When I decided to resign from my teaching position this year to stay home with my 3 year old daughter, I knew that I needed to cut down on household spending. The first thing that I put into action to minimize spending was weekly meal planning. I had heard of others being successful with saving when planning out what their families would eat for a week before heading out to the grocery store, farmers market, etc.
To plan weekly meals, I first consider what I already have in the freezer. Since my husband is a hunter and fisherman, we usually have venison and fish year-round. I also purchase antibiotic-free chicken breasts when they are on sale so have several packs of these on hand as well.
Once I have determined what protein I will use for each meal, I check out our garden to see what fresh produce is available. Certain seasons provide a lot of different options while other seasons don't offer much variety in the way of produce.
The final step in the development of my weekly menu is to check the local store ads to see what is on sale for the week. Considering what ingredients are on sale, and the produce and meat I already have available, I plan my menu for the week and develop my shopping list.
Visiting the grocery store with a list helps to avoid impulse buying and usually guarantees that you will not have to visit the store more than once a week since you are purchasing all the ingredients you will need for the week.
To maximize my cooking time, I usually cook enough food for 2 meals. I either incorporate a left-overs night or freeze the extra portion of food to serve another time.
In addition to a noticeable savings on groceries, I have also found that I am making more nutritious and well-balanced meals. Weekly planning also takes the guess-work out of the daily question "what's for dinner?".
Meal planner templates are available at http://organizedhome.com/printable/household-notebook/weekly-menu-planner