There are many ladies that I talk to who make comments such as, "I wish I was better about planning dinners for my family".
I was one of the ladies until just a few months ago!
I struggled with finding the time to actually plan meals more than 1 or 2 days in advance, which caused me to be running to the grocery store several times a week to pick up things I could have gotten on previous grocery runs if I had only known I would need them.
Now that money is a bit tight, I can't NOT plan! So just in case you were wondering, here's how I do it!
Monday is typically my menu planning day, although sometimes I just get a bug to start planning and will start on Saturday or Sunday. I chose to use Google Calendar for my planning (that includes more than just menu too, each member of the family has a special color that is for their appointments and such). Google allows me to keep everything in one place and I can even send myself e-mail reminders of appointments, Mike's work schedule, or what I am planning to make for dinner that night. I simply type in what I want to plan for dinner as an "all day event" in my calendar. In the details I will type in the recipe and any side dishes that I plan to make (i.e. Grilled Chicken, Green Beans, and Rice).
I plan for 2 weeks at a time. I used to do 1 week at a time, but then I was running to the grocery store every week, which is difficult to do with a newborn. So after Eliyah was born, I decided that 2 weeks is a good span of time for me to plan. Some people plan a month at a time. That would work well if you have a pretty set schedule. Mike's work schedule changes so much that I wouldn't want to plan a month in advance because chances are my plans would get messed up by his work schedule. So 2 weeks works for me!
I simply log into my Google account (the same one I use for email) and click on "Calendar". I then begin adding my meals to the day that I think I am going to prepare them. Once I get everything the way I want it I write it in my planner that I carry with me. Then, I go through each meal and write down everything I will need to make the meal...EVERYTHING! Once I have that list, I go to my kitchen and begin checking off what I already have.
As for produce, I try to plan according to what is in our garden right now. It looks like we will be having a good amount of squash, zucchini, and eggplant in the next few weeks. Tomatoes will be on the menu in a few weeks as well.
Once I have marked off everything that I have, I create a grocery list of everything that I do not have! I have used a template that I found in Google Documents for my grocery list, but this past week I simply used a hand written copy. Either way is fine, but writing it saves on precious printer ink! :)
When everything is finalized, I print my 2-week calendar and hang it on the inside door of one of the kitchen cabinets. Mike knows it is there, so if he is wondering what's for dinner he can look and see for himself.
One thing I try to keep in mind is that my menu is not set in stone. Many times things come up and the dinner I had planned isn't going to be the best option. For example, if we have an event at church that I forgot about and we need a quicker meal, I might switch up the meals for my week so that I prepare something on that night that is either super quick or that I can make ahead. Also, we do pizza (cheese-less pizza) every Friday evening. I usually do not plan dinners for Saturdays or Sundays because we will have leftovers or many times will go to my mom's or a friend's house for dinner on those nights.
This week's menu planning went great and our grocery shop was pretty amazing too! I will post later about how I grocery shop on a strict budget and stick to it! I'm also contemplating posting a sample of my menu for those of you who are wanting a visual, or who need ideas on recipes. Would that be helpful to you?