I’ve noticed that a lot more people are talking about menu planning here lately. Some have been doing this for years, others a few weeks/months, and still others just flat out refuse! I love the excuses that I’ve heard for NOT planning a menu:
I don’t have time
I never stick to a menu
My family’s too picky
It’s too hard to plan a menu
Those are just a few that I LOVE to hear! Menu planning is not that hard, and it takes very little of your time! I have made plans for 1 week, 2 weeks, and for 1 month. I really like to do the monthly menu plan because I like not having to think about what we’re going to have for dinner for a whole month.
The key to monthly menu planning can be summed up in one word:
I try to plan meals that I know can be fixed fairly quickly, especially on Sundays and Wednesdays when we have church, so that way we still eat at home and not eat out. Also, make your crock pot your new best friend! It’s nice to be able to take a few minutes in the morning to throw everything in the crock pot, turn it on, and walk away. Most everything that you can cook in/on the stove can be cooked in your crock pot.
One of the first steps to being able to plan a month long menu is to know what you’re family eats and about how often you fix a particular dish. For instance, I usually fix spaghetti on Wednesdays since we don’t get home until 8 p.m. or later due to church. This is something that’s quick and easy, and I can have it on the table in under 30 minutes. So make sure and keep that in mind when planning.
If you have picky eaters like me, I try to plan meals that everyone likes, plus I like to fix each person’s favorite meal at one time or another. Everyone might not necessairly like it, but we all eat the same meal. I do not fix separate meals for anyone. The only time this happens is if we’re having a leftover’s night.
Another tip would be to prep ahead. If you know that 5 out of 7 meals for the week require chopped onions, go ahead and chop all the onions you’ll need and put them in a container in the refrigerator. If you want, you can even chop them up and store them in the freezer for longer term storage. Same thing applies to bell peppers, carrots, celery, etc. Anything that will not turn can been prepped ahead of time.
You can even prep potatoes ahead of time, but make sure that they are COMPETELY covered in COLD water or they will turn colors. If you want to store them longer than a few hours, blanch them and then store them for use later on. This will stop them from turning and will help them keep longer.
OK – back to the flexibility issue. When planning for a month, make sure to keep a few staple meal ingredients on hand for those unexpected emergencies, events, etc., that tend to come up. And don’t be afraid to switch meals around. Just because you have a number beside it does not mean that it has be made on that particular day, especially when plans get changed.
Also, you never know when you’re going to come across a great deal on some marked down fruits/veggies/meats that you really need to use up.
Of course, the big key here is having a good pantry started. It doesn’t have to be a HUGE pantry, but keeping plenty of staples on hand really helps make a month long menu plan work.
After you have your plan in place, you need to make a complete list of ingredients and then take it to your pantry to see what you have and what you need. Don’t be afraid to try something new every once in a while.
Anyway, that’s my take on menu planning. Nothing fancy. but it works for me! Hope this helps someone else overcome their fear of monthly menu planning.