I decided to talk about menu planning this weekend because this is one area I need lots of help in! First of all, menu planning is simply planning out what you’re going to eat for a given time period. Some people do one week, others 2 weeks, some a month and I’m sure there are some really organized people out there that do a 3 month plan! Sometimes I’m really good about it and plan out the week but lots of times (like the past few weeks) it’s more like take something out of the freezer the night before or that morning for dinner.
Why is menu planning good? Why is it important to spend time doing this in the first place. Well it saves you money for one thing! If you know what you’re going to eat the chances of you eating out or getting take-out are less and it allows you to use up what you have. It also saves you time in that you don’t have to scramble to come up with something to cook. I know that it’s a good thing and I still can’t make myself do it consistently. This is one area I’m really not doing such a good job…
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I think it’s because I don’t really like to cook. I love to bake! I could bake every day and I like to cook when I feel like. But to have to do it every night and on the weekends lunch too…UGH is all I can say! Sometimes I feel my life revolves around food. What to buy, how much to spend, what to cook, what not to eat because I’m trying to loose weight – sometimes I’d just like to have a break from thinking about food and that’s when we eat out or my husband grills! But of course eating out is so expensive so that’s a rare option!
There are a couple of ways you can approach menu planning. You can plan your meals either from your pantry or plan from weekly sales. Planning from sales means that you take your grocery stores’ flyers, see what on sale and most people will plan around what protein is on sale. So if chicken breasts and pork chops are on sale then that’s basically what you’ll be having for dinner that week.
Planning from my pantry means I shop my pantry and decide what to make. Since I grocery shop mostly to replenish my pantry, almost everything I make is made with something that’s already been bought on sale. You should also look at your family’s schedule when planning. I have a general idea of at least the kind of cooking I will be doing during the week. For example, every Friday night is family movie night. It’s the only time we eat dinner in front of the TV so I usually make finger foods like chicken fingers & fries, or hot dogs, something that’s not messy to eat off a TV tray. Saturday’s I know is our busiest day so I usually plan on a crock-pot meal or something that can be made quickly like stir-fry. Sundays is a more relaxed day and I usually make a more complicated meal or try something new since I know I have more time at home.
Some people will need to plan 3 meals a day and some will only need to do their most important meal, be it dinner or lunch. Some people like to have a specific menu for each day and I’ve tried that. The only problem I’ve found is that it’s not very flexible should something crop up or maybe I just don’t feel like spaghetti that day but that’s what I have scheduled to cook.
Some use a more flexible schedule where you have a list of meals for say two weeks but they’re not assigned to a specific day. You cross off that meal from your list when you make it. As with most things, you have to find a system that works for you!
I found this site that looks like it would be very helpful. She has Menu Plan Mondays and it looks like hundreds of people participate! She also lists her recipes for the week so it’s a great place to get some fresh ideas and see other’s menus for the week.
I’m sitting down tomorrow and making a menu plan for the week. Do you plan out your meals for the week?