It seems like one of the most common questions in any household is, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” I have spent many years answering, “I don’t know, what sounds good to you?” Ladies, life does not have to be this way! We can intentionally take a small chunk of time, do a little planning, and never have to stare into a refrigerator and try to figure out how to make something with the ingredients staring back at us.
Planning a menu is advantageous on many levels. Menu planning is a key ingredient in my adventure of saving money at the grocery store. It also helps save my sanity when I’m trying to figure out what to feed my hungry family. Finally, menu planning saves time. It does take some time to get used to, but once you are organized, you will no longer be staring into the refrigerator and trying to figure out what you are going to feed your family.
Here are some tips to help you plan your menu successfully:
- Grab and notepad and pen and make a few categories: breakfast, lunch and dinner. (You can also add snacks and desserts if you are very detailed.) Make sure you give yourself plenty of room to write down ideas in between each category. You may even want to have a separate page for each one. I include some snacks on mine because I hear a lot of, “There isn’t anything to eat in here” after they get home from school and are think they are starving to death.
- Jot down what your family likes to eat under the proper category. I like to be specific so instead of putting “muffins” under breakfast, I’ll list blueberry muffins, cinnamon streusel muffins, etc. This helps me with having extra options. Try to come up with as many ideas as you can under each category that your family likes to eat. This list is your master list each time you meal plan. I keep mine in page protectors inside my Home Management Notebook and pull it out when I menu plan.
- Decide how you want to plan your meals- by the week, every two weeks, or monthly. When I worked outside the home, I was paid every two weeks. Therefore I planned two weeks of menus at a time. Now that I’m home, I plan a week at a time to capitalize on weekly sales and use what is inside my cupboards.
- Grab your calendar, paper, or electronic device and get ready to make your menu! I list my plan like I list it on Meal Plan Monday. I prefer this because I feel it gives me more flexibility. If I put tacos on Monday and don’t make them until Thursday it drives me crazy. (I know, I may be Type A!) I like to list it out where I can simply cross off the meal after I’ve made it and have the rest to choose from the next time I need to cook.
- Check your calendar and see if there are any meals that you will not be cooking. For example, are you having dinner with family, have a date night with the hubby or go out to eat after church on Sunday? These are meals that you don’t have to plan. Make note of that under the category it falls under. I’m always very happy to have a spot where I get a “meal off!”
- I start with the breakfast category. My kids are not real picky breakfast eaters so they are usually open to what I have planned out. I do have one who prefers to eat yogurt everyday, but we always have that on hand so it doesn’t really matter! After I jot down my 7 breakfast ideas, I turn to dinner. I do this instead of lunch because it is a big meal and if there are leftovers, I can put those on the list for lunch. After dinner, I do lunch and then snacks. Ta da! You now have a menu plan!
Here are a few extra tips for you:
- Make your grocery list as you plan! If you have a recipe that calls for broccoli and you know you don’t have any, add it to the list. This is a big time saver!
- On Wednesday nights, my kids have church activities. Crock pot meals work really well when you know you will be gone around meal times and need to have something ready. An alternative to crock pot meals is freezer cooking and it also works great for nights like this!
- Some women like to have a theme day of the week such as “Meatless Monday” or “Taco Tuesday.” If you are having trouble menu planning, just having a theme of the day can be a great help. This works well for breakfast, where there are less options of things to eat.
- You can plan one months worth of meals and when the month is over, start with day one and repeat. If you really dislike trying to come up with meals or if your family eats mainly of the same meals over and over again, this may work well for you!
What tips do you use when you menu plan? I’d love to hear them!