Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Not-so Fancy Monthly Menu Planner

Okay, be honest. How many of you just GROANED when you read the words "menu planner"? I know you're thinking it's too much work and you don't have enough time to do it. Maybe you're even thinking it's not even worth your time.

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!!


  1. I love all your tips and suggestions! I may have to try doing the monthly thing. As it is, I've been planning weekly menus, just before grocery shopping, for years, too. I also wrote out all the possible meals. I wonder how people know what to get at the store if they don't know what they're going to make! Just some of everything? But produce?

    I need to sit down tonight and make a treat schedule. Not what I'm making but when I'm allowed to make something. I'm thinking Monday night (FHE) and Friday night (family movie night) and one breakfast in the middle of the week...

    Sorry, I started thinking in your comment box. But I love this idea. And just reading through your dinner lists has given me some ideas of new meals to try! Thanks!

  2. I didn't groan. I make one each month. Mine is a bit different as I don't like to be locked into a specific meal per day, but along the same lines as yours.

    I shop once a month so my meals with FRESH goes first, frozen goes next and dried goes last with the veggies. This means we eat alot of shakes and soups at the end of the month. I have yet to figure out how to make fresh stuff last all the way to the end of the month! :)

    I do love the idea of keeping the menu though. I don't keep all my hard work, I really need to do that! Great post!

  3. I have a program called The Living Cookbook. It's on my notebook which I keep in my kitchen.It's awesome, I have had to work at putting all my recipes in but now that they are in I can create a meal plan with the click of a button.Plus it also prints out a shopping list with an approximate amount of what it costs. Then if I'm feeling cautious about what we are eating (which I never am...oops) it also has a nutrition value. I love it because I can look up last years meal plans and do the same thing for this year or create something new. Meal planning made extremely simple.

  4. I didn't groan, instead I read through your post and nodded my head through many things you said. Menu Planning isn't so much about being stuck on a strict schedule as it is about having a routine and some guidance. And when you menu plan, it brings you freedom (lack of stress!) and a cheaper grocery bill.

    Thanks for the tips, reminders and motivation!

  5. i groan. seriously - if i can plan a week ahead, thats a miracle. This is something I really need to work on. Nice job!

  6. I'm with kate! Not so much the groaning part but the lucky to plan a week in advance! I used to do it all the time, like religiously. Perhaps after wee #1 is born I'll get back into the groove. I'm really counting on meat being "back on the meny boys!" oooh, name that movie! Love ya!

  7. Lora, Lord of the Rings (Two Towers?)!!!! That's Zeke's favorite quote!

  8. I do a week at a time. I don't know if I have the brain power to do a month at a time...you're a better woman than I am!

  9. Meal-planning is always a huge deal at my house! We feed at least a dozen people every night (often more) so I plan extra and I'm always happy to use them for lunch. It looks like you have a good system.

  10. ha! Too bad I didn't spell "menu" correctly. Good thing you got it anyways!


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