Over the last few weeks I have talked about why I menu plan and the importance of making your menu plan work for you and your family.
Today I wanted to talk a little bit about how I menu plan.
When I sit down to menu plan, I usually plan out seven to ten days worth of meals at a time. I know many people base their plan mainly on sales available that week. That is great if it works for you, but that does not really work for me and the stage of life I am at.
That is how I used to do it, but with three teens, busy schedules, and living in the country, I can’t always make it to a bunch of stores in one week. I have to pick and choose what stores I go to. I shop around sales if I can, but it doesn’t always work that way anymore.
Instead of planning around only what is on sale, I plan my meals based on my schedule and how busy I am.
I also base them on what I have in the freezer and the pantry, what I feel like cooking and eating, and what I need to use up. It takes me just a few minutes to look over everything and evaluate what will work for me that week.
Basing my menu plan on my schedule is the main thing that saves me time. If I know that I am going to be gone during the day, than I plan a quick and easy or crock pot meal. If I have more time, I plan meals that take more time to cook.
I like to try new recipes and vary what I cook. I like searching for recipes to make, so you will usually find a mix of family favorites and new recipes on my plan.
I know many people find it helpful to have a list of meals that they reference. This may be family favorites or just quick and easy meals. I usually have a list of recipes that I want to try that I can look at if I need ideas for the week. Having a list to refer to saves a lot of time when it comes to menu planning.
I also have friends that have certain nights that they cook certain things and I did this for awhile a few years ago. It worked well for me at the time.
We just did something like Monday Mexican, Tuesday pasta , Wednesday freezer meal, Friday pizza night, etc.
Having a plan like this makes menu planning a lot easier for many people because it takes a lot less time and thought to plan this way. You know the basic theme you are having each week and you just have to pick recipes or meals that fit the themes.
Theme nights also work well because it saves you time in planning, but also allows some variety because you can vary what type of Mexican meal you serve. My family tends to like a little more variety than this, but I have found planning this way helps a lot when our schedule is really busy.
As my kids have gotten older I have also found it helpful to ask them what they want on the plan. Now, this is not always a time saver if all three kids want different things or if they can’t decide. But if I am having a hard time coming up with ideas for the menu plan I often ask one of them for some ideas.
The important thing to remember with menu planning is that there is no right or wrong way. Make it work for you and the stage of life you are in.