Today we’re going to look at three different menu planning systems. Remember, the idea here is not to just pick the prettiest or the simplest or the niftiest – although you should consider all of those things – but to think through which features of each system will work best for your needs so that you can create one of your own. That’s the key to a system that lasts.
The Basics from I’m an Organizing Junkie
Laura’s Menu Plan Monday has become the headquarters for all things menu planning, and she explains her simple, easy-to-use system in her introduction to the weekly carnival. Basically, she uses the weekly ads from her grocery stores to determine which meats and basics she wants to use for that week and then looks through her cookbooks and other recipe sources as she crafts her weekly meal plan. (Her post includes a more detailed description).
::This system helps you make the most of your budget and your time.
::By turning to cookbooks and other recipe sources, you’re more likely to serve a variety of meals and try new ones as well.
::This system can be time consuming, although my guess is that it gets faster as you do it more.
::Using cookbooks and other recipe sources means you have to physically have your cookbooks and/or computer with you while you’re meal planning.
Simple Mom’s Monthly Menu and Theme Nights
Tsh shared her monthly spring menu earlier this week. There are a couple things that make her system unique and functional. One is that she plans for a month at a time, and the other is that she has weekly theme nights (for example, pasta on Monday and pizza on Friday). (Read more about her system at Simple Mom.)
::Weekly theme nights give everyone in your family an idea of what to expect each night of the week.
::These theme nights also provide a structure to include a variety of foods each week and can help with inspiration as you plan your menu plan.
::Planning the menu for the entire month means you don’t have to sit down and do it each week.
::If you feel like you’re serving the same things each week, planning out an entire month is a good way to add more variety.
::Having a plan for the entire month takes away some of your ability to make the most of grocery store deals each week (although if you stockpile anyway, it may not matter to you).
::To plan out an entire month, you do need to set aside a larger chunk of time once a month rather than a smaller amount each week.
::Trying to come up with 20+ meal ideas at once can be intimidating if you already struggle with meal planning.
Easy Menu Planning from Laurel Plum Online
I love this meal planning system from Laurel because it combines meal planning with easy grocery shopping. Before even thinking about her weekly menus, Laurel started by creating index cards with meal ideas and the ingredients needed to prepare them. Whenever she plans her weekly menus, she simply grabs her index cards for each meal and then she can quickly transfer those things to her grocery list for simple shopping. (Read more about creating an index card system.)
::Having the index card “cheats” as you make your grocery list is a great way to ensure you don’t forget to include a key ingredient.
::Once you’ve created index cards for all of your meals, you can flip through them to quickly come up with meal ideas rather than trying to think of meals off the top of your head.
::If you plan meals to take advantage of weekly store deals, you can quickly see which recipes use the ingredients that are on sale for the week.
::You won’t have cards for new meals that you want to try, but you could always plan on adding a card each week.
::You need to set aside a chunk of time in the beginning to create your index card system, but once you’ve got them set up initially, you’ll actually save time.
Have you used any of the features of these systems as part of your own meal planning? What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to creating weekly meal plans?