Managing Your Time In The Kitchen:Menu Planning Part 2

Last week I covered why I menu plan, today I want to continue the menu planning theme with tips for making your plan work for you.

I tend to be a person that likes schedules, but I know many of you are not. Not everyone likes a plan or routine.

Many people are turned off to menu planning because they don’t make it work for them. My number one tip for menu planning is to make it work for you.

My plan works for my family, but it may not work for yours. Don’t try to do what I do, figure out what works for you.

We eat at home almost every meal, but you may not. Maybe you work full time, or have no children at home. You might have a schedule that is continually changing.

I like to plan three meals a day, seven days a week, but you might not eat that much at home. If that is the case, just make a dinner plan. If breakfast is the meal that you struggle with, then start with just planning breakfasts for the week.

If you tend to have really busy weekends and do not want to be locked into a plan, then just plan Monday through Fridays.

If you do not want to plan a specific recipe,  just put the meal type on the plan. If it is easier just put Mexican or pasta on the plan instead of a specific Mexican recipe. This will give you a little more room for change.

This is your plan; you can do what you want. There is no right or wrong way to menu plan.

I think too often people avoid menu planning because they do not like to be locked into a plan, but do not look at a menu plan like this. It is not set in stone.

Many times life happens and my plan changes. We all have sickness, doctor appointments, broken down vehicles, kid’s schedules, etc. That is to be expected, just go with it when that happens. You are not failing if you don’t stick to the plan every day of the week.  It is okay to relax with your plan every once in awhile.

If you menu plan do you plan all your meals or just dinners? How do you make your plan work for you?

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. I love to menu plan! I don’t really plan breakfast and lunches because its just me and my little one who is 3, though I do try to have a loose idea of what we’re going to have so I have a plan when I go to the grocery store. For suppers I plan out 7 meals for the week and then I pick a meal each morning from the list depending on what I’m in the mood to cook.

  2. Excellent post! I felt this way when I first tried menu planning. I have gotten to the point now that I don’t menu plan, I *meal* plan for the month. I cook about 20 dinners to freeze, and then buy ingredients for another 10 or so meals-things that keep, like sauce and pasta noodles. Then I make a list and the day before I ask my husband what he wants for dinner the next day. We get more variety, but don’t have the stress of cooking at the last minute. And if we are busy that night, oh well, it keeps for the next time.

  3. Michelle says:

    I know exactly what you mean here about making the plan work for you. My husband I are in our early 20’s & have been together 4 years. When we were in college, we just ate whatever, whenever. We were both working full time & often OT & trying to graduate, so often it was just whatever was quick. So after we graduated & bought our condo, we started re-evaluating & learning how to better plan for our food. Then, once we got it down, we realized how unhealthy we were eating. So i would say, we’ve spent the past 2years refining what we can do better to be healthy, frugal & still have time to enjoy life. We don’t have any children yet, just a dog & we both work full time & often OT. I think after all this time we’re just starting to find a rhythm & balance to meal planning. I plan one item for breakfast all week( we try to eat breakfast, but it doesn’t always happen.). I try to make sure its something thats is simple or that i can prep & freeze so we can be quick in the morning. For lunches i plan a few basics (cut up veggies, fruit, cheese, yogurt ect..) & fill in the main part with left overs from dinners. I typically only cook 2 dinners a week, one at the start & one in the middle. I come from a large family & still have a hard time cooking for just 2, so it works out to have each meal about twice then some for lunches too. We plan to eat out one of our working days for dinner normally. I don’t plan for weekends, its normally to busy with errands & family, unless there is an event or something planned already. Sorry if I rambled, but thank you for letting me share :)

    • @Michelle, You were not rambling, I appreciate you sharing how you have made it work for you and how that has changed over time. One plan will not work for everyone and one plan will not always work for the same family. Things change and it is fine to adjust. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  4. Just happened upon your site! Good stuff…will be back!

  5. After 20 years of marriage, two boys, and a picky husband, I can definitely vouch for ‘flexible plans’. Those two boys are now teens and I’ve found that flexibility is not just nice, but oh so necessary.

    I only give the barest glimpse at breakfast, choosing approximately three quick-fixes that any of us can pop in throw together for her/himself. Cereal, granola & yogurt, and eggs w/English muffins, were the lucky winners this week.

    Lunch is as simple as sandwiches with the hope of leftovers.

    Dinner is the one area that I try to plan with a little more attention. I look at a calendar to see what everyone is doing, then assign the 30 minutes or less meals to those busy days. Crock pot meals are good for those days as well. Then I take a look at the over all mix of meals I’ve scheduled so far. How many chicken dishes? Pasta dishes? Did I add any Bean dishes? Once I see what’s missing, I can better choose what to fill in for the rest of the days. I have a list of our favorite meals to choose from, broken down by category and on the back of the list is my master grocery list.

    All in all, it takes about 15 minutes to do a sweep of the pantry and fridge, choose my meals, and make the list. Sweet!

  6. I only plan dinner as far as me cooking, but I always have breakfast/lunch items on hand for others to cook. My kids are 17, 15 and 13, and my 17 y.o. normally eats at Chick Fil A as he works there all the time. I plan larger meals for the nights that he is home for dinner. We don’t all get up at the same time, so trying to have the family breakfast on weekdays is an exercise in futility. For lunch, dh takes leftovers or we eat them, and I always have some deli ham/hot dogs/quick fix/salad type stuff for lunch. We homeschool so we are all home for lunch every day, but I do not cook a REAL lunch most days. Flexibility is key as well as having things on the calendar ahead of time. =)

  7. I recently started doing meal plans in April and it has been working GREAT! We save a lot of money on our grocery bills by not having to make unexpected stops each day! I usually just plan for dinners because breakfast and lunches are usually random (with a one and two year old) Thanks for all the recipes and menu plans you post!

  8. Melissa V says:

    My husband and I work at the same hotel so when our schedule comes out I can plan around the nights where we’ll both be home. I started out making a menu plan for dinner and assigning the dishes to specific days. That didn’t quite work out so well since we kept coming home and wanting something different. Now we go through our pantry/fridge/freezer to see what we have and try to plan as many meals with that with only a few ingrediants from the store. We always like to try at least one new recipe a week or every other week to change it up since we’ve never been able to stick to a master plan. As soon as the list is done we write down our grocery list and go that night to get everything we need. Instead of assigning a meal for everyday we just write the list of meals on a sheet of paper and stick it on the fridge and decide the night before what we want for the next day off the list. It can be anything from Pork chops and grilled potatoes and salad to just BBQ chicken and we’ll figure out the sides later.
    The main trick for us though was always leaving at least one day open so that if we decided to go out, eat leftovers, have a fend for yourself night, or be lazy and just cook chicken nuggets that option is available. Sorry this is kinda all over the place but so are our lives.

  9. I think it depends if you use recipes. I like to use leftovers, what’s on sale, things I find at the farmer’s market, so I find “planning” to be restrictive. I would say 90% of the time I just create something in the kitchen spur of the moment with the ingredients I have on hand. Granted I have a well-stocked pantry, but menu-plans just feel laborsome to me and I NEVER follow them. Maybe your series will inspire me to give them another shot :)

  10. I plan a month at a time, but never every day or every meal. We generally only eat dinner at home during the week (breakfast is a bowl of cereal or yogurt & toast)

    for the days I don’t have a dinner planned, we depend on leftovers and the occasional takeout, or a grilled cheese or PB&J…

    I do think it helps and definitely makes grocery shopping each week easier if all I need is a list and not thinking about what I am going to make at the same time.

  11. I love to plan my menus!! I have to — to keep sanity (and a budget)!! I have a very large family (10 children, plus hubby and myself). I have worked it differently over the years. I used to cook a month’s worth of meals. Then, I would plan for a month (worked great when we lived so far from any towns). Now, I just plan for 1 week at a time. I plan in all 3 meals, and I find that it definitely cuts down on my grocery bill.

    I plan meals differently all the time–sometimes, I go according to a plan (i.e.–Mondays are a chicken night; Tuesdays–pasta night; Wednesday–beef night, etc.), and sometimes, I just plan in what we want to eat, or if I have a child who wants to learn how to cook, I let them plan the meal, help me go shopping, and then teach them how to cook it. I also take suggestions from the family–something we haven’t had in a while, or something they want to try. Birthdays are a whole different affair, as the birthday child gets to pick all 3 of their meals (less planning on my part )

  12. i only plan our dinners. we always have cereal and oatmeal on hand, as well as yogurt and fruit and usually some sort of breakfast bread [muffins, bread for toast, english muffins, bagels, etc.] either in the fridge or freezer. and for lunches, i’m home a few days a week and my husband is at work, so we always have fruits, veggies, yogurt, crackers, granola bars, etc. as lunch sides. my husband takes leftovers to work but when i’m on campus for work/classes i don’t always have access to a microwave to heat up leftovers so i usually just have a salad, sandwich, or cold pasta for lunch. since it’s only the 2 of us we always have a ton of food leftover each week so its nice to have leftovers for weekend lunches and my husband’s daily lunches.

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