You've got your tool ready...now what?
It's time to work out your menu plan!
Here we go!
- Decide on your time frame-- This will be different for everyone, and you may have to use trial and error to see what works best for you. I plan my menu for a 2-week period of time. Some people do a month while others plan for just 1-week. The choice is yours! Remember--the length of your plan kind of determines how often you grocery shop!
- Choose your meals-- Some menu planners plan ALL their meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). I only plan dinners. This works best for our family and I always semi-plan for the other meals (i.e. always making sure to purchase bread for sandwiches, oatmeal for breakfasts, etc). I just don't actually put anything on my calendar for those meals. Your next step is to choose what would work best for you and your family.
- Find the sales!--I honestly don't take too much time on this step. I have two or three stores where I do most of my shopping. I basically look at the weekly ad to see what's on sale (especially produce and meat) before planning my meals. That helps to get a good deal! If you are the type of person who doesn't really clip coupons or shop sales, then you can skip this step. I find it saves me a few dollars each month, and its worth that to me! Again, totally your choice!
- Plug in your meals--Plug the meals into your calendar (or pencil them in if you are using an "old-fashioned" planner). Be sure you have the recipes handy for the next step! **TIP!--Make things easy on yourself by having one night a week that is always the same. For example--we have homemade pizza almost every Friday night. That makes planning a little more simple because that is one less recipe I have to come up with! We do a taco night every other week; again, its simple, quick, and doesn't require a whole lot of thought or preparation! Your family may actually love the routine of meals like this...we look forward to Friday nights because we know what to expect!
- Write out an ingredient list--Take your recipes for the meals you've planned and make a list of every ingredient for every recipe...even if you KNOW you already have it in the pantry. This might seem tedious, but it will be worth it...I promise!
- Check the pantry--and refrigerator. Mark off anything on your ingredient list that you already have. You've just created your grocery list and since you took the time to look in the cupboards for each item, you should not have a night when you remember that you don't have any ________ and have to make a trip to the store. It is a longer process for making your list, but it does save time (and money) in the end.
- Go shopping--I prefer to go grocery shopping on the same day that I create my menu. It's fresh in my mind and I remember what the ingredients are for, etc. It just makes sense to me. You can choose whether you go on the same day or the day after. Maybe doing all of this in one day seems like a lot to conquer for you...no big deal. Do what works for you!
- Work your plan--You've planned. You've shopped. Now, just work out that plan! Feel free to swap recipes on nights that call for it. When I have Bible study, there are nights when dinner doesn't get started in time and I have to switch to something that was going to be later in the week because it is quicker to prepare. That's fine, just note it on your calendar so you aren't confused when it gets to Thursday night and you've already had potato soup! Just swap the meals! If you get invited to friend's house for dinner, just skip the meal you planned for that evening. You may even put it down to the next week that you haven't planned yet, and then you'll have one less meal to plan when the time comes (for this reason, I typically leave one day on my calendar open...if we skip a meal by going to a friend's house or church dinner, I move that meal into the open day--typically Sunday. If we don't skip any meals, we will eat leftovers or sandwiches that day).
There you have it. Eight simple steps to planning a menu.
You're all set, so get started! Be sure to comment and let me know how it goes for you!