How to menu plan? There’s really nothing to it!
I received an email from Carrie the other day asking me how I go about planning my weekly menus. Since I have done a post listing the reasons WHY I menu plan, it does make sense to also have a post describing HOW I menu plan.
I started meal planning only about a year and a half ago when I first became at SAHM and it was purely out of nessessity. I was pregnant with my third child and in the last five weeks of pregnancy I started on a no dairy, wheat or soy diet to try and prevent allergies from developing with this child like the ones my middle son has (this was on the advice of our pediatrition – purely speclative but I was desperate).
It is nearly impossible to whip up something at the last minute that doesn’t contain those three ingredients. I needed to get creative and get down to cooking things that didn’t come pre-cooked or pre-packaged. You all know by now that cooking/baking isn’t my speciality so I really needed to plan or I’d be in big trouble. I started pouring over my cookbooks and putting to paper what I was going to eat each night, a week in advance. Well let me tell you, talk about taking the pressure off!
Here is what I do and if I can do it anyone can! Every Sunday night I sit down for about half an hour with my menu planning pad (soon to be whiteboard) and pencil, a pile of cookbooks, the grocery store flyer and my laptop (so I can access the recipe favorites I have saved on my computer). The first thing I do is rough in what meat I’m eating on which days. For instance it might be beef on Monday, chicken on Tuesday etc. I try not to serve the same type of meat twice in one week. I’ll often go by what is on sale for meat that week too. Once I have that figured out I go to the cookbooks to find coordinating quick, easy and preferrably lower in fat recipes to go with it. I make sure to jot down where I can find the recipe right on my menu pad under the corresponding day. Thursday is easy because that is the day I always schedule for leftovers. I will purposely cook a little bit extra on the days before this in order to give me a nice break from cooking :)
Once my menu is created I then make up my grocery list from the chosen recipes. This allows me to only buy ingredients I’m actually going to use for the week, reducing waste and saving money. I, without fail, go grocery shopping every Monday morning. This is essential for my plan to work. Rarely do I let anything stand in my way of this happening. Once I finish my grocery shopping, I hope not to have to go back again during the week….not always achievable but I’m getting better as time goes on.
You’ll notice that I often use my crockpot too. This allows me to prepare the meal in the morning when my baby is happier and calmer and when I have more energy. There is such a huge level of satisfaction when your supper is cooking away all day for you and knowing that you won’t have to worry about it later.
My menu plan gets posted on the fridge and everyone knows what to expect. I love that my kids don’t need to bug me about what’s for dinner anymore, they just check the fridge.
A few people have emailed me to ask why I don’t menu plan for Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes, for whatever reason, things don’t go according to plan during the week, hey life happens right. So in order not to waste the ingredients I’ve purchased I just move the meal to the weekend. We usually keep things pretty simple on the weekends too. This gives me a little flexibility to be wild and crazy….lol.
I did the restricted diet for 7.5 months in total and am now back to eating normally. Thankfully my youngest, who has now tried everything except eggs and nuts, hasn’t presented with any allergies to this point. 7.5 months was plenty of time for me to realize how vital menu planning had become for me and there was no way I was giving it up. My life (and my family’s) just runs so much smoother because of it and I love knowing that I can do this for my family. They are so worth it!
I started Menu Plan Monday here at I’m an Organizing Junkie last July and although I would definitey still be menu planning without it, I do know that I take more care in my menu selections knowing I have to post them for all the world to see…lol. I also know that I enjoy getting fresh ideas and recipes from all you ladies that participate each week. My family and I thank you.
If you have been thinking about giving menu planning a try, now is the time. It’s simple and it’s easy. Create a menu of your own or “borrow” one from the many that are linked up each Monday. Then if you blog and want to participate in MPM, that’s easy to do too. Go here for all the guidelines.
You have nothing to lose but everything to gain!
Happy Menu Planning!! Note: Please keep in mind that I’ve only shared my method here. There are in fact many ways to menu plan as demonstrated by the many participants of MPM.