If you spend over $99 delivery is free, which is why buy in “bulk” every few months. Household cleaning products (washing powder/pine-o-clean etc) are purchased in Catch of the Day sales once a year or so (I’m now at the point where I have a nice little stash in the laundry, and will re-fill what is needed when I place my annual order this year). Honestly, the biggest and best tip I can offer is to be as organised as you can. It comes naturally to be on top of stuff like this, purely because it makes my life a lot easier and less stressful when I know it’s all under control -but I know that isn’t the same for everyone.

I hope this has been of some use to some of you out there. I love stuff like this, but I know it’s not for everyone. I’d love to hear how you all plan your weekly/fortnightly/monthly meals and if you have any tips for me on saving even MORE money than I already am!