The magic of menu planning

Hi moms! I started doing regular week-long menu planning about a year and a half ago and it has been awesome, so I’m sharing what I do with hopes it may inspire you all. There’s a million ways to do this…I’m a basically a beginner but this is what has worked pretty well for me.

I open Notes on my phone and write down the days of the week (I start with Friday because I usually plan on Wednesday and shop on Friday, so Friday night is the first meal of this cycle) like so:

F:
S:
S:
M:
T:
W:
Th:

Then I add anything that I know off the top of my head. Like, my parents are visiting Saturday and Sunday so we’ll probably grill on the BBQ and we like having pizza on Fridays, so I’ll add those in.

Then I check my calendar to see if there’s anything I’ve missed or any really hectic days or school events or late work nights. Then I check my weather app. If it will be rainy and windy tomorrow night, I will probably feel like making soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. If it’s hot, then I won’t want to use the stove or oven and instead grill outside and make salads and Popsicles.

Now it looks something like this:

F: pizza and Caesar salad
S: BBQ ?
S: BBQ ?
M:
T: (hot!)
W: (hectic — J’s concert and bible study)
Th:

Then, I will automatically start planning based on the foods I typically serve for different nights of the week: Saturday — random — maybe Asian, like Korean food because I totally love that, or just a stir fry and rice; Sunday — a typical Sunday dinner, meat and potatoes of some kind, vegetables, and dessert; Monday- Italian(ish); Tuesday —Taco Tuesday, so Mexican; Wednesday — something quick because of bible study right after; Thursday —usually there are leftovers to turn into something and a great way to clean out the fridge before shopping the next day; and Friday — grocery shopping and often, pizza! So, based on these rough guidelines, I’ll start planning our menu. If I’m totally stuck, I’ll check my Pinterest “Eat” board for inspiration or get out one of my Ina Garten cookbooks, or sometimes I’ll text my grandma and see what she’s making!

Now friends, these are simple meals, nothing fancy. I have four children and I work part time and I try to keep a house and yard fairly decent while my husband works long hours. So at this stage of my life, there is not a lot of gourmet. But fresh garlic and ginger, herbs, fresh vegetables, good olive oil and sometimes homemade bread and desserts go a long way toward making meals really wonderful.

So now we have this:

F: pizza and Caesar salad
S: BBQ burgers and hot dogs
S: oven roasted chicken with herbs and lemon, green beans, green salad, ice cream cones
M: pasta and meat sauce, Caesar salad, garlic bread
T: salsa chicken tacos
W: grilled cheese, pickle spears
Th: leftovers

Once in a while, I’ll ask my kids if they have any special requests, like breakfast for dinner. They love to help cook too. It’s so much easier if I have a plan ahead of time- we can immediately jump into cooking together instead of first scratching my head while looking into the fridge, wondering what we’re going to have. It’s really easy to build my grocery list from the menu. I just check the refrigerator and pantry to see what’s already there and jot down what is needed.

I hope this helps! You can use really any strategy you like, but having a plan really helps to enjoy the process a lot more and to eat a family dinner at home more often. And if you’re really stuck, for some reason I saved all my menus on my phone so I have more than 75 weeks worth, and I’d be happy to share!

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