as nice as it was to have a menu pre-planned for my marathon cook day, that menu was not very friendly to my grocery budget! So now that I know I can cook multiple meals in one day, the new challenge is matching up those meals with what's on sale this week.
When grocery store ads come in the mail on Wednesday I sit down with my coupon folder (more on that later) and ads and put together a menu for the coming week and a shopping plan. Strategizing the best way to use our money makes me feel like I am using my brain and it's a welcome task after reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" for the sixth time in a row. I look at all the store ads and even though I do the majority of my shopping at Vons, if there is a great deal to be had at Ralphs or Albertsons, I'll split my shopping into multiple trips.
Once I see what produce and cuts of meat are on sale, the next step is building a meal. If I don't have something specific in mind, I pull out a few of my favorite cookbooks from my collection (want to make me happy? buy me a cookbook.) and scan the indexes until I find something that sounds good and will fit with the ingredients I plan to buy and what items I already have in my pantry. Foodnetwork.com and epicurious.com are also fun places to search for recipes.
Of course this adds more time into the planning process, so if money wasn't an issue, I could just keep using Rachel Ray's suggested weekly menus but I do need to be careful about how much I'm spending at the grocery store, so the extra time is worth it to me.
This week I've already done my Vons shopping and I picked up boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.97 a pound; 93% lean ground beef for $3.47 a pound; cantaloupe for $1.50 each and red bell peppers for 88 cents each! Later I'll be heading to Ralphs for a Buy One, Get One (BOGO) on ground turkey to stock my freezer.