We’ve all been there. It’s 5 pm and your kids are tired and whiny and hungry (always hungry) and you still have to figure out what to make for dinner. You find a package of chicken in the freezer and immediately start to think of how many recipes you know for chicken “something.” I love to cook, but I hate trying to find things in my pantry to throw together for a meal. My house is not an episode of Chopped. 🙂
This post is going to be all about menu planning. If you are already a pro at menu planning, then I hope this post opens your eyes to some new recipes or formats that you didn’t already know about. If you struggle with meal planning, I hope that this post will inspire you to get organized and stop making the same things over and over for dinner.
Menu planning starts with some sort of organization. For some people, like those who have haven’t hooked their printer up after a move, paper and pen is the easiest way to start. For others, pretty, organized papers and lists are very exciting and help make the world a calmer place. Here is an example of my latest menu planning. Pinterest is a wealth of information as far as recipes go. You can type in any type of recipe that you want to cook and find tons of recipes. That’s what I did for my last round of planning. I made a list of the categories I wanted in my meals and went from there. This is actually enjoyable to me. Strange, I know. It’s relaxing and it makes me happy to know that I will be prepared for the upcoming weeks. I keep our meals pretty simple. My categories are Main Dish, Grains/Potatoes, and Fruits/Vegetables. It’s rare for us to have bread with our meal except for garlic bread with spaghetti or corn bread with some Mexican dishes.
Here are a few examples of websites that offer free printables for menu planning:
http://orgjunkie.com/2013/10/menu-plan-monday-oct-2813.html (weekly planning)
http://www.positivelysplendid.com/2013/10/menu-planning-part-2.html ( weekly planner with organized shopping list)
http://www.passionforsavings.com/free-printable-menu-plan-worksheet/ (weekly planning)
http://picklebums.com/montly-menu-plan/ (monthly menu planning)
http://frugalliving.about.com/od/grocerysavings/tp/Free-Meal-Planners.htm (monthly menu planning)
Now that you have printed out your pages and are organized, it’s time to fill in your calendars. Here are a few websites to help you fill in your blanks with recipes:
http://orgjunkie.com/category/menu-plan-monday Look back at all of the posts where people share what they are making for dinner for the week. Most people post links to their recipes and they categorize them by Paleo, Family Friendly, Gluten Free, etc.
http://pocketchangegourmet.com/september-menu-plan-2015/ I stumbled upon this page this week and I am THRILLED! It already plans out a month’s worth of menus for you and gives you the recipes. This is amazing. Just modify it for what your family enjoys. The subtitle says budget friendly and kid approved. These are two of the biggies in my world. My menu planning just got a lot easier.
Those sites should give you plenty of ideas to begin menu planning. As you get started, here are some of my favorite tips to help make this process easier and keep you on budget:
- After you print out your calendar, make sure you write important events on it. Sometimes and event falls during dinnertime and you will be eating out that night. Sometimes you might be gone all day and need to stick something in the crockpot so it can cook while you are gone. Things pop up last minute, but all you can do is try to be as prepared as you can.
- Check your freezer and your pantry. You would be surprised at the ingredients you already have to make some of your favorite meals. I often find things hiding in my pantry that I had forgotten about. Also, check your pantry once you have your grocery list. You don’t want to buy duplicates of things you already have.
- Check your local sales fliers. See what items are on sale. The meat items on sale will often help inspire some meals. This is a great help with keeping your budget on track!
- Always put a favorite or two on your menu. Around this house, we have often have Taco Tuesdays and pizza on most Fridays. Those are two dishes that my family loves and I know makes them happy. I don’t always want to be trying out new recipes on them.
- Always keep staples on hand for when plans change. We aren’t always going to be able to follow our menu plan 100%. Life happens. I like to keep things for breakfast for dinner on hand. Pancakes and bacon are an easy way to throw dinner together last minute.
I hope that these ideas inspire you to start organizing your menu planning! Please let me know if you have any resources that you use that others might find helpful. I love to hear ideas on how others menu plan. Happy planning!