As a busy mom of 5 plus a blogger/writer and volunteer, meal planning ensures I get a healthy meal on the table every night with minimal stress. If I’m out for the night, my husband can come home to a prepared meal that he only needs to serve and clean up. Though we don’t eat out much because of the expense, having a plan has ensured we eat out less, especially when I remember that $30 spent at the local Chik-Fil-A could have purchased 4 gallons of milk and almost a week’s worth of produce.
Most of the time I use a weekly menu plan. For almost a year, I used a monthly menu plan which I reviewed weekly in case our schedule changed. When it comes to deciding about dinner, I generally winged it, going with what we had and what I was in the mood for. Some folks like to work off a list of basic meals their family likes. Others use theme nights as their framework – meatless monday, crockpot tuesday, pasta wednesday, etc. Then there’s the seasonal menu used by bloggers like Nourishing Kitchen.
My Menu Planning Method
My menu planning is fairly simple. I love to cook, though I don’t love to spend a lot of time planning. I’ve decided I need to spend a bit more time planning in order to try new recipes and encourage my children to try new foods. I started a Pinterest board to collect recipes to try each week. My goal is to include one recipe from the Pinterest board and one new one from my cookbook collection.
- Look at the calendar for the following week. Wednesday night is always Venturing night for my oldest son, and always spaghetti and meatballs. If there’s something earlier than 6 on the calendar, I serve leftovers that night otherwise, I plan on starting dinner early.
- Look at the fridge for leftovers from the current week and vegetables that need using up. I check the meat drawers in the freezer in case my husband has used something over the weekend that I thought was still there.
- Sit down with my husband to talk about meal ideas. He loves to cook, and he likes to be included in the meal planning process. We also talk about kitchen food prep jobs that need to be done like making more breadcrumbs.
- Using my new 3 x 7 weekly menu plan, I write out the plan in pencil and include notes for food prep, recipe locations, and taking food out of the freezer. I always schedule at least one leftover night during the week. If the fridge remains crowded with food, I will change the plan during the week and have an additional leftover night. Usually, I just need to cook a meat for the new leftover night.
Meal Planning Section in Home Management Binder
This month I started revising my home management binder after reading Productivity 2.0 by The Mom Writes. My old binder had the following lists to help focus my planning:
- 21 Meal List
- List of Main Dishes
- List of Side Dishes
- List of Snacks to Bake for the Freezer (includes oven temperatures)
I am adding the following lists during March using ListPlanIt:
- Quick Meals with list of ingredients to keep on hand
- Lunch Foods to Make for Freezer
- Breakfast Foods to Make for Freezer
I am keeping everything on a clipboard on the kitchen counter until I am comfortable with my lists, and ready to put together a permanent binder.