Summer is always a great time to just eat whatever for supper and not worry about the timing issues. When school starts up (which I dread for lots of reasons) you are a slave to a schedule, that is if you are me it is... Bed time is like a ticking time bomb at our house... I need to know what we are having for supper that morning or the whole evening goes down hill fast.
With Menue Planning, When I am able to plan a good week or dare I say a month of good meals that are family friendly usually we save a lot more money and my time is spent better in ways that can enrich my life aka art time!
Where to Begin.
I like two methods start where you are, and give your self-permission to be flexible and why am I meal planning, and What is my goal?
For me, it was a saving goal I can get artsy stuff. Now it's more of a living a healthier lifestyle.
Before you start menu planning ask your self:
1. How am I going to remember my meals that I have planned out?
2. How am I going to implement meal planning and follow through?
3. Do I like prep work, Or how much of a cook do I want to be?
4. How much time do I have to get dinner on the table each day?
These 4 questions are so important for a good menu, once you know those answers to these 4 questions, then you can start menu planning. I have two ways that work the best for our family,
Menue plan week to week, use the sales and adds, to help you buy meat, produce dairy, and perishable items that are on sale from your local grocery store, build your menu around what is on sale. For example, if Chicken is on sale I will have at least 3 meals of chicken that week. I will sometimes roast two chickens so I have one to eat for supper and the other chicken to shred for quesadillas. I will also decide what to do for lunches and breakfast, but I don't worry too much about those meals because cereal and muffins are not that hard to plan for.
When planning for a week of dinners, I write it down on a post it-note and have it on the fridge for the week, that way it's an easy reminder. I will often make one trip to the store the day after the add hits, so I have time to see whats on sale and what I need for the week.
Option 2 (the way I menue plan)
Monthly menu planning is fun... but you need a good foundation to start with, if you have a freezer, and storage space this may be the way to go.
For a month of dinners, I use a cheap calendar (you know the ones that you get in the mail, or are at the dollar store.)
I start by labeling each day of the week a category of dinner: Pizza, Mexican, Italian, Meatless, Grill, Comfort food, quick and easy. These categories make it easy to plan each day of the week instead of saying hmm... what should we have on this Tuesday, also your family likes knowing that it's Friday pizza night! Wha Who! It makes your life easier having a label for each day of the week. That way you are most likely only going to have some type of spaghetti once or twice a night in a month... and so on.
Then I plug in what I think my family will eat, and then make notes of when I need to go the store for an item. it's really that simple!
Tips for doing a Monthly meal plan
When I first started I spent a good hour looking through my cook book, or Pinterest to see what sounds good for supper, I still do but more as a free time thing than for meal planning. So give yourself a good hour to plan, make yourself a good snack, and plan during a quiet time when you can focus and not be interrupted. I have even prayed to my father in heaven to help me plan, and those months always seem to go smoother.
Some of my great meals are the ones that I can make from memory, like a chili dinner, or a pork chop dinner, and casseroles. I like to keep things simple.
I use a menu planning software called Cook'n, I like it, but I usually find that a cheap calendar works just as well, especially if you are not "a cook" and just want supper on the table.
Stock up on items you use often when they are on sale, this helps save a lot when menu planning, I know that I can use Pasta Sauce in lots of other ways than just pasta sauce. so.... I have about 30 jars stored because I got them on sale for half the cost. I like to stock up on about 25-50 items per year so about 1 item per week that I know will last for at least 6 months.
My favorite way to meal plan is to always have a couple oops meals, you know the nights when you are not feeling like cooking, or getting dinner on the table, that is when I have frozen pizza, or everything I need to make a soup, or a salad, or even mac and cheese for the kiddos. Those meals come in handy, but don't make it a crutch!
If you like to cook, use your kitchen tools, that will also help with knowing what you want to cook and what you have time for... don't underestimate the power of your mixer and food processor!
Here is a link that I thought was also helpful and full of great advice!
If you are wanting a good footing on how menu planning works, MomsByHeart.Net has some amazing blog posts.