With a hungry family to feed, it is important for me to have my menus planned. Getting it down on paper, knowing the ingredients and supplies are on hand mean I don’t have to store all the information in my head or make that last minute crazed dash to town. Menu planning simplifies my life.
The last weekend of each month I sit down and brainstorm a list of meals for the upcoming month. Things I consider are:
- What do I have on hand? Check the freezer, check the pantry, check the baking cupboard. List meals I can create using what is already here in the house.
- What is the weather these days? It’s turning colder so I include more soups and stews and casseroles. During summer I include more salad and sandwich type meals.
- Any special requests or special days coming up? Each holiday requires its own special foods so I want to be sure to have those on in the plan. A birthday? In our family, the birthday person gets to choose the day’s menu (within reason!) so I had better get the request down on paper!
- What are we craving? Is there a dish my family loves but I haven’t prepared in a while? Weather changes and holidays can often spark the taste buds. Like when the hot sweltering days disappeared and it first turned cold and I put on a pot of chili to simmer all day long – so good!
- Mandatory Meals. For years, Monday has been Mexican Night and Friday has been Pizza Night. When I try to change it up there’s mutiny among the ranks. Having a set ‘theme’ simplifies my meal planning, giving boundaries to what I choose.
Next, list out potential meals and the number of times you would like to serve it this month. It might look something like this:
- Tacos (2)
- Enchaladas (1)
- Chimichangas (1)
- Pizza (3)
- Lasagne (2)
- Spaghetti (1)
- CP Chicken (1)
- Chicken Pot Pie (2)
- Grilled Hamburgers (2)
- Chili (2)
- Venison Stew (2)
- Thanksgiving Dinner
I try to have 25-30 meals accounted for. There are periods of time I just leave this master list posted to the fridge, and I choose each day which meal I’ll fix, crossing it off as I go through the month. What’s working for me now is to assign each meal to a day on a blank printable calendar, in pencil. On Sunday evenings I take a quick look and change it up as needed for the upcoming week.
This is how I get started with my menu plan for the month. I have more ideas, more details to share with you in future posts on implementing it all and pulling it all together. I recommend the ebook The ABC’s of Freezer Cooking in which you’ll find an alphabet full of tips and tricks to planning out a month’s worth of meals. You’ll find plenty of recipes, including a couple of mine!