Meal Planning Made Easy

March 14, 2014 in Kitchen, Linen Closet by Melanie

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printables-weekIt’s the final day of Free Printables Week! We will definitely have to do this again because I LOVE printables. Sweet little love notes and cute signs and tags are definitely on my list of faves.

Eating is another one. Definitely a fave.

I really love to cook, but even something you love can get tedious when it’s every day. every day. every day. many times every day. For some reason my family keeps expecting to find food on the table day after day. The nerve.

Meal planning will be so much easier with this #printable menu planner and grocery list. I won't have to run to the store every night.

I think the hardest part of cooking for a family is deciding what to make every night. You want it to be healthy, something people will eat, not the same thing you just ate a few days ago, simple and quick to prepare….

My grandma solved the problem by having a weekly menu that never changed. Monday was chicken casserole. Tuesday was bean night. Wednesday was tacos. She didn’t mind cooking for her family of 10, but she didn’t want to have to figure out what to serve. So she assigned a meal to a day and served the same thing every week for years and years. My dad loved it and wished my mom would do the same thing. I’m glad she didn’t.

One time I decided I would simplify my life by making a 2-month menu. I printed out 2 blank month calendars and filled them full of dinner plans, leaving a few blank days for trying a new recipe or being lazy eating leftovers. I got all the way through two tasty months, but when it was time to start back at the beginning of my fabulous menu, I just couldn’t do it. Even after 2 months I felt like we had just eaten those meals and needed to try something new.

You just have to find a solution that works for you, right? Well, here’s what works for me.

Meal planning will be so much easier with this #printable menu planner and grocery list. I won't have to run to the store every night.

Instead of repeating the same menu, I deal with menu planning by making it one of my weekly chores. Every Monday I plan our meals for the week, and every Tuesday I do the grocery shopping. I hang the menu on our family whiteboard so the family has an idea what to expect – although I admit it we don’t always stick to the plan – at least they have a clue as to what they can expect to see on the table.

I print these out every week, so they don’t have a lot of colors or extra frills. They’re just basic and straightforward. First, the menu planner.

Meal planning will be so much easier with this #printable menu planner and grocery list. I won't have to run to the store every night.Simple, eh? I write in the dates at the top and down the side under the days of the week. And then it’s time to go to town. I gather cookbooks and and click around on Pinterest and my favorite blogs to fill in the meals.

I confess, quite a few of those boxes are filled with “self serve” – especially on the weekends. At least they know to expect to fend for themselves, right?

Sometimes we have theme nights or try to plan our meals around a holiday. One summer we assigned a land of Disneyland to each week and ate meals we might find there. It was our “we can’t go to Disneyland this summer and we’re having Disney withdrawals” summer. Some weeks we eat a lot of scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches, but we almost always manage to get dinner on the table.

I’m old school, so I print it out and fill it in with pencil – always with pencil because I move things around a lot before the final version is complete. I always make sure to make a note of where the recipe came from so I know where to find it when it’s time to cook.

While I have the recipes in front of me, I pull out the grocery list page and fill it in as I go.

Meal planning will be so much easier with this #printable menu planner and grocery list. I won't have to run to the store every night.

The unmarked section is for another store I need to visit that week. Lately that means Costco. We keep a running list on the board where everyone is supposed to write down what we’re out of when they used the last of it, so I pull list out to finish up the grocery list,and then I’m ready to shop.

When I first started meal planning, I would just plan dinners. I bought food for breakfast and lunch, but it wasn’t planned and we ended up buying more than we needed and wasting food. When I decided to add breakfast, lunch, and after-school snacks to the weekly menu, I thought we would spend more money. I was planning more meals, after all. But I was surprised – and happy – when we actually spent LESS. When I planned all of our meals and shopped with a list, I ended up only buying what we actually needed that week, which ended up saving us money. We waste a lot less food now, too!

I still have to cook every day – until my family decides they’re okay not eating for awhile – but it makes my life easier when I only have to spend one day coming up with the fabulous ideas of what to feed them. You can get your own menu planner and grocery list when you click on the images to get to the download page. Or here • menu plannergrocery list.

How do you handle meal planning at your house?

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