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  • 5 Menu Planning Tips

    menu planning tips

    Last week, I shared six ways that menu planning saves us money. Hopefully, that convinced you that menu planning is worth the effort!

    Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tricks that help make menu planning a little easier. Here they are:

    Plan monthly menus. I found creating a monthly menu plan daunting at first, but I got the hang of it after a few months. And now I find that I’m much more likely to plan for the week if I already have a starting point in a monthly plan. A monthly menu also allows me to space out different kinds of meals.

    Start with your schedule. I use a basic monthly calendar template in Google Drive to create my menu plan each month, and I always have my calendar open as I plan. This allows me to take into account social plans, the kids’ activities, and anything else that might affect what we have for dinner. For example, if we’re going to be out in the late afternoon but home in time for dinner, I’ll plan for something that I can make ahead and have ready when we walk in the door.

    When prepping your menu for the upcoming week, you may also want to check the weather report. I use the 7-day forecast to figure out which days I want to grill or bake, taking into account any rain or temperature fluctuations predicted.

    Decide on a weekly pattern. Some people do meatless Mondays, Mexican Tuesdays, pizza Wednesdays, and so on. Here’s how I like to plan my week:

    • 1 meatless meal
    • 1 pasta meal
    • 1 fish meal
    • 1 Japanese meal
    • 1 freezer meal
    • 1 breakfast meal {for dinner}

    Sometimes these meals overlap, such as when I serve misoyaki, which covers both the Japanese and fish meals. Or if I make my favorite bolognese sauce, I always make extra to freeze and it is also our pasta meal for the week. These parameters help me vary the meals we have throughout the week, as well as manage costs since meatless and pasta meals tend to be cheaper than Japanese and fish meals.

    Have some tried and true recipes to incorporate into your menu plan. I like to plug these recipes in when I’m first starting my monthly menu plan. These recipes are particularly handy because I have a good idea of how long it will take me to prepare them, and I know which ones I can make ahead for the busy days on my calendar.

    Collect recipes you want to try. I used to have a large three-ring binder for my recipes, but I now exclusively use Pinterest. As I plan my monthly menu, I peruse my Pinterest boards for new recipes I want to try. I take into account the season, what’s languishing in my pantry, and of course, whatever captures my fancy. As I mentioned last week, regularly trying out new recipes keeps things interesting at home and reduces the temptation to eat out just because we’re bored of having the same foods.

    If you have a menu planning tip or recipe to share, please leave a comment!


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    Original menu image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Sujin Jetkasettakorn.

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