For several years I have done weekly menu planning. It isn’t always perfect, and there have been weeks here and there where I didn’t get a menu plan together. I try to make sure I have one done before I do my grocery lists. It really helps to maximize our time and our budget.
Menu planning with Flexibility
I like to do my planning by hand rather than electronically. I have a decorative wall hanging that has little clips and I clip the menu plan on the board, next to my fridge. The kids and husband then know what the plan is. I try to be flexible. If something comes up during the week, we may shift things around to make it work. Recently, I had waffles planned for dinner, but we had a lot of various leftovers in the fridge that needed to be eaten, so we skipped the waffles.
I start by listing the calendar items for the week on the bottom of my menu plan. That way I can see at a glance which nights are busy and which we will have a bit more food prep time. Then I ask my kids if they have any requests for the week. I choose dishes for each dinner based on their preferences for the week and what activities we have.
For lunches, we usually do leftovers, but sometimes I add in something special. Breakfasts we have been lax on. I am trying to get better about planning a few breakfasts a week and the other days we just do leftovers or they fend for themselves.
I have attached a link to my menu planning form. You can download and print it, to use each week.
Meal preparation planning
I usually write somewhere on the plan if something needs to be done the day before (like take out to defrost, or prep an item) for the meal scheduled. Otherwise, my husband looks at the plan in the morning before he goes to work and will take out whatever items need to defrost before we make dinner that evening. I try to help prep ingredients before we start cooking, but that doesn’t always happen. If we are doing a slow cooker meal, I will make sure to budget time to get it started early in the day, so it is ready by dinner. The one thing I want to improve on is more meal prep time on weekends. I could chop vegetables and prepare ingredients ahead of time for the week. I am not there yet, but meal prep goals are on my radar.
Menu planning really is helpful
When we menu plan, it really seems to free up time in our week. We aren’t stressed just before dinner about what to make, we don’t tend to forget to defrost the meat, it just makes things go smoother. It really helps on busy nights when we have commitments. It also is helpful for my son who takes his packed lunch to work. I can plan meals on the nights before he is scheduled to work to make sure to have leftovers for him to pack the next day.
Due to the numerous food intolerances and allergies we have in our family, eating out is rare. Having a menu plan each week really helps us make sure we are eating healthy too. I make my weekly menu plan based on what we have in our freezers, fridge and pantry for the most part. However, I like to make sure I have the plan made before I go grocery shopping. That way I can grab any items I made need for that week’s recipes. It really helps our grocery budget to know what we will be making for the week.
My youngest can be picky and he has multiple food intolerances/allergies. There are some meals he doesn’t like, so if I know we are having a dish he won’t eat, I try to make sure that the meal the night before is one he likes. That way he can eat leftovers when we eat the things he won’t eat. I also taught my kids to cook from the time they could stand on a ladder and help. All my kids can make a few meals, some can cook all kinds of stuff. So, if they really aren’t interested in what we are having to eat, they can make themselves something.
I also try to give the kids each a chance to pick a meal so I know they are happy with at least one thing we are having during the week.
Examples of menu plans
I will give you a few ideas of my weekly menu plans. They aren’t perfect, but they work for our various food requirements. I tend to plan from Sunday to Saturday.
Menu Planning Example Week 1- Not a typical week
Sunday-Filet Mignon (from our freezer beef order) and Crab Legs with mushrooms and baked shrimp (this was a special meal due to postponing our NYE meal)
Monday- Breakfast- Scones, Dinner-Sloppy Joes
Wednesday-Breakfast-Soaked oatmeal, Dinner-Beef Patties in Gravy over rice with Roman green beans
Thursday- BBQ Baked Chicken with Broccoli, leftover green beans and mushrooms
Friday- Take out (not usual for us….we eat out maybe once a quarter)
Saturday- Roast Lamb with Olives and preserved lemons, potatoes with preserved lemons
Menu planning Example Week 2
Sunday- Breakfast- Vegetable Fried Rice. Dinner- Chicken stir-fry
Tuesday- Breakfast- Frittata, Dinner- Salsa chicken in the slow cooker
Wednesday- Breakfast-Smoothies, Dinner- Pressure Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Thursday- Breakfast- Sourdough Discard Scones, Dinner- Waffles, eggs, homemade breakfast sausage patties
Friday- Dinner- Lamb Stew
Saturday- breakfast- Baked Oatmeal, Dinner- Homemade GF Chicken Nuggets
Menu planning Example-Week 3
Sunday- Breakfast-Sweet Potato Hash, Dinner-Chicken Cacciatore
Monday- Dinner- Roast Chicken, Roasted root vegetables
Tuesday- Breakfast-Smoothies, Dinner-Vegetable Beef Soup with noodles
Wednesday- Breakfast-Chia pudding, Dinner- Seasoned Beef Burgers
Thursday- Dinner Pasta and Meat Sauce
Friday- Breakfast- Sourdough Discard Scones, Dinner- Chicken with Preserved lemons, olives, and golden raisins (new recipe to try…link to the recipe I used is no longer available, but this one is similar)
Saturday- Dinner- Chicken, Lemon, Rice Soup