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31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: How to Plan a Weekly Menu, Part 1

Related Posts: Menu-Planning on a Budget

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  • It always surprises me when another week rolls around and there’s a new installment of this series…how can time be flying so fast?? I haven’t watched yet, but look forward to it! =) Thanks, Crystal!

  • Tamara says:

    Just wanted to let you know that Aldi does have special buys listed online.

    I know there regular stuff isn’t on there but I have gotten some good deals watching this.

    • Crystal says:

      You’re right! I should have clarified that they don’t post their weekly produce deals, etc. which is usually what I go for. Recently they’ve been including these in our free Wednesday newspaper, though, so I often consult that if I don’t go shopping before Wednesday or if I am going to be close to Aldi later on in the week.

  • Amanda says:

    Atleast I am not the only one that doesn’t always eat what I list :). I started carrying over meals from the prior week just the same if it wasn’t made. I do need some better ideas for meals for my kids since casseroles & soups are things they do not like very much.

  • Sandra Lee says:

    I can’t believe another week went by!

    I don’t need to grocery shop this week. I like to clean out our freezer and pantry in the months of February and July, using up our stock to make room for fresher foods. It saves a bundle on my budget. Of course, I do stop to pick up milk, and eggs.

    I think I will utilize this week to take into consideration all that you’re suggesting and go through the ads, plan, as if I truly needed to shop.

    Hope you’re feeling better! Have a great week.

  • shannon says:

    if there is any way for you to increase the volume of your videos, i have mine turned all the way up on the computer and on the video window and i have to press my ear up to the speaker to hear it.

  • Chris says:

    As a constructive criticism, I think it’d be better if you weren’t standing against the wall for these videos. It’s for a similar reason that newspaper reporters (and I was one) don’t like to have people stand against the wall to take their pictures … it looks like a jail lineup photo and it tends to throw off shadows. It is a lot brighter than last week’s, though.

    You might also consider investing in a tripod, too, or at least borrowing one to see if it works well for you before buying one.

  • Blythe says:

    I watched this while my children where sleeping. On a very LOW volume and could hear it just fine. Would not want to turn it all the way up even if it was in the day time.

  • Anna says:

    Week 6! That means only 25 weeks left! I always go back and review the other videos to get a cumulative impact of what is being shared. This helps me put all the information together to reduce my budget from week to week. To be honest I write notes too! (I write ideas down all the time for anything.) I try to shop only at the minimum amount so having a good menu plan and a list of items I need makes sense. My problem is I spend too much time making a menu, grocery list, and getting coupons together. I probably need a few pointers about how to reduce investment in time in getting these activities accomplished. Does practice improve and reduce time committed in getting the tasks done?

    I did take an envelop and cash to the grocery store this week. I also started comparing prices more and writing them down, mainly just items I use over and over. It was a productive grocery run. I stayed in budget but did not lower my budget like I was hoping but this is post-snow storm week–prices seemed a little higher.

    I enjoy the videos so much. You have a pleasant voice and always look nice. I admire how you put your self in the videos–not sure I would have the courage to do it–takes guts. I also love the “hand made” appeal to the videos (did that sound nice?). I enjoy natural products so much, like a home made quilt, jelly, clothes. I guess that is the appeal I see in the videos BUT more importantly the information is so helpful/useful!

    • Anna says:

      I forgot to say thank you for sharing your wisdom with the readers. As a Native American, I have been taught to say thank you for gift given and in this case thank you for the gift of the videos and wisdom.

    • Yes, Anna, you will get faster the more you practice! When I first started about nine months ago, it would take me at least two hours to make a menu plan, plan what to get at which stores and to get my coupons out for the items I intended to purchase! I can now do this in less than 30 minutes! I have also found that only going to one or two stores helps out a lot! In the beginning, I wanted to get all the good deals so I went to multiple stores, I got burned out fast and very frustrated. Now I usually only go to two stores (if that) and just get the best deals they have at those stores! Hope this helps!! 🙂

    • Chelsea says:

      Crystal posted this link (at the bottom) to a grocery tear off pad a couple of months ago. Since I do about 80 % of my shopping at Aldis and I am very familiar with the layout I tweaked this so that it was the same layout as Aldi’s and put my most purchased items in and then left a few blanks spaces. This saves me so much time as I just check off what I need to purchase and add a few things in. If I am going to Meijers or another store and will purchase things there I just check the box and put an M by it or the initial of the other store.

      I also do my major shopping and menu planning every two weeks so that I have a smaller trip on the off week.

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, I think practice definitely makes it go much more quickly and smoothly. But I’ll try to cover some time-saving pointers in this series. (And if I don’t get it to it, remind me, and I’ll do some bonus videos with ideas, okay?)

      Thanks for your kind encouragement!

      • Anna says:

        Thanks to everyone for the information/advice/tips.

        Crystal, that would be so helpful to get some time-saving tips! I look forward to the ideas. I’m not just listening to the videos and your words but trying to put what you say into practice 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Kimberly says:

    Thanks, Crystal! I still have a long way to go! I have to PLAN time to Plan! 😉

  • bargain mama says:

    I could hear you perfectly!! This is the first video I have watched…I find it so helpful to hear how you plan your menus, grocery shopping, etc.
    You do so much on your laptop. I am such a pencil and paper type of girl. I don’t own a laptop so maybe it is more convenient for me to use pencil and paper.
    Thanks for the pointers!!

  • Do you think you could add titles next to the lesson #s in the Other Posts in This Series list?

    I’d like to go back and watch certain installments again, but I can’t remember what numbers they are.

    Thanks for all the great information.

  • testing to see if I can comment now, it wasn’t working a minute ago

  • I just started using the free version of Evernote ( to store all of my recipes.

    You simply download the program to your desktop and add the icon to your Internet toolbar. Then when you are on the web and come across a recipe you want to save you simple highlight what you want to save and click the Evernote icon in the toolbar.

    When you want to view the recipe you can click the Evernote icon on your desktop. All the files you’ve saves will be there. You can search them with words or tags, etc. You can also edit your notes, for example if you tried a recipe and changed it a little, you can go into that note and add your changes, make notes or type a verdict of what you thought of the recipe.

    You can also simply type in your own recipes as their own notes. So any recipes you have written on recipe cards can easily be added to your notebooks.

    The best part is that you can also access all of your notes from the Evernote website if you are away from your computer.

    Sorry this turned into a short essay 🙂 I’m just really excited about the possibilities with Evernote.

    *this is not a sales pitch, I receive nothing if you choose to use Evernote 🙂

    • Laura Jane says:

      I recently discovered Evernote myself, and I’m loving it for storing recipes! I had been looking for the perfect way to store tried and true recipes for easy access and sharing with friends along with some manner to keep all the recipes I want to try. I finally found it! I love how easy it is to tag and search, how quickly you can clip a recipe from the web (without ever opening the program), and that I can access all my recipes on my iphone.

      • Chrys says:

        When you say tag and search, would that mean you could type in an ingredient you’d like to use, and it would pull up all recipes that included it? Or would that require tagging everything?

    • Crystal says:

      I need to check that out! Thanks for the recommendation!

    • I was going to suggest Evernote as well! Love it. And, they have an app as well.

  • Bonnie Cole says:

    A special thank you for teaching all your viewers each week. This is something most folks charge for at seminars. I know because I am attending one here in my area. So no complaints just a special thank you.

    I think sometimes we all tend to forget how to be thankful for something. Expecially when it is free. Also to think you are teaching myself something I would otherwise not have known.

    • Traci says:

      I agree! Thank you so much for all that you do! I visit your website 2-3 times a day and there is always so much great information. I especially like this video series, your series about saving up for your house, and of course all the great little deals you post. God Bless!

    • Crystal says:

      Aw, thanks for your kind encouragement!

      • I really love your site too! You were the first site that I found a few years ago when I decided to get serious about saving my family money while being a new mom. Your site made it possible for me to be a stay at home mom and I am forever grateful of that! Even though we don’t share the same views on everything you have been such an encouragement to me and frugal-ness is finally starting to rub off on my husband.

  • kathy d says:

    I agree with Bonnie above. Everything is perfect! No complaints here.

    Thanks for using your very valuable time to help out THOUSANDS of homemakers make the best use of their time and resources!

  • Lightbulb moment — looking at your prior week and seeing what you didn’t make because you still have the ingredients on hand. That should be a nobrainer! Thanks for pointing it out to me!

  • Kaity McCormick says:

    Thank you so much for doing these blogs.

    I wanted to let you know how I keep track of my recipes…. I don’t know if you use a PC or a Mac, but there’s a program called Mac Gourmet that I use. It’s really fabulous. You can copy + paste any recipe in there and save it forever 🙂 Just thought that might be helpful. Keep up the good work. You’re always so helpful!

  • Heather D. says:

    Crystal, Thanks for these posts. I look forward to them every week. Every topic seems like it should be a no brainer but a light bulb moment occurs once you explain it. Thanks for all that you do!

  • Kelli says:

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. I thought I was a good shopper but now I am getting even better through incorporating your ideas.
    Your blog is very inspiring. I am also reading a book from the library titled Cut your Grocery Bill in Half by Steve and Annette Economides. It’s a great resource for ideas!!

  • Sandra Lee says:

    Thank you Crystal, for another week of suggestions/reminders. Every February and July I do very little grocery shopping so as to use up the stock I have on hand, leaving room in the pantry and freezer for fresher foods. While I know I will make budget this month, and because I won’t be spending too much time at the grocery store, I will utilize the time in doing all as you have suggested. Walking through the exercise should help!
    Hope you’re feeling better! Have a Blessed day!

  • Jaime says:

    Don’t be afraid to smile at the end of the videos 🙂

    Thank you for all of your information, Crystal. I customized your daily docket, and it sparked me to develop a couple of other organizational tools (including my menu plan). The docket has revolutionized my life! Reading your blog is something I really look forward to each day.

    • Laura says:

      Yes, me too! Just this week I finally got it the way I want it. Whew! This has been a huge time-saver and I am much more organized. One of the things I added was a column for things to tell my husband. I jot down the things that pop into my mind during the day & share at night, or when it is time to plan what we will do around the house over the weekend. I think we are communicating better because of the Daily Docket.

  • Mary S. says:

    One piece of encouragement for anyone who is just getting started and feels like it is taking them forever to sort the recipes, plan the meals, make the grocery lists, organize the coupons etc-

    It will get much easier after the first couple weeks as you build up your stockpile and know what rock bottom prices are. For example, this week I got pasta for free and a great deal on chicken breasts so I bought enough to last a few weeks. Over the next couple of weeks now anytime I need pasta or chicken I already have it and don’t have to worry about it. I got a great deal on rice the other week so that is in the pantry as well. Most weeks my grocery list just consists of produce, dairy, what is on sale at rock bottom prices and maybe a couple other items. And once you have all the basics in stock in your own pantry recipes don’t seem as overwhelming since you probably already have 85% of the ingredients on hand. When you are buying everything you need for a recipe that week it is going to be much more expensive but as you build your stock pile and become familiar with the sale cycles at your stores it becomes much easier to manage. You will also have enough ingredients on hand that if something goes awry with the meal plan and you have to throw a meal together quickly you will be able to do so without having to call for take out.

  • Richelle says:

    It’s always fun to hear how other people menu plan. I like your idea of having a folder on your computer with recipes to try. I’m going to do that!

    Because my recipes are found in different cookbooks, on the internet, on index cards, etc. I created a “Recipes At A Glance” sheet. It’s a one sheet summary where I compile all of our favorite recipes. In addition to easy meal planning, I can also plan my meals around the sales by looking at the chicken, beef, etc column. Here’s the link:

  • Jamie says:

    Love your ideas! One problem I struggle with is fitting money for stockpiling into my budget. We really can’t afford to increase our budget right now but I can never seem to have enough left over to stock pile. Anyone have any tips on this?

    • Mary S. says:

      One thing to do would be to start with items you can get for free, like the drugstore deals or I was able to get pasta for free this week at one of my stores. That will let you start building the stock pile and will free up money in your budget since you won’t be paying for the item when you need it.

      Another idea (which will only work if you pay for your groceries with cash) would be to take the coins you get back in change each week and put it in a jar to save up for stockpiling. Even if it just works out to a couple of dollars over the course of a few weeks it will give you a head start. $5 can buy a lot when you are waiting for the lowest prices!

      My last tip is based on what Crystal has talked about, if there is something at the store that is at a stock-up price that you use often try to work it into your menu that week. Then you are using your regular grocery money to buy it but are spending less so you may have enough left over to buy extra.

    • Johnlyn says:

      I was able to start doing this by buying only what I NEEDED to complete my menu plan. I didn’t buy anything extra even if it was on sale. I did this for one month and found that I could easily make my $75 per week budget.

      After about a month I was able to spend $40 to stock my pantry with items that were a “rock bottom price” and then I’d spend $20 to buy items that we needed for our menu plan.

      Another idea is to try to save $1.00 per week and at the end of the month you’ll have $4.00 to start your stockpile. Little bits of money add up fast!

      • Melanie says:

        Something that has helped me tremendously in this area is when I’m making my menu plan I try to find meals that I already have everything on hand for or that I only need to buy 1-2 more ingredients at the most. If it’s something that requires me to buy more than 1-2 ingredients then I find a different recipe or meal that incorporates things I already have on hand.

        This will become easier as time goes on and your stockpile builds, but I’ve also found it allows me more room in my budget to build my stockpile since I’m not buying 5-6 things for each meal, I’m usually buying nothing because I already have everything to make it or I’m only buying 1 or 2 things. This way I can focus on stocking up on the loss leaders and good sales. Hope this helps!

  • Johnlyn says:

    I appreciate the amount of time you spend working on MoneySavingMom.

    You are using your God given talent – thank you!!!

  • Krysten says:

    I love menu plannng! I have an Excel spreadsheet that I fill in with my menu plans for 2 months at a time. This spreadsheet gets printed and posted on the fridge. Doing this helps me a lot in two areas: 1.) I make sure that I schedule in all of my family’ favorite meals at regular intervals, and 2.) When I find a good sale, I can look at my menu plan to see how much we will need in the next month or 2 and buy that amount while it’s at the best price.
    That being said, I am constantly making adjustments to my menu plan, but since it’s posted on my fridge, I can cross out and write in as much as I want!
    Some people are amazed that I do 2 whole months at a time, but it only takes 10 or 15 minutes once you get a system down. We eat chicken meals 2 nights/week, beef meals 2 nights/week, some other meat (fish, sausage, etc.) meals 2 nights/week, and have leftovers on Wednesday night before church. I have a list of meals in each of those 3 categories, so I just go down the list and fill in my menu calendar on the appropriate nights. Super easy!

    • Emily says:

      I plan one month at a time – and wouldn’t have it any other way! I love having lots of options, especially so you can switch meals around as stuff comes up, right?

      • Anna says:

        @ Krysten and Emily–you all are so organized! Give us more detail about your menu plans! I’d love some ideas!

        • Anna –

          I just make a calendar on scratch paper and then start penciling in meals. I really don’t have some fabulous system! 😉

          I get home from work at 5:30 on Monday-Thursday nights, so I intentionally plan quick, easy meals (that are often prepared ahead of time) for those nights. Then I plan more “involved” meals for Friday-Sunday nights (although, let me assure you, I am no gourmet cook!).

          I post my menu plans week by week on my blog if you want an idea of what meals I plan:

          For me, I don’t like menu planning very much (Love to cook/bake, but don’t like coming up with the meal ideas!), so for me, it’s better to only suffer through the planning process once a month, not once a week! It’s definitely all about finding a system that works best for you, though (and yes, I am, by nature, a very organized person!). 🙂

  • angela r says:

    Hi Crystal… I hope I’m not asking a question that has already been asked. First off.. thank you for all you do.. I love your blog and I love watching this series..!! God bless you! You have helped me and my family save a ton! my question? I love to menu plan and I’ve always planned menu’s or grocery shopping off the ads, but I never knew you could see next weeks ads on Sat?? The area that I live in has Meijer… and that’s typically where I shop. Am I crazy? I thought I had to wait until Sun either on-line or in the paper to see Meijer’s ads. Maybe that’s just the case with them and when they switch ads… I’m not sure…. as I’m typing this I may have answered my own question.. it would be SO much handier if I could plan on Sat rather than mon morning since I don’t like to take the time on Sun (our family day) to do that. hmmmmm… anyway, thanks for sharing.

  • Crystal says:

    Crystal- Hi, my name is Crystal. I am a working wife and mom and I wanted to actually ask you a question. I have been following your blog and your series on a better grocery budget. Do you have any tips at all for how to make meals are easy, budget and healthy/yummy friendly? If you have any tips at all please let me know. Thank you soo much and I hope you have a great day! 🙂

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for these videos! I am taking notes! 🙂

    Quick question–did I miss Lesson 5 somehow? Even when I clicked on the series link, it had Lesson 4 and Lesson 6, but no 5. Is my computer possessed, or was there a glitch?

    Thanks so much for all you do! 🙂

  • Erin says:

    Thanks for all of the great ideas so far, Crystal. I have recently started menu planning and freezer cooking. It’s so nice to have a plan at the end of a long day and not have to worry about “what’s for dinner?”. I only plan dinner not the other meals but I have found that Google calendar is very convenient. My husband and I have a shared calendar and so we can both see what is on the schedule for any given day. I know that Google has some other good tools too, like Google Docs. You can organize files into different collections and access them from anywhere. You can also share them with anyone you want, as long as they have a Google account (which is free). Could be another way of organizing your recipes!

  • Jillia says:

    I apologize if this was already mentioned, but in regards to building a menu based on what you already have, I recently discovered the feature on that allows you to select ingredients you have and avoid ingredients you don’t have/want. One week I had sour cream and chicken and diced tomatoes and couldn’t think of any of my normal recipes that incorporated these ingredients only. But on allrecipes, I discovered a Chicken Paprikash recipe that was amazing and is now a standard at our house. I’ve used this feature multiple times now over the last couple of months to discover new meals for “leftover” ingredients I already have.

  • I don’t always make a written menu plan but I always make sure I have basic ingredients to make our favorite “fall back” meals. I refuse to make a special trip to buy extra ingredients for meals and I refuse to buy take out other than our normal take out night on Fridays so I just make it work no matter what. I find that the weeks I don’t make a menu plan end as basic (but yummy, family favorite) meals and the weeks I do plan we tend to try new recipes (which I love). Plan or no plan my stress level doesn’t change but that is because I always have the basic staleson hand.

  • Sabrina says:

    Crystal, I haven’t had a chance to watch this video yet, but good job on the previous ones, and good for you for putting yourself out there! I’ve read comments on all of the videos, and it seems that some people feel they give you suggestions on your looks, voice, background, etc. I can’t imagine that they would walk up to you in person and say the things they say in their posts! Keep up the good work, and thanks so much for the great tips!

  • Nancy says:

    Thanks for the videos Crystal. I’m enjoying them so much and I’m sure they will be quite helpful, as I can go a bit overboard at times in the grocery store. At this point it’s scary for me to think of going to the store with cash. I, too, think you’re doing a wonderful job and can’t believe how great you look even when you have a cold! Looking forward to more of your videos and getting into the ‘meat’ of it.

  • Heather says:

    Just started watching these videos! Loving them! Btw, what eyeshadow are you wearing?! It’s so pretty!

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