In honor of something I am good at (and in deference to all the things I am not good at - cleaning, tidying up, basement organization, nursing, fashion, make-up, ahhhh the list could go on for days) here are five different ways I've found to menu or meal plan. These have each worked for me at different points in my family's life. There is no "one right way" to do this...you just have to try different things until something sticks for you and your family.
(I've got a another post on menu planning so give that one a look too. n that post I gave you all permission to change your planning method if it wasn't working for you, so zippity-do-dah-day, I have made some changes to my own planning routine.)
Shop the SalesFind out what your grocery store has on sale and make your menu based on those items. For example, Kr.oger will sometimes do BOGO on English Shoulder Roasts. If you saw that you could plan on a pot roast for Sunday dinner and French Dip sandwiches later in the week or the following week. If your grocery store runs a special on boneless, skinless chicken breasts (around here $1.99/lb is a decent sale price) you can stock up, freeze them in appropriate quantities for your family's needs, then pick a bunch of your favorite chicken recipes to use over a few weeks.
You could use this method to buy fresh food each week or you could use this method to stock your pantry & freezer then meal plan based on what you have on hand.
Family ChoiceThis option works well for some families that have members who can't always agree on foods they like. It's a pretty simple concept: each person gets to pick one meal a week. Kids figure out pretty quickly that if they continuously pick something their siblings hate that their siblings will return the favor. You can also set up parameters for the meals to ensure you aren't eating buttered noodles 4 times a week. You could say (2) chicken meals, (1) beef meal, (2) vegetarian meals, (1) pork/seafood meal, (1) pizza night and let a different kid choose first each week so they all get an opportunity to pick something they like from their favorite category. You could say no eating the same meal more than twice per month to ensure variety. Use your imagination.
Theme NightsTo make your life simpler you can set up theme nights each week. If you always have catechism on Monday afternoons/evenings you could make that your slow cooker day. If soccer games & gymnastics keep you out of the house on Thursday evenings that night becomes hand-held dinner night. Taco Tuesdays can be a theme at your house (I'd broaden it to Mexican/Spanish/Latin American food on Tuesdays so I don't have to be locked in to Tacos each week). Here are three different ideas for setting up Theme Nights to streamline your meal & menu planning:
Recipe CollectorIf you are a recipe collector, whether on paper, on Pinterest, in cookbooks or on food blogs the key is keeping them organized and categorized. If you keep them organized and categorized you'll be able to easily sort through them to choose which ones you want to try. Then when you've tried them either keep them or toss them. If you have a recipe you want to try, look at how long it will take to make, check the ingredients (so you know if there are specialty ingredients involved or just your regular pantry items) and plan it for a day when you have the time and energy to do it.
The groupings I keep my recipes sorted into under my Main Dish category are as follows: Slow Cooker, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Turkey, Meatless (including egg, vegan, beans), Pasta, Soup, Salads, Pizza.
I don't keep a category for fish or seafood as I am allergic, and since I prepare 99.9% of all dinners at our home, I don't cook fish or seafood so I have no reason to collect those recipes.
Let Someone Else Do It For YouSeriously. You could totally let someone else meal plan for you. There are several blogs that put up weekly or monthly meal plans and you can easily use one of their plans, swapping things out as needed to suit your family's budget and tastes. There are paid subscriptions where they will send you the plan and recipes each week or month. Many of these will also include a grocery list so you can just print it or download it, add any of your own items, cross off the things you have and head out the door.
Here are a few blogs (besides my own - see my Miam Miam Monday posts) that put up menus. Some of these are easy, family meals and some are more complicated...but there is something out there for everyone, you just have to try them out.
Mix and Match Mama does Meal Planning Mondays
The Recipe Critic does a Weekly Menu Plan
This Silly Girl's Life does a Weekly Meal Plan
The Prudent Homemaker has Seasonal Menu Plans (Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall, plus Holidays) that include breakfast, lunch & dinner. This woman is amazing at sticking to a budget, being thrifty and being a steward of the things her family has and uses. Seriously...check her out.
$5 Dinners is a subscription service that gives you a monthly menu, grocery list, and recipes
How do you menu plan? Do you have a unique way of doing it? I'd enjoy hearing your ideas - inspire me!
Linking up with Jenna at Call Her Happy for this week's edition of #5Faves where she's all about glitter. Which makes me want to be all about glitter. Which I sorta am since we had a Froz.en themed birthday party over the weekend and there is glitter coming off all the dresses all over this house!
These are not affiliate links. Just some sites I've found useful, helpful or inspiring. I receive nothing for passing along their info or from you clicking through to them.