If you’re like me, the planning of a meal and trying to figure out what to cook is often the hardest part. A friend one suggested the most brilliant and simple weekly menu plan I’d ever heard. Daily themes keep you sane while still allowing a touch of creativity.
Her menu plan goes according to the day, and involves different nationalities or types of food for each day. That way the hardest part of “figuring out what to make” is done! Here is a sample that you can easily adapt to suit your own family’s needs and desires.
Monday – Italian or Pasta Dish
Quick, easy, and inexpensive, this day could be just regular spaghetti, penne pasta, lasagna, or other Italian favorites. Throw together a quick salad and you have a delicious, filling, easy meal in about 30 minutes.
Tuesday – Mexican Night
Most Mexican dishes are made from some combination of the following – beans, ground beef (or turkey or venison), lettuce, tomatoes, black olives (optional), rice, and tortillas. With these you can put together a taco salad, quesadillas, burritos, soft tacos, taco soup, or whatever you want. Throw in some salsa and chips or Spanish rice for a side dish, and you have a complete meal that can be served buffet style with minimal preparation.
Wednesday – Crockpot Night
Stew meat or dried beans, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and celery in a large crockpot with some chicken broth and Auju seasoning mix. Our family likes to add sauteed onions about 30 minutes before serving for added flavor, and the spices I like can vary depending on mood. They include thyme, marjoram, basil, rosemary, garlic powder or sauteed garlic, and celery salt
Thursday – Chinese Night
Rice, sauteed vegetables and crunchy Chinese noodles are a favorite at our house, and easy to put together. Frozen bags of mixed vegetables keep for a long time, and they are ready to be pulled out whenever you are ready to make them. Mustard Chicken or Japanese Crunch Salad are two other favorite recipes for Chinese Night.
Friday – Fish Night
Our family loves salmon, and I generally prepare it with either a mandarin orange sauce or using the Christmas Chicken recipe, but substituting salmon fillets for the chicken tenders. Other favorites for Friday include shrimp salad (I buy large cases of frozen, ready-to-serve shrimp at Sam’s Club for a discount!), and talapia broiled in Italian dressing and topped with Parmesan cheese.
Saturday – American Night
Of course, no menu plan is complete without American Night! This is usually the night when my husband will fire up the grill (or the George Foreman inside the house) and make cheeseburgers or hotdogs, which is always fun for the kids. If we’re eating outside on a warm day I’ll make ice tea or lemonade, and wrap some corn in aluminum foil with butter and minced garlic or rosemary leaves to roast on the grill. Delicious!
Sunday – Leftover Day
Oftentimes Sunday is a great day to clean out any leftovers from the fridge, or to have a light meal like quiche; sauteed veggies; cheese and crackers; and fresh fruit buffet, or whatever is leftover from the various lunches, snacks and dinners we’ve eaten in the past week. This keeps things simple for crazy days.
Of course this schedule is totally flexible. You can switch the days, eliminate days, or move them around. But I’ve found that having a plan is well over half the battle when it comes to meal planning and preparation for my family.