Bringing The Family Back to The Table

Simple and Effective Menu Planning Tips

Simple and Effective Menu Planning Tips

A lot of folks make it out to be difficult.  I started menu planning as a form of typing to stay in a budget.  After a while, I found I could not make menus like I see in magazines and on the internet.  The issues I ran into were that I would over shop and never cooked all the meals on my calendar.  It created another guilt and a waste of money.  It took me a few years and a uncontrolled budget to come back around to the idea of trying menu making again.

This time I approached it as realistic as I could.  How many meals could I plan and actually cook?  How many days a week were my planned meals derailed by other activities, sudden plans to go out to eat or a family members want for a specific meal?  What was reasonable for our family?  These became important to proceed as I was not going to set myself up for another over achievers disappointment.  This time I was going to have rules to make menu making easier.

Rules to Live By When Making My Menu:

  1. I am not going to worry about a dish that I do not make.  I will just plan it into the a future meal based on the expiration of the contents.  (Could end up contents for a Saturday morning omelets).
  2. I am going to have One day a week for shopping. The whole family will be trained to that is my shopping day and we will only make exceptions for emergencies and illness. Weekly shopping for your menu allows produce to be fresher. This does not apply to essentials such as Toilet paper.
  3. Four Planned meals a week are enough.
  4. Left Overs I will try to freeze to make my own “TV Dinners” and will date them so they will be used in chronological order. These will make good emergency meals for those nights my menu gets derailed
  5. Never throw away previous menus.  They can be tweaked and used next year at the same time and save time.

Easy as Pie!

Here is where it gets so Easy.

I never date my weekly menu.  I simple state “First Week of (Month)” on the top and I put an abbreviated year placed in the bottom corner of the menu. This allows me to know when I created the menu. Also, by listing the week of the month I can use and adjust it next year as I make my menu again.  I might want apple and pumpkin in the fall and Watermelon type desserts for the summer so having the previous years menus allows me to not reinvent the wheel every year.  So my famous Smashing Pumpkin Soup, that my family loves, does not get forgotten in the fall.

I also use a rating system for my 4 planned meals.  If the family really liked it I give it a “1” (They would it every night if they had a choice), I give it a “2” if it was acceptable (They could eat it every month but not frequently), It would get a “3” if they either did not care for it or it just was something nobody wants to see again.

I never plan meals for Breakfast and only plan meals for lunch if it is a special occasion, such as Easter.  My main focus is on the evening meal.  This is where new foods and experiments happen.  Where time for preparation and time for cooking the meal must be planned for.  If help would be needed than this is time when labor is available as everyone is home.  This also is the ultimate family time where homework is being done and conversation about the days events, current events, future events are being discussed.

All other meals fall into the quick meal category. So, I use the Breakfast Column of my menu as a way of planning the events of the week.  That way I can not forget when I have to go to a piano recital or an open house at school.

My Shopping List:

I break it up into three columns

1st Column – is for listing the ingredients for the menu.  I list the entire recipe.

2nd Column – is for what I “have” in the house.  This is important. I get really frustrated that I only have 1/2 tsp of Rosemary when I actually needed 1 tsp.  Then there is the second guessing myself, while shopping, if I had that or not.  It is easier to just list the recipe and then check off what you have in the house than to wonder cause that leads to frustration if you are wrong.

3rd Column – is the “I Need” column.  I leave it as a larger column so I can list where it is on sale.  Kroger’s may have cheese on for $1.88 for an 8oz block this week or Aldi may have organic cucumbers on 3 for $1. It is more convenient to have a one stop shopping list than to be scouring through the flyers while shopping.

Back Side of the list is used for the Essentials and throw down food such as Cereal, luncheon meat and toilet paper.

Note:  Having throw down food such as Apple, Oranges etc…. is always a good idea for the snackers in your house.

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A simple and effective way to manage your meal planning.


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