Being a very on-the-fly type girl, I have long scoffed at menu-planners. I, like many women, have cravings for certain foods sometimes, and if I feel like having spaghetti and stir fry is on the menu I am not a happy camper. I also hate the feeling of having an elaborate meal planned, only to find I’ve barely time to make a bowl of cereal much less a spinach-leek risotto. Planning ahead, it seemed, was not for me.
Well, menu-planners, the time has come for me to apologize. In an effort to cut down on my exorbitant grocery bills I finally decided to sit down and try a menu, just for part of a week. It worked beautifully and I am now trying it a second week. It’s so fun, in fact, that I had to control the temptation to plan out my whole month.
Since it was just a trial menu, I took the first one easy, and thus a little junkier than usual. Here’s what I came up with:
Smorgasbord (we had leftovers from our weekend trip, and were not all home at the same time to eat)
Lunch: Asian Noodle Bowl with Tofu
Dinner: Lentil Soup with Wild Rice Dinner Rolls
Lunch: Sandwich bar, chips, and fresh fruit
Dinner: Pasta Bake
Lunch: Boca chik’n nuggets, sauteed broccoli, baked beans
Dinner: Chef salad and leftover dinner rolls from Wednesday (rotini for the little one, since she’s not yet a lettuce muncher)
Lunch: Sloppy Joes, steamed carrots, leftover dinner salad
Dinner: Homemade Vegetable Pizza (at last minute this ended up being take-out, because we had a friend stop over)
I posted this menu on the fridge along with short lists of dessert, snack, and breakfast suggestions. Breakfast is usually a free-for-all in our house (since one day my daughter decides to eat two bananas, a glass of orange juice and a waffle, the next she just wants yogurt), but I did end up making Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast one day (from the book 1000 Vegan Recipes… and it was incredible). We stuck to the menu very well and found that we ate less. I found it very helpful to have a list of set snack options staring me in the face every time I entered the kitchen…it kept me from scarfing ice cream before dinner or having a dinner roll as a “snack”. I was able to ration ingredients better when I knew I would use them again later in the week, instead of using a whole can of olives on one meal and having to return to the grocery store again and again. And amazingly, when I knew what meal was coming up, it cut down on cravings. There wasn’t a single time this week when I felt like making something other than what was on the menu.
Overall I think I saved about $90 on groceries this week. I haven’t kept track before so it’s hard to say, but I think food spending is typically about $200 a week. This week I spent $110, which is for three people. Not horrible, but I do plan to try and get it below $100. We spent an extra $25 on chips and salsa and some beer when our friend stopped over.
In case this information helps anyone else trying to eat vegan on a budget, I will try to start posting our weekly meal plans, along with the resulting grocery bill. If you’re reading this and want to check on our other menu plans, see the “What We Eat” tag.