There are a few non-sexual things that just do it for me, things that I get totally involved in until everything else just melts away. Often to the detriment of everything else as I'm sucked into a whirling vortex of OCD and tweaker heaven. Especially when it comes to grocery shopping and menu planning. Which is why I always have to make sure everything else is done first and Master doesn't need anything before I get started.

Now most people might think that this sort of thing doesn't take much effort; "I want chicken on Monday, beef on Tuesday and soup on Wednesday!" and there you go, right? Wrong. Unless you plan on wasting cash on excessive groceries that will get used once and sit on your shelves till Dec 2012 (E.O.W.) you need to match recipes.

What does that mean, match recipes?

It's simple. Find recipes that use similar ingredients so you buy less but get more. I.e. Rice. You won't use a whole bag for one meal so plan for 2 meals with rice in it and save some money for the week. You can also save by buying items in bulk instead of single cans. If you need 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, go ahead and buy the 4 pack and save cash on your next round of shopping by finding recipes that will incorporate those 2 extra cans.

I use various sites across the internet to find menu plans but you can also create your own. I've used Goodtoknow.co.uk as they have a terrific 3-week credit crunch menu plan complete with shopping list and recipes. Also, Sainsburys.co.uk offers 5 meals for 20£ menu plan complete with shopping list and recipes as well. Even if you don't live in the UK, you can still use these things at your own store even if prices vary. Then, of course, there is Love Food Hate Waste, which seems to be having some technical difficulties at the moment, but give it time and it should correct.

So your first step is going to be to find which recipes you want to use. Jot them down in a notebook or on a sheet of paper with plenty of room for your ingredients. The next step? You guessed it! Note the ingredients you'll need and how much of each item. Figure out what you already have vs what you need.

This is an example of one of my shopping lists/rough menu plan for a week. I've only included the items I don't have as I have a pretty good visual memory of what's in my cupboards already.

Now this is where my OCD kicks in and has a merry little vacation; the actual shopping. Finding the cheapest store that still offers quality product. Master and I have always shopped at either Sainsbury's or Tesco's but recently, through the joys of online grocery shopping and comparisons, I have found that ASDA is so much cheaper! For those of you in the US, Sunday newspapers with grocery ads are going to be your friend. Also, some grocery stores such as United, Wal-Mart and H.E.B offer online circulars if you don't want to buy a newspaper. Using these tools, I've managed to spend 45£ this week and get 22 different dinners out of it! And to think at the stores we used to go to that would have netted me only maybe 2 weeks worth. *does the cheap ass victory dance*

My next bit of fun is the actual menu. It's not enough to just follow what the sites set out, you have to remember fresh veg doesn't last as long so I always try to make those meals first in my week(s). If there are too many meals with fresh veg and I think some of it will go bad before I get a chance to cook it all, I switch those items to frozen where possible. Contrary to popular believe, frozen veg is just as good since its more often than not flash frozen so it seals in all the nutrients. Its how you cook it that counts! I also do the aame for my meats and fish, buying frozen over fresh as it often saves me quite a bit of cash. Not to mention, a lot of the time the factories pump water into the meat to make it weigh more. A tip for buying fresh chicken is to look at the skin. If its stretched tight, its been pumped to bursting with water!

photo by alpoma: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alpoma/

The last thing I check on my menu plan is if I have a certain meat too many times in a row. As much as I love chicken, I don't want to eat it 3 or more days in a row so I try to alternate meats as well. After I get the menu organized, I then get to copy down all the new recipes I don't already have in my handy-dandy little black book of yum. I luff my book. Sometimes I just jot down things I see online, like quick recipes for honey mustard or tandoori seasoning, and other times I get down right fancy by adding pictures that I print out with the recipes.

All in all, it's the highlight of my month when I get to do the OCD thing and its appreciated by everyone who benefits. Master is amazed at how much I save and how much food manage to get to feed us so I told Him when I'm back in America I can still do His grocery shopping since all of my preliminary work is done online anyways! Service from 4k miles away! Now do I get a Supa-Slave merit badge???

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