The hubs and I plan our menu from Friday through Thursday. Why? Well, it just happened that way and we have stuck with it for several years. We do tend to eat out a lot of the time on the weekend, but planning from Friday to Thursday allows us some flexibility on when we actually go to the grocery store.
Keys to menu planning for us:
- Take 15-20 minutes to plan it out and write it down. Those few minutes and that piece of paper will save you a lot of annoyance later. I usually do this during my lunch early in the week.
- Make extra. Since there are two of us, we have leftovers 80% of the time. It works well for us. If we don't plan to eat the leftover food in the same week, I freeze it for later. We use the freezer meals for weeks when we are busy or nights when I am not "feeling" cooking.
- Look for recipes in many places. I find recipes everywhere. I use cookbooks, websites, blogs, word of mouth, etc. I love seeing recipe reviews on blogs because it helps me to see someone else's perspective - different ingredients, smaller amounts of spices, etc.
- Keep it simple. We only plan dinner most weeks. We keep certain items on hand for breakfast (Trader Joe's bars, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothie ingredients, etc.), lunch (sandwiches, leftovers, salad fixins; etc.), and snacks (nuts, popcorn, fruit, cut veggies with hummus, etc.)
- Stick to the list and the plan. As much as possible, we stick with the grocery list and stay on the plan. Yes, we do buy "pantry staples" but most items we buy are purchased for a specific recipe that week. We rarely go off the menu plan.
Some of our recent weekly menus:
March 2 to 8:
- Friday: World of Beer (aka, WOB); take-out at the bar or sandwiches when we get home
- Saturday: Dinner at Natalie and Chris' new apartment (order pizza)
- Sunday: Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms; Roasted Baby Red Potatoes; Steamed Broccoli
- Monday: Brunswick Stew
- Tuesday: Creamy Garlic Pasta with Shrimp and Vegetables
- Wednesday: Leftover Brunswick Stew
- Thursday: Grilled Pork; Roasted Red and Sweet Potatoes; Steamed Veggie
March 9 to 15:
- Friday: WOB (see above)
- Saturday: Sesame Encrusted Baked Chicken Tenders; Baked Potatoes; Steamed Veggie
- Sunday: Shredded Chicken and Veggie Enchiladas; Steamed Broccoli
- Monday: Southwest Hashbrown Casserole; Steamed Veggie
- Tuesday: On your own (Girls on the Run meeting)
- Wednesday: Orecchiette with Sausage and Peas
- Thursday: Leftover Southwest Hashbrown Casserole
March 30 to April 5: (Note: Parents visiting for the weekend)
- Friday: Out with parents
- Saturday: Out with Parents
- Sunday: "Linner" at Top of the Hill before Ryan's junior recital
- Monday: Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
- Tuesday: Buffalo Chicken Quinoa "Mac 'n Cheese"
- Wednesday: Grilled Pork; Roasted Sweet Potatoes; Steamed Vegetables
- Thursday: Leftover Buffalo Chicken Quinoa "Mac 'n Cheese"
April 13 to 19:
- Friday: WOB (see above)
- Saturday: Grilled Chicken; Baked Potatoes; Steamed Veggie
- Sunday: ???
- Monday: Southwestern Sweet Potato Hash
- Tuesday: Lemon Pepper Linguine with Chicken (recipe from my mother-in-law); Steamed Veggies
- Wednesday: Honey Pork Fillets; Roasted Broccoli; Parmesan Orzo
- Thursday: Leftover Lemon Pepper Linguine with Chicken
April 20 to 26:
I hope this is helpful to others that are trying to figure out planning menus for your family. I'd love to hear any suggestions you may have too!