The debate rages every year: should we shop off a meal plan or plan our shopping around the weekly sales?
Here's my answer:
Yes, I do a hybrid of these two approaches. While I can see how planning meals purely around this week's sales flyers could be less expensive, it also costs TIME. And money and time are the two things moms-of-many stay up late trying to balance. (Actually, any mom does!)
So my approach does start with a rotating meal plan. I used to have a 4 week rotating list, but I have recently expanded it to two full months - without any repeats except for homemade pizza every other Friday night. This includes breakfasts and lunches.
This might sound very restrictive, but I see it as a plan. A starting point. If we have something come up, I can easily switch things around as needed. But at least I know what I have in the house to cook, and have a plan of what to make. I don't have the endless "what's for dinner?" decision to make every night. But if I get a wild hair or get hold of a super deal on steak, I'll gladly throw in an unexpected twist!
However, I have made my menus with meals primarily from staples (rice, pasta, potatoes, and of course tortillas!) and meats that are inexpensive and/or go on sale frequently: ground beef and turkey, various chicken cuts, whole chicken, pork chops, roasts, and an occasional inexpensive steak like round or cubed. Thus when they go on sale, I stock up. This way I am not restricted by what's on sale that week, but I still take advantage of the sales. Except when we grill, meat is usually an ingredient in a casserole, pasta, or the like rather than an entree unto itself.
The area where I do plan by what's on sale that week is in sides and produce. I am a member of a produce co-op and I plan around what I get in my basket every other week (which is by definition what is a good deal at the produce terminal that week). When I do shop at the grocery store, I buy what's on sale or cheap because it is in-season. So my menu usually only has a main dish listed. I fill in the rest of the meal that week by what is in my crisper drawers.
Nothing brilliant here, but I always find the differences in the way women keep their homes very interesting. So how about you? Do you shop by the specials or go off of a plan? Or do you have a hybrid approach like me?