Basically, I started menu planning because I was spending too much time and money at the end of each day trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner. I would realize around 4:00 in the afternoon that I had no dinner plans for that evening and would scramble to find something that didn't need thawed (ie. chicken, beef, shredded cheese, etc.). We would usually end up with some sort of pasta, making a desperate run to the store to get ingredients (that we already had, but were frozen), ordering a pizza, or going out. All of which took time and money that we didn't have!
So, I did some research and decided menu planning was much needed. People really seemed to like weekly menu planning where you print off a chart for the week, sit down with the local grocery store ad every Sunday night and make your plan, cut the coupons you need, and go to the store with your ingredient list the next day. Repeat week after week. So, I tried that. It didn't work for me. I never seemed to have enough time or patience to look at the ad each week and make my menu off of that.
My next idea was to make a menu plan for the month. Yes, a whole month of meals in one sitting. Sometimes it's hard, but I found this option really works for me. (Do what works for your family!)
Here's how I do it:
Buy a month calendar whiteboard. I bought mine from Walmart. Slap some magnets on the back so it will stick to your fridge and you can easily view what you're having each day. Then I look at my calendar and see if there are events going on that we won't be home for dinner for and fill those in (usually in a different color so I can see them easily). After that's done, I know how many meals I have to make.
Simply fill in the dates with all the meals you want to make. I don't worry about what's going to be on sale or if I have a coupon for anything, I just write out what sounds good to me. I do try to plan on using leftovers in other food. For example, if I make a roast in the crockpot one night, I will put beef and noodles on the schedule that week and use the leftover roast. Or if I make chicken tacos, I will make enough taco filling to use in quesadillas that week, too.
After I have my menu filled out, I go through each recipe and write down what ingredients I need. I double check that list with what I already have in my pantry. Then, I make one big trip to the grocery store to buy (almost) everything I need for the menu. I love that I only have to go to the grocery store once! Obviously, that's not quite true because I end up at the grocery store for fruits, veggies, milk and bread, but I already have everything I need for my dinners. Which brings me to my next point.
A lot of the time, what I have on the menu for the day doesn't sound good to me that day. But with my system, that really is ok because I have all the ingredients and can just trade it out for something on the menu that sounds better.
I really hope this is all making sense.
A lot of my menu ideas come from Pinterest. (Don't you just love that website!?) Some come from cookbooks, and most come from my recipe box.
One thing that I'm going to start implementing (and I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier!) is to get my meals for the week ready on Sunday. And by "ready" I mean I'm going to put my frozen stuff in the fridge so it has time to thaw before I need it.
Okay, so that's it. Does anyone else menu plan? Any tips? Any questions?