One of the best things I ever started doing was menu planning. It’s a great way to save both time and money. By planning in advance, you can take advantage of sales, don’t have the last minute worries, and are generally more prepared.
Some homemakers are overwhelmed at the thought of planning out a menu to cover an entire month. For those just getting started with menu planning, I recommend planning a week at a time. This will help ease you into planning and not feel so daunting.
Menu Planning 101:
To get started, make a list of your family’s favorite meals. Thinking over the last few weeks, what have you served your family for supper? Even if it is takeout, write it down. Most take out foods can be recreated at home. And, there is nothing that says every meal has to be prepared at home! If you are used to eating out, schedule a few take out meals into your menu plan.
Using a calendar, like this free printable one, make notes for any special days. For example, our January special days include our 24th wedding anniversary and our youngest’s child’s 12th birthday. I write those events on their respective dates. I know we are going to have special foods on those days. Next, write down any appointments you have for the month.
With all of those items written on your calendar, you are now ready to begin planning! Whether you plan for a week or a month, the process is the same.
There are two popular methods of menu planning- following a set theme or following the sales
Following a set theme-
Recently, I made a change to our menu. My youngest, Mary, loves tacos and asked if we could have Taco Tuesdays. Since the rest of us are big taco fans, that was an easy yes! We’ve had homemade pizza for our Friday night meal for years (about 19 years now!), so a regular meal on a given day isn’t a new thing for our family. In looking over our family’s favorite meals, we found that burgers was another regular item, so we made Thursdays Burger night. I wanted to create a Sunday meal that we all looked forward to, so fried chicken was chosen for our Sunday meal.
If you’re counting, that’s 4 out of 7 nights that I don’t have to think about, I already know what I’m writing down for those days. That leaves Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
For us, Saturdays are usually days at home. I like to use that day as Mama’s Buffet, also known as leftovers. 😉 Last month, we had soups and stews on Wednesdays and a Crock Pot meal on Mondays.
Using a template like this, you’d simply fill in each day with a food that fits that category. This method is easy when your family doesn’t mind the same type of meals each week. For years, I fought this as I thought I needed to be more “creative.” My hubby is one who thrives on routine and doesn’t mind eating similar things each week. If your family wants more variety, this method could serve as a guide, but you’d need to add many more choices in your line up.
Following the sales-
Some folks prefer to look over the sales flyers to see what foods are on sale each week and plan their meals accordingly. We live in an area that is lacking in grocery store choices, so I don’t use this method. If you prefer this method, once you find the items on sale, match those up with your family favorites, then fill in your menu. Don’t be overwhelmed by these steps. If you are just getting started, I’d suggest making your menu first, then your shopping list. This would be less overwhelming to me!
Once you have a menu figured out, for the week or the month, it’s time to make a shopping list. A menu doesn’t help if you are lacking the necessary ingredients!
Now, post that menu on the refrigerator. My family likes knowing what to expect for supper each evening. It also makes prepping foods for the next day much easier. I can see at a glance what type of meat is needed for the next day and get it out of the freezer to thaw.
Once you have used a menu for a week, begin your next week. Keep those “used” menus to recycle and use again.
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