The greatest thing about menu planning is that it takes the guesswork out of an already busy week. No one wants to be looking in the refrigerator at 5 o’clock at night, peering over every occupant, wondering what to make for dinner, again.
Planning your meals out allows you to know exactly what is coming. Having a big roast on Monday? Maybe take it out of the freezer on Sunday evening, allowing it to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Not coming home until later in the evening on Tuesday? No-cook prawn salad will be waiting when you get there.
You don’t need any fancy gizmos, gadgets, online tools or daily e-mails to get started with menu planning. The easiest first step is to locate a white board with attached corkboard and some erasable markers.
You could also use a laminated calendar-the kind you write kids’ chores on-, sticky notes, a pad of paper, or even just your regular old wall calendar. The important part to remember it that it needs to be located where everyone in the family can see it.
This board will allow you to create your menu for the upcoming week, write it out in a simple way for anyone in the family to read, and can also be a place to keep up on the grocery list.
Photo by Elizabeth Nyland
Decide what to make
In this age of a million and one food blogs, recipe and food websites, countless recipe books and TV shows, etc., the hardest part of menu planning is deciding what you want to eat and when.
For my family, this means several days of vegetarian and seafood meals, sprinkled lightly with a couple of hard-core meat eating days. This saves us money, helps us feel more “carbon” conscious and also adds a healthy twist.
For you it could be any combination that keeps you motivated in the kitchen:
• Monday: a large slow-cooked roast, (which can then be used as leftovers in Tuesday’s lunches).
• Tuesday: a simple salad with prawns.
• Wednesday: a pasta casserole.
• Thursday: baked enchiladas using pantry ingredients.
• Friday: a whole roasted chicken.
Write it down
Menu planning is as easy as you want it to be. The key is: writing it down. If you find yourself strolling downtown one day and pass a tiny bistro with Eggplant Parmesan on special and it becomes all you can think about, write it down. The kids are begging you for chicken strips and your husband wants steak? Write it down.
If you keep a tally of all your favorites written down somewhere, you will always have somewhere to go for ideas on what’s coming up the following week. This also gets the rest of your family involved with choosing dinner too, so it’s not always one person’s job.
Make a list
Now for the slightly more complicated part of menu planning, the grocery list.
- First, plan out your meals including breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.
- Then, go over all of them, figuring out which ingredients you will need.
Item by item, your grocery list will begin to take hold, and when you get to the grocery store you can power through it. No more walking down every aisle wondering what interesting meals you can make out of this and that. You buy what you need and nothing more.
Food spoilage will go down considerably in your house, as well as the grocery bill.
Photo by Elizabeth Nyland
So try it out for a week and then share some feedback. We’d love to hear back from you!
Could your daily schedule benefit from the help of menu planning? Does it already?