(By "planning" I mean "writing it down." And then shopping based on that.)
Having a week's menu set in advance is something I've heard of other bloggers' families doing. Usually they do this because it's a good way to establish some amount of control on one's grocery and food spending.
Always eating "at a moment's notice" tends to be expensive: Not knowing what you want until you want it — and then buying based on that whim — often means special trips to the store (where you'll inevitably buy extra goodies) or, even worse, the restaurant. Both places are only too happy to pilfer those "extra" impulsive dollars from your tingly little fingers.
So one way to overcome this is to plan some number of days' eating beforehand, and then to shop based on that plan. Let's face it: Grocery spending ain't getting any cheaper. Nor is dining out.
(It's not like the Dollar Menu stuff is healthy for you, either.)
Money Freaks, Take Notice
Another neat side-benefit of working from a weekly food menu is that the Curious Money Guy in me can place a tangible dollar figure at the end of the following question:
What might it cost a three-person household (like ours) to buy a week's worth of food if they started with empty cupboards?
I'm talking "middle of the road" meals here — not ribeye steaks and California wine three nights a week.
Anyhow, for curious souls, here's the menu we devised for last week:
IYM: Menu for a Week! (PDF)
Assuming zero foodstuffs in the pantry (save some common spices, seasonings, and condiments), the cost for ingredients for this week's meals would be roughly $142 (before sales tax). Add six bucks for the kid's lunches at school, and you'd be in the ballpark.
How do I know this? Because, of course, I have a spreadsheet of prices. And also because I was willing to write those prices down as I ambled down the aisles of Wal-Mart.
Obviously, that $142 would buy more than one week's worth of food: You'd not be using ALL those foodstuffs on that one week's meals. (If your kid can put away a box of Cocoa Pebbles in a week, well, you have my sympathies.)
BONUS: For those of you willing to read this far, and who are now wondering what the point of this little exercise really was (mostly to give me something to blog about) ... well, you get a recipe!
IYM: Lisa's Better Taco Bake (PDF)
We love this "improved" taco bake! It's extremely easy, and mucho tasty with a cloud of light sour cream on the top!