Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How and Why I Menu Plan

I haven't always menu planned.  For many years menu planning seemed a little overwhelming and time consuming.  There have been many, many nights where I have stood in front of the refrigerator/freezer/pantry, waiting for a meal to magically rise up and float over to my counter.  Guess what - never happened.

Here are the benefits that I have found to menu planning. 
  • Food does sometimes magically appear on the dinner table.  If I have a plan and articulate that plan to the family, my husband and kids can successfully put the meal on the table alleviating a lot of stress for me. 
  • Saves money.  When I enter the grocery store knowing exactly what I need I'm not wondering the aisles plopping food willy nilly in the cart.
  • Alleviates decision making.  Sometimes at the end of the day I just do NOT want to make one more decision. I know, corn versus carrots isn't life altering but if I've had a rough day it's almost enough to send me over the edge. 
So, you've decided to start menu planning.  Now what?  Here are the steps that I take to plan my menu.
  • "Whatcha feel like this week?"  That's usually the way I start my plan.  Family meals are all about the family.  I like my husband and kids to have some input into what we eat for the week.
  • Check our schedules.  Before I can plan a menu I need to know how many days we're going to be able to eat together.
  • Check my freezer stash.  I like freezer cooking.  If I have a well-stocked freezer I usually make sure that one of our meals comes from our freezer.
  • Check what I have in inventory.  Sometimes I have all the ingredients for a meal already in stock saving me money that week
  • Check out bookmarked recipes.  Any of my regular followers know that I don't always try a lot of new recipes, my family likes the tried and true.  However, as I'm combing through magazines and Pinterest I come across certain recipes that I think my family would like and I'll stick them back for that special week.  
Once I decide what's on my menu for the week I pull out the recipes and check for ingredients.  I've seen blogs where the authors actually pull the ingredients for the week and put them in baskets based on the recipe.  Not something that works for me but it may work for you.

My grocery list is kept on my computer in an Excel file (what can I say, I'm an Excel girl!).  We buy a lot of the same items every week so I keep a spreadsheet of all items we buy laid out in order of the store.  As I identify items I need I highlight them, oddball items are thrown into empty spaces I've left.  Once I've identified our meals for the week I inventory the rest of our food like cereal, granola bars, etc.

That's the method to my madness, what's yours?


  1. I menu plan too! I found your blog among the links on A bowl full of Lemons. I menu plan every Saturday and then grocery shop late Sunday (when it is less crowded). We've been planning menus since the beginning of the new year and now we have a whole month under our belt.
    Check out my blog--A Bluegrass Girl's Blog @

  2. I'm glad menu planning has worked out well for you. Shopping at down times is so much better, isn't it? I'll definitely be stopping by to check out your blog. Thanks!