I have been menu planning for over 15 years now. I am lost without it!
I started menu planning when I was a single mum and Randall was about 9 months old I think. I was on a sole parents pension and was finding it hard to feed us for the fortnight. I'd often resort to cooking something quick for me and a bowl of veg for Randall. I had food in the cupboard but never enough to put together a meal. So I'd go tot he shops for that one or two things to cook it and come home with a bag full. Not a very frugal thing to do on a pension.
I'm not quite sure where I heard about menu planning but I thought I'd give it a go.
I would write down 14 meals (I shop fortnightly) and made a shopping list from that. I didn't plan what nights I'd have certain meals on, but at least this way I knew I had everything I needed for those 14 meals.
It was fantastic. I would look at my list in the morning and decide what we'd have for dinner that night and I'd be organised. Food wasn't getting wasted and I had money left over!!!
I have been menu planning since. It's taken lots of different twists and turns as our life has changed over the years and I'm sure it will continue to do so.
There are many ways that you can menu plan, there really aren't any hard and fast rules. You just need to work out what will work for your family.
Personally I plan my evening meals only. Many plan breakfast and lunch. I don't worry about that. Breakfast is almost always toast and cereal here and I make sure we have enough stuff for lunch. But if you wish to plan your breakfast and lunch then go for it.
I choose to plan what nights our meals are on too. This helps me to make sure we don't have the same meat (usually chicken) too many nights in a row (the big ones complain about that) and to also make sure that I have easily prepared meals on the nights Brian is working so I can tend to The Witching Hour with our lovely cherubs on my own without the hassle of cooking a fancy dinner.
You may also choose to have each night to have a certain theme. Maybe a fish night, pasta night, takeaway night, vegetarian night etc etc.
A good way to prepare to menu plan is to write down a list of all the meal you cook regularly. You may wish to categorise them if you like. Either into themes or like meals like chicken, casseroles, vegetarian etc.
On a piece of paper write down the days of the week. My list starts with thursday as that's the day I go shopping and goes for a fortnight. Do what works for your family.
Make a small note next to each day as to what evening plans you have. Do you work late? Have the kids got after school commitments? etc
For me I write in which nights Brian is working, Wednesday nights Randalls at Army Cadets (so try to have something that can reheat easy for him) and anything else like birthdays or appointments that might affect us.
Then I write a list of meals I'd like to cook for the week. I try to have it balanced so we aren't eating too much of the same sort of thing and I also try to cook a new recipe each fortnight too. I scour my magazine clippings and Pinterest pins for ideas for a new recipe.
The first thing that is slotted in for me is our weekly roast. Usually on a sunday. Even when Brians been working afternoons I try to cook a roast lunch. Then I plan the meals for the nights Brians working. I make it easy on those nights. Often a casserole or slow cooker meal. Or even something easy like eggs on toast.
Then I slot the other meals around that.
I give it a look over and make sure that things look nice and balanced, if they do I then make my shopping list and blog my menu plan.
Think about planning to use up your leftovers one night too. You might have enough casserole leftover to turn it into a pie for dinner another night. Roast chicken leftover to make a pasta bake. Or just plan to have leftovers for a chefs night off!
I have heard many people say that their partner doesn't like to have things planned and likes to cook on a whim. That can be a bit hard to deal with but not impossible. You may like to sit down with them and work out the meal plan together. If you have a list of meals that you can cook for the week you could both make a decision the night before or even in the morning what will be cooked for the next dinner.
If you have older children you may like to get them involved and have them cook a night a week!
My Menu Plan and Shopping List boards
Goodluck creating your menu plans. The first few take a little while but after that it will only take a few minutes and you won't be without them.
Would love to see your menu plans and/or boards if you make one. Link up below.