Well, I do not consider myself to be what some people call "organized" or "prepared". However, I have been making monthly menu planners almost consistently for over 5 years. Wow! I didn't even know it had been that long until I looked back in my binder to see when I started.
Menu Planning has been one thing that has REALLY saved me time, money, and stress. (Believe me, I have other things that are taking all of those.) When it's time to fix dinner, I do NOT want to worry about what to fix and I especially don't want an "excuse" to order pizza. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE eating out and ordering take-out, but that doesn't exactly fall into our grocery budget very often.
There was a really cool lady in our church named Sister "P". For those of you in my neighborhood, she was the groovy red-headed one that moved here from Las Vegas... yeah. I miss her (she moved to Idaho). Anyway, she had all of us come over to her house one night and she shared her menu planning tips with us.
First of all, you need to make a list of ALL of the meals you typically fix for your family. WHAT?!?! I know, it sounds painful. Don't think about it, just do it -- it might take you 10 minutes, if that.
This is what mine looks like from this summer. Nothing fancy by any means, but the necessary information is there. You can also add meals you would like to try. I have added and changed many as I've went along. Sister "P" encouraged us to keep everything in a 3 ring binder.
Now, there's a really cool website called "Organized Home" where they have lots of cool tips and ideas to get more organized in your home (Hence, the name!) I linked to the MONTHLY MENU PLANNER. If you want to get neat and fancy, you can print it off... or if you're like me, you can just draw one.
Anyway, you get the idea, right? I like to plan our menus when we're all curled up watching a movie together. I can randomly ask, "What sounds good for dinner this week? or What new recipe did I make that you guys really liked?" This is a great way to involve my family in what we are eating for dinner. I also like to have my calendar with me so I can add special dates, events, and holidays when I know we'll be doing something special or when I don't have to fix dinner at all (YAY!)
Now, when you go grocery shopping, you can jot down (or make a copy of) your menu and you'll know what to buy for the meals. It just works out SO nicely...
Also, just so you know, I don't follow the menu plan exactly and this is why I like to do a monthly planner. I have groceries on hand for at least 2 weeks worth of recipes so I can make what sounds good. I can move stuff around to adjust to what we want and whatever our family schedule might bring. The schedule is more of a guideline, really. (Lora, I put that in for you!) You know, I might have "Chili and Cornbread" planned for the 8th of February, but the weather has been SO nice lately, I might not be in the mood for it, so I can make "Chef Salad" instead and have Chili on a night when the weather is chillier (no pun intended, maybe.)
Then, next month, will be even easier... you can look back at last month and transfer what your family liked and just cross off what they didn't and add new stuff. Be sure to move stuff around. There are certain things I like to make because they are fast and easy, but my family will say, "Didn't we just have spaghetti?" So I try to rotate stuff like that no more than once a month or so. I also like to try a new recipe at least once a month. Then, if it's really nasty, I have a valid excuse for ordering pizza!!