In my last post, I talked about the benefits of menu planning. Today, I wanted to share with you how I personally make a menu plan.
We all have different personalities and priorities, so there is no one “right” way to menu plan. Because of that, I hesitated to even share–but I know how helpful it is to glean from others and then make your own system.
Right off the bat, you should know I am a weekly menu planner (some people are able to plan effectively for a month or two weeks at a time, but it makes me feel too constricted)! Every weekend, I make time for a MWM (Meet with Me) meeting. Yes…I meet with myself!! 🙂 It is an essential part of staying sane as a wife, mom, and business owner. The meeting encompasses much more than our menu, but it is the place where organizing our meals happens.
Here are the seven steps I use to make a menu plan:
1) I grab whatever I’m using to record my menu plan (currently, I am using a Passion Planner, but sometimes I will use one of the printable sheets from my home management binder–especially if I want John to know and be able to help with the cooking that week). I also get a few cookbooks and/or printed recipes and/or my recipe idea sheet.
2) I take a look in the freezer and see what meat we have available. I also check out the pantry just to get a general idea what we have in there.
3) I peruse our local grocery store flier and jot down a few of the best sales.
4) I look at our schedule for the upcoming week and pencil in a note if we need a quick meal option on a particular night or if I want to use the crock-pot.
5) Considering what is in the pantry, freezer, and what’s on sale, I scratch down a few menu ideas IN PENCIL. I always write in pencil so I can change our menu as needed! (Sometimes I’ll use the internet to search for a recipe with the certain ingredients I already have on-hand. Other times, I really want to try a recipe from a certain cookbook, so I’ll add it to my menu-and add the ingredients to my shopping list.)
6) I usually plan our evening meals first. Then, I’ll *guess* what meals might have leftovers and plug those into the lunch menu. I also try to have a few simple lunch ideas on hand at all times–ingredients for a salad, items for omelettes, pb&j sandwiches with coconut bread, or soup. Breakfast is usually fairly standard: oatmeal, eggs and fruit, smoothie pacs, apples with peanut butter, or muffins from the freezer. Sometimes I buy organic, gluten-free cereal if I can get a good deal, but that isn’t very often!
7) I try to review my menu plan each evening after dinner so I can pull meat out of the freezer or chop ingredients and prep ahead of time for the next day’s dinner. This is easier to do as the girls have gotten older–they can now help with the dishwashing and prep, too!
I would emphasize that each week is different. For example, if I’ve had time to tackle a huge freezer cooking day, I don’t really have to do much planning. Lately, I haven’t done that quite as much, so the steps above are fairly standard for me at this point! Also, this used to take me quite a while, but it definitely gets easier–and goes more quickly as you become more proficient.
What about you? Are you a weekly, monthly, or day by day planner? How do you make a menu plan?