Sometimes we shy away from menu planning because we’re afraid it will be too complicated and take too much time. Our time is very precious and we want to maximize it as best we can. There is no one perfect way to plan your meals and menus, but there is a method to the madness. That method is what works for you! Here are some easy and simple methods for planning your menu.
Make a General List of Meals for One Week
Once you understand the basics of menu planning, you can decide how far in advance you want to plan your meals. One method is to make a general list of meals for one week’s time, crossing off each meal as you eat it. This allows you to have a basic plan but gives you the flexibility to eat each meal the day you feel like it, rather than assigning each one to a specific day or mealtime. For instance, if I know that I have the ingredients to make chicken pot pie, tacos and Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with noodles, I just put them on my list in no particular order and serve them according to the amount of time I have or what we’re in the mood to eat! You can make a separate list for sides as well.
Make a Specific List of Meals for One Week
If you want to get a bit more detailed, you can try my favorite method of menu planning–making a specific list for one week of meals. Using a simple spreadsheet or Word document, make a list of breakfasts, lunches, dinners (and snacks if you prefer) for the week. Then assign each one to a specific meal time according to your daily schedule. I like this method because it allows me to know every morning what I need to pull out of the freezer or prep for dinner that evening. I can also look ahead for breakfasts if they involve making something the night before, like cinnamon roll dough.
Once you’re skilled at putting together your menu plan for a week’s time, try planning for two weeks or up to a month. A monthly downloadable calendar is helpful for this method. You can color code by breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners and enter your desired meals for each day. There’s no shame in repeating meals twice or three times a month. Our family has one week’s worth of breakfasts that we rotate to keep things simple as well as some favorite lunches. This is a method that works especially well if you do any freezer cooking. This way, you won’t forget about the pizza burger mix sitting in the back of your freezer!
Finding a method of menu planning that works with your situation is an excellent way to maximize your time while still having a handle on your meal schedule in a way that benefits you and your family.