New! Menu Planning Resources

Since I believe in menu planning, I've decided to offer some printable menu planners for your personal use. You can find them up on the new Resources tab. Some are self explanatory and supplemental to menu planning - a grocery list (to tape on the fridge, so you can just jot down things when you run out - saving the forgetful among us) and a recipe list (to write down new ideas or recipes you want to try).
Click on the image to be redirected to the Resources tab for download instructions.
There are also weekly and monthly menu planners you can use however you'd like. I've also placed our menu plan (with subtitles) in there as well. I started planning monthly recently, as opposed to weekly, because Nick was always requesting things during the week and we would end up with a giant list of requests. If he's throwing out ideas, I might as well capitalize. Also, it allows us to have a bit more forethought into using our freezer stash, ultimately cutting down our grocery bill.

Yes, we are ready for the apocolypse.
 Here's how it works:

I have each day in one box. I mostly plan lunch and dinners so it's not too complicated - especially when lunch is usually last night's dinner. Under each day I've also included subtitles. These indicate different meal categories which helps to balance out our menu since otherwise Nick would put steak on there every day.

Sunday is the day we can try new recipes since we have the time to do so. Monday through Friday offer quicker cooking ideas like grilling, pastas, prepared (but homemade) freezer meals like pyrohi and ravioli, or a baked pasta. Salad night can include some meat - steak, chicken, shrimp - if it kills you to go meatless. Pantry meals include spaghetti an meatballs, pasta rustica, etc. - anything that can be made from items commonly found in the pantry. These are usually also quick and easy. Craving night is still planned. We write down what we are in the mood for and it gets put on the next available craving night unless it can go in one of the other categories.

These were categories that worked for us. Perhaps you have a weekly out to eat night on Thursdays for pizza - Retaurant night becomes Thursday. If you want to have a Meatless Monday, go for it. Attached to your slow cooker? Take a mid-week cooking break with Slow Cooker Wednesdays. You get the idea. Just keep the categories flexible enough that you aren't eating the same thing every week. Pasta night could mean spaghetti with tomato sauce, it could mean orzo with peas, linguine in clam sauce, or mushroom lasagna. If menu planning becomes monotonous and boring, it becomes less appealing to do.

Don't get too worked up about the days, either. They are meant to act as a guide so that your menu is more or less balanced and to prompt an idea if you are hitting a menu planning rut. But if you think of a recipe you'd like to make and it doesn't fit into an open category, don't not make the recipe! That's just silly. Throw it in where you can. They aren't there to be restrictive.

Click to enlarge

Above is our menu plan starting on February 13th. I did add some breakfasts on there (in green) since I'm currently hanging out at home, so I might as well eat well. The orange-y color represents lunches. The black text indicates dinners. You can see a few lunches labeled "leftovers" and some dinners labeled as "open." This is so that any accumulated leftovers get eaten up. Sometimes we end up with more left over than we bargained for and so scheduling a few days a month (or once a week) to eat them limits the amount that gets shoved to the back of the fridge, forgotten, and subsequently thrown away. "Open" days are also a good time to make dinners that you skipped if you ended up getting invited out to dinner another day and didn't make one of the scheduled meals.

You can plan an entire month out in one day, or by attaching a blank sheet to the fridge (or where ever is convenient for you), you can begin adding recipes to the next month as your family requests them. If I hear "Hun, I really think lamb sliders would be awesome," they get added onto the next month - perhaps on grill night or on craving night. This way, you don't have to sit down and plan an entire month in one sitting, it evolves over the previous month, leaving you a few little holes to fill in without much time or effort.

If you menu plan, what are some tips that you would suggest to those just starting out?

Entries for the giveaway close at 12 noon today! So hurry up and enter here.

4 lovely comments:

  1. I love your meal planning calendar! I am SO going to use this! Thanks :)

  2. Wow, that is some system. I usually try to plan dinners for the week, but this really takes it to the next level. I love your organized freezer too. Thanks for sharing the PDF.

  3. Shannon - I'm glad you find it useful.

  4. City Share - I was planning weekly for a while, but planning monthly actually seems easier for us. I'm less inclined to plan a meal that is too time consuming during the week if I know that I can plan for it for say, the next weekend. I got too anxious to try new recipes planning weekly. Whatever works for you, though, because there are so many benefits to planning (weekly or monthly).