How to Create a Menu Plan
Creating a menu plan is a simple way to help save money at the grocery store and keep your household running smoothly and efficiently. As simple as it is, many of us still fail to create a weekly menu plan. And as the saying goes… “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
The cost-saving benefits of creating a menu plan are numerous. You avoid takeout temptation by having ingredients on hand to create meals, there is less waste because you're shopping for meals as opposed to buying individual ingredients, and not only that — you can plan your meals around what's on sale at the grocery store to help save money.
Perhaps the biggest perk is simply knowing what's for dinner ahead of time so there isn't that 5:00 panic about what you're going to eat that night. It helps calm the household chaos.
Here are some simple tips to make menu planning easier:
Finding Inspiration for Your Menu Plan
Make a list of at least 10 types of main course foods your family enjoys and will eat. For me, it's things like pasta, burgers, tacos, soups and stews, eggs, pancakes, pizza, turkey, chicken, and fish. Next, do the same with side dishes. My family gravitates toward rice dishes, orzo and whole grains, potatoes, and veggies like green beans, cauliflower, peas, and asparagus.
Do your research to find new ideas and healthy versions of your favorite recipes. I find a lot of them on Pinterest, All Recipes, cookbooks, and our own Mommysavers Kitchen Chatter Forums. I find that my family is not as receptive to new things as I am, so I try to limit new recipes to once or twice a week.
Find a place to collect recipes that look good to you that you may want to try. Before Pinterest, I used to print them out and keep them in a 3-ring binder according to category (side sides, main courses, appetizers, snacks, etc.). Now, I keep them on my different Pinterest boards. Some of my favorite boards include:
When you do try new recipes, remove anything that you would never make again from your recipe book/binder or Pinterest board. Edit comments or jot down notes on what you would do differently next time. Would you add any spices? Omit any ingredients?
Tips to Make Menu Planning Easier
Set aside a half hour each week to compile your menu plan. Allow ample time so you can complete your menu plan and grocery list from start to finish. Decide how you will record your menu plan. The most important thing is to find a way that works for you. Here are some different methods:
- Weekly Menu Planning Method #1: iPhone Calendar App
- Weekly Menu Planning Method #2: Dry Erase Frame
- Frugal Moms Forum: How do you keep track of your menu plan?
Start with the following supplies: your recipe book or file, your family calendar, a pencil and paper, another sheet of paper to record your grocery list, your coupons, and grocery store circulars.
Do a quick inventory of the contents of your refrigerator. If anything is close to its expiration date, work those ingredients into your menu plan first. Look at your family's calendar. Will you be gone or busy any of the nights of the week? For those nights, include a freezer recipe or crock pot recipe in your menu plan.
Work leftovers into your menu plan (for example, if you are having rotisserie chicken one night, consider using the leftovers for chicken in fried rice the next). What fresh produce do you plan on buying that you won't use up with one dish? What will you do with it? Use it in another meal, or freeze it? Planning ahead helps you avoid waste.
Create a grocery list based on your menu plan and the ingredients you'll need for your meals. Don't forget to include items like snacks, breakfast foods, beverages and pet food on your grocery list.