Easy Menu Planning How 2

Was one of your resolutions to save time? Save money? or to be more organized?  Well, meal planning is for you!  It will help you with all three.  Once you get in a routine of planning your meals, it really is easy.  Are you a list maker?  Then you would LOVE meal planning!  I'm a listee (def: person that makes a ton of lists).
Planning can be as easy or as complicated as YOU want it to be.  Being a mom that works an 8-5 outside the home; I prefer easy, simple and quick! Which means doing the prep work, making out the menu and grocery list usually takes me 20-30 minutes.  Do you think you could plan for 30 minutes once a week to save yourself 30 minutes every evening just trying to come up with 'what's for dinner'?  And what if you are missing an ingredient?  Oh you have to run to the grocery store to pick it up?  Add 30-60 additional minutes, because of traffic, lines at the store and running into that old school friend you haven't seen in years.  Tired yet?  You still have starving children at home. ;-)
Not to mention, you just blew your budget because you picked up the ONE ingredient you needed, plus that ice cream you were craving, the cereal the kids were begging for and a couple of other things.
Let's try to make this EASY mmmm k?
Here is how I do it.  By no means am I some expert!  However, I can tell you it saves me time, it saves me money, and it saves my sanity after a long day at the office.
  1. Think about your week:  I plan on Friday evening or Saturday morning; so I can grocery shop on Saturday for the next week.  Our menu plan typically runs from Sunday to Friday night.  Check out your schedule to see if you need a quick meal.  Example: I'm working late one night this week and letting my crockpot do the work for me.  Start your plan on whatever day is most convenient for you (the morning or day before you plan to go grocery shopping).
  2. Check last week's menu plan:  Did you skip making a meal last week due to something unexpected?  You can pull that meal into this week because you still have all the ingredients!  Remember menu planning is giving yourself flexibility.  Forgot to lay the meat out to thaw, pick another meal for that night and rotate things around.
  3. Find recipes or check your Master List:  You can pull out your cookbooks, search the web or just do what I do:  Have a Master List of meals our family likes and rotate those into our plans.  Want a master list?  Just sit down with a pen and paper, begin writing down meals you usually cook.  I also keep bookmarks of favorite recipes found around the web on my computer.  Remember to check your cupboard and freezer for meal ideas using what you have on hand.
  4. Fill in your Menu Plan:  It can be as simple as a list on a notebook or use something that keeps you a bit more organized.  Want a nifty printable plan with a grocery list?  HERE is one by via Eat at Home blog.  My mom gave me a neat 2012 weekly calendar for Christmas that has magnets on it.  Sticks right to the frig.  Perfect for planning the next night's meal and the family can see what we are eating for dinner.  
5.  Grocery Shop:  Now that you have a plan, you can make a list of everything that is needed for your meals.  Remember to add anything else you need around the house, like toilet paper so you can avoid those unexpected mid-week trips back to the grocery store.

If you want to plan every meal, go for it!  Generally I only plan our dinners, because Bear eats breakfast and lunch at daycare.  On the weekend we usually have a simple breakfast of cereal, pancakes, toast/scrambled eggs, oatmeal or even a store bought poptart.  Lunches for me are either brown bag, leftovers or something quick a the U (love that we have a Subway).
Now sit back and actually ENJOY dinner time this week!  You can be proud of yourself too.  Because you:
  • Stuck to your budget by buying only things you need (via your grocery list)
  • Saved time in the grocery store by having your list and not staring blindly at the shelves trying to think up ideas in the middle of the isle. 
  • Less stress in the evenings, because you have a plan!  No more dinner time panics.
  • And my favorite:  The kids KNOW what is for supper because the list is posted.  No more "What's for dinner Mom?"
Are you with me?  Share your menu planning ideas!
Linked up with others sharing menu planning ideas at:  Crystal and Company

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely do this...on an Google Doc Spreadsheet. It is soooo helpful, especially when you're on an eating plan and want to stay within calorie range each day. No worrying about what's for dinner. It's great.
    I sometimes even email my hubby our "Weekly Dinner Menu" for the upcoming week so he'll know what to look forward to and how to gauge his lunch choice(depending on our dinner that day).


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