Let’s Get Organized: Menu Planning

Menu Planning by The Mommy Games

This is Part 2 in the “Let’s Get Organized” series. If you missed it, here’s Part 1 on Recipe Organization.

Weekly menu planning can be life changing. With a minimum amount of time (we are talking 10 minutes tops), you can set your family up with a week’s worth of healthy, delicious meals and keep yourself from those last minute dinner time scrambles. A good meal plan accounts for all the various activities your family might have and gives you flexibility as to how much time/energy you have to invest in making dinner. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also line up breakfast and lunches, further streamlining your day. Here are my how-to’s for weekly meal planning:

1) Prep Recipes & Meal Ideas – If you want to make menu planning a regular occurrence in your home, I highly suggest organizing your recipes and meal ideas. Taking the time upfront to do this once, then periodically updating it, will save you loads of time when it actually comes to laying out your meal plan. My favorite way is to use the computer, which allows you to see all your choices and is easy to update. I talk about this HERE.

2) Outline a Typical Week – Take a look at what your average week looks like and figure out how much time you can realistically allot to cooking each night.  Being realistic is the key. It’s pretty simple to figure out you need something quick when it’s a weekday and you have lots of activities, but also consider how much energy you typically feel like putting into your meals. For instance, I usually have plenty of time on Saturdays, but like to spend my downtime that day relaxing and reading rather than cooking. On the other hand, If you love spending hours in the kitchen on the weekend, by all means, account for that.

3) Plan Your Days – This is another trick to making this process super speedy. Go ahead and figure out the category of food you will cook each day. Have it line up with #2, and plan your easy or more involved meals accordingly. When organizing your recipes & meal ideas in step #1, give them the same title. If you have a day that you typically like to bake, you can account for that as well. Here’s an example of our typical week:

Monday – Easy Weeknight (tried & true or new)
Tuesday – Leftovers
Wednesday – Date Night Out!
Thursday – Easy Weeknight (new)
Friday – Italian & Baking
Saturday – Slow Cooker or Delivery
Sunday – Sunday Dinner (something more involved or lengthy cooking time)

4) Write it Out – Next, simply pick your meals, corresponding with your plan from step #3, and write it down. I like to write it in my calendar, in a different color ink than the rest of my appointments.

5) Make Lists for Breakfast & Lunch – For weekdays, I have a set list of breakfast and lunch meals to choose from. After deciding on the dinners that week, I will choose breakfast and lunches from this list. I do dinner first so that we are sure to have varied meals (don’t want to have quesadillas for lunch then tacos for dinner).

6) Be Flexible – Allow some wiggle room in your meal plan. Freeze ingredients if you don’t get to make that meal (or go ahead and make it and freeze the cooked meal). Switch meals up mid-week based on what you feel like having. It’s a rare week that I follow our menu to a “T.”

As an example, here is one of our recent meal plans:

Monday – Chicken Caesar Pasta with Salad
Tuesday – Leftovers
Wednesday – Date Night!
Thursday – Steak, Baked Potatoes & Asparagus
Friday – Pasta, Sauce & Garlic Bread
Saturday – Delivery Mexican
Sunday – Praised Chicken (recipe up soon!)

Stay tuned for next month when we will talk about streamlining your grocery shopping!

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Comments

  1. Great ideas! If I don’t at least semi plan food for the week it’s so difficult to figure out what to have for dinner each night and then it seems like there is nothing to eat in the house even after we’ve grocery shopped!
    Em @ Love A Latte recently posted..Running PlansMy Profile

    • I hate when that happens! You come home with a huge load of groceries and still have no actual “food” for dinner!

  2. Just found your blog. I’m enjoying it. Thank you!
    I started meal planning a few years ago, and when I stick to it, my meals are so much more enjoyable for me and my family. Nothing worse than coming home after a busy day and wondering what to make for dinner. It stresses me out, which makes me cranky, which affects my family’s moods as well.

    I save all my favourite recipes – as PDF or Word docs – on my computer, organized in a folder and within that I have folders too. e.g. “my recipes” is the main folder, within that I have “chicken”, “casseroles”, “sides”, “baking”, etc. Then I can easily find my favourites. I’ve been using Pinterest a lot too, using similar folder names. Then once I have my meals planned I put them on my Google Calendar which is synced to my computer at home and on my smartphone. I always look at my calendar the night before so I know what protein I need to defrost and to make sure I have my veggies too. I shop usually twice a week.

    • Glad you stopped by Deb! I love that you link everything back to your phone – that’s a really smart way of staying on top of it. I will have to try that one! I try and only shop twice a week as well, although one day is usually delivery groceries, while I make it into a traditional grocery store at least another day in the week.

  3. I can’t wait to see your post on streamlining grocery shopping! I need help!

    • Thanks Alex – look for it about this time next month. Grocery shopping can eat up a huge amount of time, so it’s nice to have a routine that gets it done as easily as possible. :)

  4. What a great idea to get organize! I use to somewhat plan my weekly menu, but not as elaborate as yours. :) I’m going to follow your tips and get things started again. I remember when I used to do that, save lot of time and money. :)
    Amy Tong recently posted..Blood Orange MargaritaMy Profile

  5. And when your kids get older, they can help by letting you know what they like – put the suggestions in a jar and randomly pick – HA! You’re SO much more organized than I ever was – good job!

    • Pretty sure I remember dinner getting on the table every single night, and you didn’t have the delivery options I do! So whatever you were doing worked! :)

  6. Menu planning saves my life..otherwise its, “what are you in the mood for, for dinner” “I don’t know, what do you think” haha then we’ll have that convo about six times..I love knowing what Im making and knowing when to make it..these posts are great..I love Deb’s comment above about linking it through her phone..what a great idea.
    Alaina @ Fabtastic Eats recently posted..Two Months OldMy Profile

    • I am cracking up reading this Alaina, because this is the exact conversation my husband and I will have when we decide to order in! Seriously, I start emailing him at work around 4, because I know if we start talking about it later we won’t eat until 8!

  7. Menu planning = time/money/sanity saver!! I’m thinking about starting a “Breakfast for Dinner” one night a week. My husband doesn’t usually eat breakfast and I LOVE breakfast foods, so I’m thinking it would be fun to mix it up a bit. :) And you are so right about being realistic. I do not want to cook every single day, so leftovers are a must! I also know I can’t handle trying more than two or three new recipes in a week.
    Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake recently posted..Thankful SundayMy Profile

    • Love breakfast for dinner! Was my favorite night as a kid, and I still do pancakes or eggs for dinner all the time. And I’m with you, too many new recipes in a week uses way too many brain cells – sometimes I just want to go on autopilot to get dinner made. :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I promised in my last post, here is the recipe for “Praised” Chicken. It’s a Nigella recipe that I’ve [...]

  2. [...] Menu Plan First – I don’t even know if this needs an explanation, but it’s really important to know what you plan on cooking and how your week is shaking out before you head to the grocery store. This is a post I did on Menu Planning. [...]

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