Simple Menu Plans: Considering Your Options

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source: madam.furie

source: madam.furie

Today we’re going to look at three different menu planning systems. Remember, the idea here is not to just pick the prettiest or the simplest or the niftiest – although you should consider all of those things – but to think through which features of each system will work best for your needs so that you can create one of your own. That’s the key to a system that lasts.

The Basics from I’m an Organizing Junkie

Laura’s Menu Plan Monday has become the headquarters for all things menu planning, and she explains her simple, easy-to-use system in her introduction to the weekly carnival. Basically, she uses the weekly ads from her grocery stores to determine which meats and basics she wants to use for that week and then looks through her cookbooks and other recipe sources as she crafts her weekly meal plan. (Her post includes a more detailed description).

::This system helps you make the most of your budget
and your time.

::By turning to cookbooks and other recipe sources, you’re more likely to serve a variety of meals and try new ones as well.

::This system can be time consuming, although my guess is that it gets faster as you do it more.

::Using cookbooks and other recipe sources means you have to physically have your cookbooks and/or computer with you while you’re meal planning.

Simple Mom’s Monthly Menu and Theme Nights

Tsh shared her monthly spring menu earlier this week. There are a couple things that make her system unique and functional. One is that she plans for a month at a time, and the other is that she has weekly theme nights (for example, pasta on Monday and pizza on Friday). (Read more about her system at Simple Mom.)

::Weekly theme nights give everyone in your family an idea of what to expect each night of the week.

::These theme nights also provide a structure to include a variety of foods each week and can help with inspiration as you plan your menu plan.

::Planning the menu for the entire month means you don’t have to sit down and do it each week.

::If you feel like you’re serving the same things each week, planning out an entire month is a good way to add more variety.

::Having a plan for the entire month takes away some of your ability to make the most of grocery store deals each week (although if you stockpile anyway, it may not matter to you).

::To plan out an entire month, you do need to set aside a larger chunk of time once a month rather than a smaller amount each week.

::Trying to come up with 20+ meal ideas at once can be intimidating if you already struggle with meal planning.

Easy Menu Planning from Laurel Plum Online

I love this meal planning system from Laurel because it combines meal planning with easy grocery shopping. Before even thinking about her weekly menus, Laurel started by creating index cards with meal ideas and the ingredients needed to prepare them. Whenever she plans her weekly menus, she simply grabs her index cards for each meal and then she can quickly transfer those things to her grocery list for simple shopping. (Read more about creating an index card system.)

::Having the index card “cheats” as you make your grocery list is a great way to ensure you don’t forget to include a key ingredient.

::Once you’ve created index cards for all of your meals, you can flip through them to quickly come up with meal ideas rather than trying to think of meals off the top of your head.

::If you plan meals to take advantage of weekly store deals, you can quickly see which recipes use the ingredients that are on sale for the week.

::You won’t have cards for new meals that you want to try, but you could always plan on adding a card each week.

::You need to set aside a chunk of time in the beginning to create your index card system, but once you’ve got them set up initially, you’ll actually save time.

Have you used any of the features of these systems as part of your own meal planning? What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to creating weekly meal plans?

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About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5, 3.5, 2 and a new baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

10 Responses to “ Simple Menu Plans: Considering Your Options ”

  1. My menu planning is pretty much like Laura’s at Organizing Junkie. I have the attention span of a gnat and get tired of the same thing over and over. So, I really enjoy trying new recipes and bringing out old favorites in intervals. Our family is very spontaneous, so when I plan my menu for the week, I don’t assign certain foods on certain days. Our schedule is probably going to change. I just fix what I feel like from the menu each day.

    Marci’s last blog post…Just say no!!!


  2. Have you seen They give you a giant grocery list and menus for the month. Then you and a friend buy everything (in double) and cook it all together in one day. Then you have a month of food cooked up and ready to reheat.

    Not sure if I could do it but it might be fun to try!

    oh amanda’s last blog post…The Original Retro Photo


  3. Hi! I am blushing to be included! Thank you so much! I particularly like the way you listed the pros and cons of each one. Very helpful for anyone trying to get started.

    One easy way to fill out the dinner flash cards is one a night as you prep the meal you are fixing. Then once you have a good set of flash cards and get in the grove of planning ahead, there is a wealth of new possibilities to add new recipes. Seems like everyday I find a great new foodie blog, not to mention the recipes in print. When I take the kids to the library, I often peruse the cookbooks and mags.

    It is not really important HOW you plan meals, but I hope everyone will keep trying until they find some things that work for them. It really does take a huge burden off your shoulders (and your budget) once you get in the swing of it.

    Laurel Plum’s last blog post…Menu Planning Part 2


  4. [...] and rice…in one short week. (I get stuck in a rut if I don’t set guidelines.) Mandi made it extremely easy to see the pros and cons to several different menu planning strategies, and [...]

  5. Oh this is such a great idea for a post! As you’ve demonstrated there are just so many ways to menu plan and no way is right or wrong, it’s whatever works for you. Thanks so much for including my method. I try at least 3 or 4 new recipes a week so this works perfectly for me but definitely wouldn’t for someone who likes to stick to more familiar ground.

    Thanks Mandi!

    Org Junkie’s last blog post…Picture/Keepsake Round-Up and my Six Simple Steps to Picture Organization


  6. Yep, I love that menu planning is one of those “there’s no wrong way” tasks. The important thing, in my opinion, is just to do something. And if something ends up not working well, don’t give up – just try something else.

    For us, monthly menu planning works for us because we do most our shopping at the farmer’s market anyway, and I keep pretty close tabs on what’s in season around here. In this country, there is no such thing as coupons and special deals, and in general, all groceries are expensive (as in, not the fresh stuff from the farmer’s market). So planning for a month provides needed structure, lessens the stress, and provides relief when cooking because we don’t have to worry about what to get. Most our meals use similar ingredients, so very rarely do we need to get something extra.

    Tsh’s last blog post…Thursdays are Book Club day


  7. I use a system similar to Laurel Plum, although I never knew I was using her system. :) I always forget what ingredients are needed for certain meals, even the ones we make almost weekly. I guess I have Mommy brain.

    I use a cheat sheet that says all the ingredients on it for our go to classics that we eat a lot. It doesn’t list the entire recipe, but just the ingredients and rough amounts used if needed. Then, I just read it quickly and make sure we either have that stuff on hand all ready or that it goes on the list. That way I don’t have to run out to the store again because I forgot a spice or something like that.

    Taylor at Household Management 101’s last blog post…Mar 31, Flylady Is Right About Most Things But Not This


  8. Hi, interesting post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for posting. I will definitely be subscribing to your blog.


  9. [...] Organizing Your Way | Simple Menu Plans: Considering Your Options – can you tell i’m trying to get organized this summer? [...]

  10. Thank you for providing options. I am still looking for the perfect system for me. These will definitely help me out!


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