Thursday, January 16, 2014

Menu Planning

Here is my simple menu planning process-so simple I feel funny writing a post about it!

I have been doing this for more years than I can count and nothing, I repeat NOTHING, has saved me for hassle, money, stress, than this simple process.  It also prevents me from being eaten alive by hungry children. :)


All week long I have a piece of notebook paper hanging up on the inside of one of my kitchen cabinets.  As I notice we run out of something or someone needs something, I write it down.  I shop most of the time at a large grocery store once a week and I try to make this my one errand a week if at all possible, so this list holds just about everything I need from food to a school supplies or cleaning supplies or diapers.


My grocery shopping day changes depending on what works with my schedule at the time, but right now I usually go on Fridays.  On Thursday, I get my cute little pad of paper with the days of the week out (or I just use a piece of notebook paper), and think of dinners to make, along with maybe some desserts or snacks.

I own a few cook books, and also like AllRecipes to source meal ideas.

I try to mix it up with tried and true favorites and maybe one or two new things.  Friday is usually pizza night, Saturday I don't plan for, because we might go out, or stay in, or teenagers might have plans or not, and I just play it by ear.  I also look at the calendar to see what the week holds for me, and how much time I have for preparation that day.

I add to my grocery list the ingredients that I will need to make the dinners I have planned, checking my cabinets to see what we already have.

My days of the week chart is not set in stone of course, I change things around because I might forget to defrost the meat, or have a really busy day with a fussy little one, and go for the easy meal instead of one that requires time, but I always know I have six meal ingredients on hand.

22 comments:

  1. I use this same process. Simple is usually best!

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  2. I use a very similar system. It is so nice not scrambling or worrying about dinner at 5p! Preparation is key! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Yes, yes! I use a board to write down items that we run out of ---part of it for the grocery store, part of it for Target. As far as the actual planning goes, it's hard to nail it down on Sundays, when I'm trying to think ahead, but I have a general idea, so when I go to the store on Mondays, I get my items. There's usually one night a week that I can count on being interrupted for a business dinner or sports practice, but a rough plan saves us!!! And hooray for Friday night pizza nights!!!

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  4. I LOVE planning a menu. I didn't think I would, but after the third kid, we were going out to eat WAY too much because I didn't prepare for dinner (with no real excuse, since we couldn't really afford to go out to eat).
    I finally learned to make a menu and I prep dinner (or make the whole thing and put the pan in the fridge) at naptime or just after lunch or anytime in the day that I can so I don't have to rush in the afternoons.

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  5. I usually have a few meals planned in advance. I don't schedule them for specific days, but I know in general what I have on hand and what I can make with it. I always get things ready the night before, thawing meat, getting ingredients out, etc. I also use the slow cooker a lot. With three little boys running around at dinner prep time, anything I can get done ahead of time is a huge blessing. I have posted menu plans on my blog in the past and just started up with it again. It became too much for me last summer and I stopped for awhile. I post our menu from the week before because that's the best I can do at this stage of life. Here is this weeks post, although I totally forgot to put mashed potato soup in the post. We had leftover mashed potatoes so I made mashed potato soup one night. The boys love it. http://www.homeecathome.com/2/post/2014/01/menu-plan.html
    I guess we have been eating a lot of soup, but it is cold in IL. Got a fresh snow today.
    Love your blog.
    Faith

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  6. Busy people are always the best planners.

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  7. Thank you for being so real and for sharing your great ideas! You are awesome!

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  8. I love this! I am working on my meal planning and only shopping one day a week. How much do you usually spend on groceries each month? I am trying to cut back but with two teenagers (plus a picky husband and two little ones) they are always starving! (and according to them there is nothing to eat, even though I spend about $200/week.) I tried your Tomato and Cheese Pasta soup last week and everyone loved it, but the picky one.

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  9. Love it! I do much the same. But, I have a basic 4 week plan of meals (some are repeated - like Taco Tuesday). I try to shop for pantry staples and meat (to freeze) all in one trip for the 4 weeks, then I just have to do smaller trips each week. Thinking up the meals is the hardest part for me, so repetition is good - and adding in a few new things every now and then.

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  10. If you're ever in the market for new cookbooks I highly recommend this one. Every recipe is quick, has few ingredients, and have been approved by young and old at my table. They also use very few processed foods, which I like. It's called The Best Simple Recipes: America's Test Kitchen. http://www.amazon.com/Best-Simple-Recipes-Americas-Kitchen/dp/1933615591

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  11. Ha, I can just copy and paste this post to my own blog. I do the exact same.
    I also keep one long list with all different options so that if I'm stuck making my weekly plan I can look at that for inspiration.

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  12. I do more or less the same thing with a whiteboard, and I have running lists for things we get from stores we don't go to every week, like Costco. I also keep a list of future meals that I can pull from...some weeks, I seem inspired to think of a bunch of meals to make and other weeks I struggle, so I add to the running list when I'm inspired to help tide me over the dry spells :) One of these days I've been meaning to make a list of favorites and group them by time of the year...hot soup is great now, but less so in July!

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  13. I do almost the exact same thing, but instead of the paper list, I use the COZI app on my phone to make my list. My husband and I share the account, so he can add things from his phone to the list too if he is out of something. I agree with you, having my meals planned out for the week saves me! And I love being able to eat dinner at home with my family every night. It makes me very happy.

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  14. Hello! This is a similar system that I like to use too! But I always get stuck on how to "menu plan" for breakfast, lunches, and snacks so I end up just throwing stuff together (that may or may not be very balanced or healthy). The same system that works for dinner doesn't seem to work so well for these other meals (at least for me). Do you have any suggestions for planning for these meals?

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    1. Debbie, me and my partner make enough food at some dinners to cover lunches. Works well in winter when you want a warm lunch. As to snacks, we settle on a few things (when we're not counting calories like we are atm), like fruit, granola bars and savoury biscuits to have with cheese or spread like peanut butter. For b'fast, he doesn't eat it, so I have oats with frozen fruit (made to porridge in the microwave) on work days, and a banana/choc smoothie on non works days (these don't fill me up enough with my early work starts). Over Easter I'll enjoy some hot cross buns, and occasionally swap in a sweet cereal for a few. And as a weekend treat I'll cook a b'fast (pancakes, bacon and eggs) but generally I don't cause of the clean up factor :p

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  15. Where do you get your cute days of the week note pads? I REALLY need to start doing this to budget better.

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    1. This is the free printable menu planner I've been using since 2005. I just photocopy a bunch of blank ones and keep them in my home binder. http://www.betterbudgeting.com/freeworksheets/menuplannerwk.htm

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  16. Sarah,
    I have been following your blog for some time. I enjoy looking at your adorable kiddos and am in awe how you are raising 6 kids. I also always wonder how SAHMs manage on one income because I have never been able to do it. I recently quit my job; my wonderful hubby says we can do it on one income, don't worry. AGH! That's all I've been doing. But after I sat down to do a budget I realized that a size able portion of our dual incomes was going to eating out for our family of 4. I have never liked to cook and always stressed about getting dinner on the table after working all day. BUT I have been reading your recipes and studying your weekly menu (really!) and guess what? I'm learning to like cooking! Your simple but tasty recipes have worked great for us. So from this new stay at home Mom (and I'm 52 years old) thank you so much!!

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  17. i have GOT to start doing this! Thanks for the inspiration.

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  19. I totally agree that good menu planning and grocery shopping cuts down on lots of stress! Still working on being consistent at it at my house. I pretty much have to make it the focus of my day and week but everything else falls into place if I do. I also occasionally cook double (often spaghetti sauce or chili or soup) and keep a few dinners in the freezer for those unpredictable days with no time for cooking. Though with big families like we've got it means you've got to have a big soup pot. :)

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