The meal planning ideas on this page will help you see the benefits
of planning menus, discover how to plan and help you organize your
family meal times.
If you are trying to get into menu planning, I'm sure you've
seen the number of recipe sites, menu planning services, menu
planning software and free help online. There is so much, you can
really get lost in all of it and become even more confused.
Planned Kids Cooking Curriculum
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Learning Meal Planning Ideas
If you learn one thing from these meal planning ideas, I hope it is
a realization that meal planning doesn't have to be hard. Here
are some facts:
It really will save you money to know what is for dinner each
night and what food you have on hand.
It really will get you and your family eating healthier meals.
It really will bring your family close together if you take
time to eat together each night.
With your list in hand for the next week's menu, it will also
save you time grocery shopping.
Just because you have a menu plan doesn't mean you can't be
flexible in what's for dinner. Many times what I have on the
menu doesn't sound good right then so I skip to a different day
and plan on having the other option another night. Feel free to
Don't worry about what to cook for dinner at the last minute.
No last minute take out or ordering delivery.
Now, that answers the
question of why you should meal plan now lets talk about how you
can plan your menus.
Meal Planning Ideas
These menu plans can get you headed on the right track. Try one of
these methods and see what works best at your house. I usually
plan a month's menu at a time and grocery shop once a week for that
One of the best meal planning ideas I can give you is to just focus
on the main dish first. Once you have the main dishes outlined for a
month each week you will be able to create a shopping list easily.
As you do your grocery list, look at the upcoming week or two
and decide what side dishes, bread, vegetables or fruits you will
have with each main dish. Write that down with your main dish for
Methods of Menu Planning
Any way you plan your meals it will take a little time to sit down
and plan. However the time it takes will save you time all week
1. Quick Menu Plan
With your monthly calendar in hand assign each day of the week a
food category. For example:
Friday fun night- pizza, hot dogs, etc.
Whatever your family enjoys eating. If you don't eat beef or pork
leave that out. Now go through the calendar and be specific on what
you want for each night.
Sunday- Noodle Casserole
Monday-Chicken a la king
Wednesday- Grilled hamburgers
Thursday- Broccoli Alfredo
Friday- Homemade Pizza
Saturday- Chicken noodle soup
narrowing your choices down makes planning your menus easier.
2. Random Recipe Meal Planning Idea
Browse through your recipes your family likes or new recipes you'd
like to try. With your blank calendar randomly write down on each
day the name of the recipe and where to find it. You also may want
to leave one or two days open for filling in or rearranging later.
Need help menu planning? Try my menu planning guide and 4 week
3. What's On Sale Menu Plan
With your sales flyer and your blank calendar, plan your menu with
what is on sale that week. This menu plan works great for a weekly
menu but you can also stock up and freeze things for the month. For
example, if chicken breasts are on sale you can buy 4 packages (one
per week) use one the first week and freeze the other 3 for upcoming
meals. If canned tomatoes are on sale plan on making homemade
spaghetti sauce or minestrone soup.
4. Favorite Recipes Menu Plan
This plan works well if you want familiar recipes you know your
family will eat. Make a list or gather your recipe cards of 30
recipes your family enjoys. Get your family involved and have
them think of 3-4 recipes each.
If you are making a list put the name of the recipe on a 3x5 card.
Place recipes in a recipe file. Start with the first card as your
first meal. Rotate it towards the back and use the next card the
following day. It is best to shuffle the cards around making sure
there is variety throughout. (not 3 beef meals all in a row).
When it is time to go shopping take 7-14 recipes out and make your
list from that. This option of menu planning makes it harder to look
at the month or week's menus in review.
5. Family Sharing the Load Plan
This method works great to get your kids involved and perhaps your
spouse. Assign a night each week for each member of the family to be
in charge. Let them each decide what they are cooking and plan the
menu together. Not to many family members at your house? Also
include a leftovers night, a pizza night or other simple idea to
6. Freezer Cooking
Learn about stocking your freezer
once a month or several times a month for easy meals you can pull
out throughout the week.
7. Menu Board
Check out this project using the favorite recipe method on a menu
Cutting board with hole in handle (for easier hanging)
laminate cards with 20-30 of your favorite recipes. You can
use our menu
cards that you can glue the name on one side and the
actual recipe on the back side
Hot glue clothespins in place and envelope on the top. Arrange how
you'd like them to sit and then glue. Store your cards in the
envelope and switch and plan your menu via the menu board each week.