I’ve tried menu planning so many times and it’s always been a huge fail! I’ve thought a lot about why menu planning doesn’t seem to work for me, and I think I’ve finally figured it out: I over-complicate the system.
Here’s what I’ve learned in my quest to simplify menu-planning:
1) Check the fridge and freezer to see what’s already there to eat.
2) Keep it simple. If you usually have a frozen pizza or corn dogs for dinner once a week, then write that on your menu! Don’t do what I did and think that having a menu will magically make the food easier to cook!
3) Write down seven dinners on paper. If one night will be left-overs or a restaurant meal, write that on the menu – just make sure to account for every night so you don’t accidentally miss one! As you’re writing, you can include the full meal or just the main dish – since we keep things like frozen vegetables and rice on hand, I personally don’t feel a need to write down side dishes, but I know that planned side-dishes may be helpful to other people!
4) Don’t write down breakfast or lunch plans unless you really need to. If you always serve oatmeal, eggs, or cereal for breakfast, and sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, then you probably don’t need a menu for that!
5) Go grocery shopping with a list.
This may seem like a no-brainer but I can’t tell you how many times I wrote a fabulous-looking menu, then didn’t actually go to the store to buy ingredients! Or I didn’t think I’d actually need a list and would way over (or under) purchase. So have a list!
5) Be flexible at the store. If you have roast on your grocery list but ham is on sale, buy the ham and change the menu for that evening!
6) Write your menu down in a semi-permanent location after you get home from the store. I have a new chalkboard in my kitchen for writing down the menu – I thought it would feel constricting but I actually love that I don’t even have to think about what’s for dinner because it’s on the menu and I’ve already bought the groceries for it!
How do you menu-plan?