Plus 4 Weeks of Sample Menus!
Let’s just be real honest, OK? I am a planner. I like making lists and checking things off of said lists. It makes me happy; what can I say?
When I go on vacation, I make lists of what I want to wear each day and lists of things to pack. If I have a lot to do in a day, I write down each thing I want to accomplish so I can cross it off as I go. (OK, let’s be real. I actually add other things that I do to the list, just so I can cross those things off, too.) And when it comes to preparing dinners for my rather large, very active, incredibly hungry family? Well, planning and making lists is my saving grace.
For years now, I have planned our weekly dinner menus and made my shopping lists from them. It saves my sanity and my budget! Certainly, some weeks are better than others as far as my level of organization goes. But as a general rule, life goes better for me when I plan less like the first picture shows and more like the second.
So, after years of honing this craft, what are the 5 best sanity-saving tips I can pass on to you? Well, here you’ll find what works for me. And what works for me may not work for you, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find a gem or two here. Let’s do this, shall we?
1 – Pick a Day, Any Day
Only you know your schedule, so only you can pick the day that will work best for you to sit down and plan the week ahead.
For me, I have a great planner from Blessed Is She that starts the week on a Monday. That works really well at my house! At Sunday lunch, we all talk about the week ahead and I have time to plan. Then, Monday morning while everyone is at school, I go do the shopping.
For you, Thursdays might be better! It’s closer to the weekend when everyone will be home (or, alternately, everyone has stuff going on!) and so you want to be super prepared for that.
Whatever day you pick to plan, keep it consistent. Of course, there will be times you need to be flexible and the plan will have to change. But it’s easier to change a plan that already exists than to make up a new one time and time again.
2 – Look Ahead at What’s Coming
It may seem like a no-brainer, but honestly. How are you going to plan for meals when you don’t know what’s going on? Therefore, the first thing you need to do when you sit down actually has nothing to do with the meals themselves.
The primary thing you’re going to do is fill in your calendar to make sure you have all practices, appointments, meetings, etc in place and lined up. Then and only then will you be ready to ask yourself the following questions.
- What nights will you and your family all be home at to eat dinner together?
- What nights will no one be home?
- Are there any nights where dinner will have to keep for a while (be served over the course of a few hours, maybe)?
- Is there a day that would work best for meal prep or can you work each day as it’s needed?
Doing this can help you pinpoint nights that would be great for whole-family dinners, crockpot nights, the best nights for leftovers or (a personal favorite of mine) FFY-Fend For Yourself nights!
Now, you’re ready to pick what you’re going to eat.
3 – Know Your Audience
Here’s where I say again that what works for me may not work for you. My family is made up of 6 people. Those people include 2 teenage boys, 2 growing girls, and 2 adults. Which, for planning purposes, means I am basically feeding 3 full adults (Greg and the boys), 2 medium eaters (me and the 10 year old), and a very hungry toddler (seriously, my 7 year old doesn’t eat much at all). Older kids means bigger appetites which means I need to cook more often just so we have enough. But it also means that my kids aren’t nearly as picky as they used to be, so I’m able to throw quite a variety of food in my plans.
First, make food your family will eat. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to expand their palates, but you’ll be more successful and more willing to commit to what works if they actually eat what you prepare. Second, have the kids make suggestions! My kids are always willing to throw out ideas for what they’d like for dinner that week and it takes some of the pressure off of me. And third, let them help in the preparation/shopping/list-making to whatever point you are comfortable. Kids love taking ownership of important tasks and they’ll learn a life skill — win win!
4 – Write It Down
You get the idea, right? Write.
If I take the time to write down what I plan, then there’s evidence. There’s accountability. There’s a place for the kids to look to see what’s for dinner instead of asking me eleventy-million times throughout the week. (Just kidding. It hasn’t stopped them yet!)
It doesn’t need to be fancy. Sure, you could Pinterest-up yourself a chalkboard to have in the kitchen if that’s your jam. Or, you could use a more utilitarian whiteboard. I just use my planner! Other options are a wall calendar, printing out weekly calendar sheets, or find a cool fridge pad. The possibilities are endless.
5 – Don’t Let Surprises…Surprise You.
There is no such thing as a perfect week. Nope, nuh-uh, never gonna happen. So what can you do to make sure you aren’t taken by surprise?
- Make one weekly grocery trip so that all your ingredients are on hand should you need to move nights around.
- Stock the freezer. If you’re making something that freezes well one week, double it and freeze half! Then you’ve always got something to pull out if necessary.
- Keep pantry meal items on hand. Macaroni and cheese, soups, pastas and sauces, canned tuna or chicken, and vegetables aren’t pantry staples for nothing, ya know?
- And, at my house, always have eggs and bread. My kids LOVE fried egg sandwiches and fruit. That combination has saved my behind on more than one occasion! Bonus — it’s quick, easy, and cheap!
Sample Menus, FTW!!
When I asked y’all on Facebook and Instagram what you were interested in as far as menu planning, lots of you mentioned the food itself. Well, ask and you shall receive! I went back to my planner from last year and flipped open to several weeks. These are actual menus from my actual planner in my actual life! You’ll notice that I like to carryover ingredients (roast a chicken one day, make soup from it another) and that we basically take Friday nights off. It’s what works for us.
So there you have it. Happy menu planning, friends!!
And be sure to tune in on Thursday, 8/23/18 when I’ll be LIVE on Facebook to talk all about menu planning and answer whatever questions you might have (to the best of my ability, of course…I don’t claim to know everything!). So give that page a like and a follow and I’ll see you Thursday night!
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