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Monday, March 2, 2009

how i plan my weekly menus

I thought that I would let you all know how I plan my weekly menus. It is something that I've been doing off and on for years. When I'm on; things are awesome! When I'm off; things don't go so well!

First of all..... It is late! And I'm tired, so please excuse any and all type-o's! lol If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I'll respond as soon as I can. :-)

Here are some positives that you can have by planning you weekly menus:
  • less stress when dinner time rolls around - I can't think of anything worse than worrying all day what I'm going to fix for dinner.
  • less time wasted- Fits into what I said above. How much of my time do I waste on days that I don't have a meal planned? A LOT! I fret all day about it! Then I either have to make a special trip to the store to buy food for a meal that day or spend a lot of time in my kitchen looking through cupboards and the fridge trying to figure out what I can make with what I find inside.
  • less money wasted-When I have my meals planned, that's what we eat that week. That's it. No running to the store to buy things & probably more expensive things because I don't have the time to fix things from scratch (ready-to-make/pre-packaged foods are expensive!), and no eating out even if it doesn't fit into the budget that week.
  • less food wasted- We are eating foods that taste good and are good for us, so less food is left over and if it is, we eat them another day for lunches or after-school snacks. (My big kids tend to eat leftovers when they get home, instead of munching on chips and other snack foods.)
  • you have time to fix wonderful and healthy meals for your family and yourself to enjoy at the dinner table together each and every night! Nothing is more important than sharing dinner together as a family!
I know that I could come up with more reasons why planning your weekly menu is a good idea, but I think that the positives listed above speak plenty of the benefits!

The first thing that I did was to sit down with my planner. During the school year, my kids are pretty busy. One daughter has dance twice a week and it tends to interfere with meal times. Every year, the day she has dance on changes, so I sometimes change what meal I have planned for that night. If you have one evening that is very busy for you and your family, maybe that's a good time for a meal from your slow cooker. If you have an evening where you don't have any commitments, maybe plan an easier meal, like breakfast, so you don't have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and so that you can enjoy your night off from running yourself or your children around. Think of this things as you're looking at your calendar. If you evenings are open, then you are lucky and can plan your meals how ever you please!

I use the following categories for the next step in my menu planning:
  • Pasta
  • Breakfast
  • Slow Cooker/Freezer Meal
  • Sandwich w/ Soup (cold months) or Salad (warm months)- Or Vegetarian Meal
  • Fish or Seafood
  • Ethnic
  • Chicken/Pork/Beef
You can substitute any category that fits your tastes, but be sure to choose something because this is one step that really makes planning your menu easy!

Here is how I plan my week for meals:
  • Monday- Pasta (It is an easy night for us with nothing going on so I picked Pasta for this night, because it's usually pretty easy to put a pan of sauce on the stove and boil up some noodles. If I'm making a sauce from scratch, I can start it earlier in the day before my children are home and things get hectic.)
  • Tuesday- Breakfast (My daughter has dance on this night. Stirring up some pancakes or a hash brown quiche is easy and a nice, filling meal.)
  • Wednesday- Slow-Cooker/Freezer Meal (My daughter has dance early on this night, so I chose a slow-cooker meal for this evenings meal. That way I know dinner is done as soon as my husband gets home from work, we can eat and then they have plenty of time to get to dance.)
  • Thursday- Sandwich with Soup or Salad or Vegetarian Meal (No activities on this night. We enjoy sandwiches and soup/salads so I thought this would be a good night for some comfort food. I also do not eat chicken/beef/pork, so it's nice for me to have an all veggie meal once a week that I really enjoy instead of eating parts of meals that feature meat.)
  • Friday- Fish or Seafood (I like following the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays, all year long.)
  • Saturday- Ethnic (Some Ethnic foods can be a little time consuming to fix, so by saving these meals for Saturday, I always have plenty of time to make a delicious meal.)
  • Sunday- Chicken/Pork/Beef (You can't beat a home-made Sunday dinner, just like Grandma used to make on Sundays.)
On Saturday, every other week, we eat out. Since there are 6 of us, eating out can be quite an expense, so we try really hard to stick with this. Three pizzas from our favorite, local pizzeria is over $40. That's a pretty good chunk of money! Another thing to consider is any extra activities that might be happening that week that will effect your meals. A school program, special church activity like a Pancake Breakfast, or even a special holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Even the smaller holidays are fun to plan around. Hoppin' John on New Years Day, Corned Beef & Hash on St. Patricks Day, etc. And don't forget those extra special days like your anniversary and birthdays!

So now that I have figured out what type of meal that I'm going to make each night, I sit down with my grocery stores sales flyer and my recipes & menu cards(more on that in another post!). I look at the ads to find items on sale that would for for a meal and I try to plan my menu around those items. Right now I'm looking at our sales flyer and here's some of what I see:

  • whole chicken for $.69/pound
  • 2 pound bag of frozen tilapia fillets for $5.99
  • 12 oz. frozen vegetables for $.88
  • 5 pound bag potatoes for $1.88
  • 26-30 count shrimp for $5.99
From that I can go to my recipe books & menu cards and decide on meals to make. The first thing I write down on my paper is:


I start with Friday because since the weekend has the most days where I am preparing some sort of meat, I know that it will be nice and fresh. Especially if I buy fresh fish for Friday.

Then looking at my list that I made by looking at the sales flyer I start writing down meals:

Fri- tilapia, frozen veggies
Sun- whole chicken, frozen veggies
Wed- slow-cooker shrimp creole
Thur- loaded baked potatoes

So my list is almost filled up just by planning meals from the sales flyer! Sometimes I have almost every day planned from the flyer, sometimes I have a lot less. If I decide to splurge a bit (like the $5.99/lb of shrimp!), I plan a cheap meal on another night (pancakes and fruit, for example). This way things stay pretty well in my budget. Now I know that I just need to decide on a meal for Saturday (Ethnic), Monday (Pasta) and Tuesday (Breakfast). So I go to my recipe book & menu cards and plan the remaining days and fill in side dishes for all of the meals.

Fri- tilapia, frozen veggies, fresh salad, drop biscuits
Sat- veggie quesidillias with salsa and guacamole
Sun- whole chicken, frozen veggies, roasted potatoes
Mon-manicotti, salad, french bread
Tues- french toast (using leftover french bread), fresh fruit
Wed- slow-cooker shrimp creole, rice, cornbread muffins
Thur- loaded baked potatoes, fresh fruit

Then I go through each recipe (or look on the back of my menu card- I promise I'll explain this part soon!) and write out my grocery list. I'm afraid to admit that I have a master grocery list that I made in Microsoft Publisher awhile ago that is divided up by what is in each asile of our grocery store. We have since moved and I need to redo my list because this really helped me out a lot! I just check items on my list and how many I might need of each. When I get to the store I start with the first asile on my list and go from asile to asile, getting what I need and checking it off my list. This has saved me a lot of time back-tracking throughout the store getting things that I forgot! It takes a bit of time to make up your first list on the computer, but once you're done, you're done and the time it will save you at the store is amazing! Just have a notebook with you the next time you go to the store and jot down what you buy from each asile. Or, if you're lucky, you're store might have a map already printed. Be sure to ask first!

So after all of that planning is done, my list is written out, I take my planner and write down each meal for each day. If I have a slow-cooker meal, I make a note to myself in my "things to do" section- Start Slow-Cooker Meal!!! Or, if we're having French bread that night, I'll write "Make French bread for tonights dinner!!! I need these little reminders to help me on track and to not forget to do them all.

I hope this helps you out some. It has made such a difference in my life as a homemaker. I will share with you my menu cards soon!

God Bless,

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