I am a person who functions much better when I am organized. There are some, my DSH (dear sweet hubby), who would successfully argue that I am not an organized person. Most would be on spot with that argument 99.99999% of the time. I am, however, trying to become more organized. In ALL areas of my life - not just the diaper bag part of my life. And yes, the diaper bag is organized. If it doesn't go on the baby's bum or isn't used to wipe the bum, it's not in the bag. I don't want to have to dig for an essential.
But. I digress.
In an effort to become better organized in my grocery shopping, I set up a numbers system for my menu. I have 36 different breakfasts (soon to be 37 since I invented a FABULOUS breakfast this morning...); 25 different lunches; and 115 different dinner ideas. (Yes, you read that correctly. 115 DIFFERENT dinner ideas) Theoretically, I can have a different Breakfast and Dinner every day for more than a month. (I can go 3 months without repeating the same dinner! Theoretically.)
Here's how it works.
Each menu item has a number attached to it. At the beginning of the month, I sit down with my handy-dandy-list of ideas, and ask random people (sometimes I'm at work) to pick a number between one and whatever the highest number is. Sometimes, they think they're winning something. They're not. (If no one wants to play, I draw numbers out of a jar... Or close my eyes and point to something. It's really quite entertaining...) I'm just planning my menu. I'm not allowed to repeat the meal, and try really hard to put meals next to each other if they're going to use a lot of the same ingredients - that way I'm using leftovers and don't waste food. I start with the first day of the month and put the first number down. Sometimes, if I know that I won't be home and there will be a babysitter, I'll put in a meal that doesn't require cooking (I'm not taking time to teach a babysitter how to operate my wood cookstove. Sorry. It's not in the contract.). Once a week "Smorgasbord" falls on the menu. (Some people call this "Cafeteria Night". It's really just a glorified name for "Left-Unders" (Left Overs means that it's become a science experiment. Left Unders means its been in the fridge under 4 days.))
Once the menu for the month is complete - (and I have to add here that I have two separate seasons for cooking: Wood Stove and Barbecue. I do plan in crock pot days because I want to make sure that my children eat, but we cook exclusively on a wood cookstove or on the barbecue (amazing what you can make on the barbie!)) then I plan out my grocery list for the month. I end up shopping at the grocery store twice monthly for a cartload of stuff - and hit up the store weekly for milk and fresh veggies. I have a form that I use to determine what I need; it's divided into categories.
Why do I do this? Because as much as I love grocery shopping (and I'm totally serious. I LOVE grocery shopping!), I am not insane. Yet. My children are all still young enough that I'm NOT carting them all over the store. And I'm NOT pushing one of those oversized-hard to push-never wants to turn-shaped like a car carts. Boo is the only one who gets to go. Sometimes I have to take Bug or Bud or Sweetie Pie or S.B. or ALL of them, but those are the days that they all go to bed early, and I bite my tongue to keep from yelling. So I have a list. I also have a budget. It's just over $300 for the month. If I have a menu, I keep within my budget. If I don't have a menu, I have to listen to "What's for dinner?" and "When are we going to eat?" (this last because I spend too much time trying to figure out what's for dinner...). AND, if I don't have a menu, I may as well forget about the budget.
The beauty of my system is that anyone can do it. And it can be personalized according to what your family will eat. The bonus of the system is that you don't have to eat macaroni and cheese 3 nights a week because it's now 15 minutes before bed and no one has eaten. And yes, I've done that.
If you'd like copies of my list, click HERE and send me an e-mail. If you want my menus because that's easier, click HERE and send me an e-mail. If you want recipes, let me know in the e-mail. Not only will I send you my lists, I'll send you my grocery form that you can personalize monthly. It's fun. You should really try it. Looking forward to hearing from you!