Menu planning was never a part of our routine until the last couple of months. Once-a-month-cooking makes it almost too easy to just walk out to the big freezer every morning and pull out a bag or casserole pan of whatever sounds good at the moment. Once-a-month-shopping, however, necessitates a menu plan to cover all of the extra side items for dinners and little things that we make a quick trip to the store to pick up.
Until now, I have done weekly menu plans more for the sake of preserving my own sanity. A mom can only answer the “what are we having for _____” question so many times in a day. Plus, I discovered that a simple plan posted on the fridge takes the think work out of the day’s meals.
I am by no means an expert menu planner but here is what we are doing now in preparation for our big OAMS trip coming up in two weeks.
1. Keep a list hanging on the refrigerator or in another easy place to note items as you run out of them.
2. Inventory the items (with amounts) that you still have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer.
3. Begin working your way backward from a simple menu plan. I like to use the weekly menu plan form from Money Saving Mom. Looking at the plan a week at a time makes it seem less overwhelming. Be sure to list everything you need for each meal in your menu plan including condiments, beverages and specific fruits and veggies.
4. Transfer items from the menu to a grocery list. I have a couple of drafts of this list. The first is messy with lots of tally marks as I add to the number of each item I need. The second is neat enough that I can actually read it in the grocery store.
*Some moms keep a list of the family’s favorite or most common meals in their home management binder and fill in the menu plan with those meals and leave spaces for new recipes to try. (I’m still working on this one.)
*Plan even those meals that you don’t think you need to plan. This will eliminate the extra trips to the store and take the guess work out of the day.
*Plan your menu based on using as much as possible of what you already have in inventory to save money.
*Save your menu plan to reuse again for the weeks or months that you just don’t have time to plan.
Share your great menu planning ideas in the comments!