Tips & Tricks Tuesday – Menu Planning – Part 2: The Basics
Last week I gave you all the reasons you should menu plan, so now let’s get down to the basics! Where to start? Well, first sit everyone down at the table with a pen and paper (or if it’s just you then get out a notebook and get writing). Have everyone go around and tell what their favorite meal is and jot it down. If you are having trouble coming up with meals, grab your cookbooks or check out recipes online. You can even find menu-planning apps on your smartphone app store! One of my favorite apps is “SparkRecipes”, you can search for virtually any recipe. You can type in “chicken” and it will give you lots of options. Be sure to include side dishes as well as main dishes and healthy desserts.
Once you have meals written down. Decide what you will eat as your main course each night and it will be easier to fill in the veggies. So here is my BIG tips: USE NOTECARDS! Yes 3 x 5 notecards are so great for meal planning! You can write side dish options, starch options, main dishes, desserts, appetizers, etc. – one per card. You can even use different color cards for each dish type to make them easy to file. On one side write all of the ingredients needed and on the other side write the recipe. I like to also make notes if my family liked more or less of something, etc. Then I separate the cards in an index card box with dividers. As I find recipes I like and want to try, I wait until my first time making it before I write it on the card (to see if it is worth making it again.) This also allows me to make any modifications to the recipe before I write it on the card. The cards make it easy to recycle family favorites each week.
Now it’s time to fill in your menu plan! All you have to do is start picking cards! Make sure you pick your main dish first and then fill in with the rest. There are a could things to keep in mind:
- Look at your calendar to see what is happening that week. For two reasons:
- Determine what nights you'll have time to cook and what nights you won’t
- To see who will be home so you make sure you are not wasting or not preparing enough food
- Consider using “themed” nights. For example, you can do tacos on Tuesday, or "waste free" Wednesday where you clean out the fridge of leftovers, or designate Thursday as pasta night
- Plan on having a night or two that you reheat leftovers or plan in advance to use those leftovers in other recipes (for example if you have corn on the cob on Monday, you can cut the corn off of the cob for tacos on Tuesday)
Once you have your menu plan filled in, create a shopping list of the ingredients you'll need. First, take inventory of what you already have on the list. Then consult the sales papers so you know which stores have the items that you need on sale and look for fruit/veggies that are in season. You will save time by checking the sale ads at home so you know what you are getting and where. When you can, buy items in bulk at warehouse stores such as Costco. Then, break up the bulk items into smaller servings and freeze/store the excess for use later.
Like any new habit, it takes time and patience! Remember my BLOG about 21 days to make or break a habit? Menu planning gets easier each week you do it and within a few weeks (21 days), you will know what works and doesn’t work for your lifestyle. Remember: your menu isn't written in stone. We know that things come up during the week so switch things around as you feel necessary. So…..do you want a FREE PRINTABLE MENU PLANNER?! Comment below or message us on social media and I will send you a FREE copy of my favorite meal planner template that you can fill in each week! I am hoping that this post will bring a little peace to your chaotic meal planning world! Let me know if you have questions throughout the process!