How to Start Menu Planning

Why did I start to menu plan?

Shortly after I got married, I quickly saw that I was lacking an organized system. For one, we did not have a realistic grocery budget ($150/month…haha). And secondly, I never planned what we would eat. So dinner time would come and we would either be completely out of food in the kitchen to  even try to come up with something, or I would open the fridge and be totally uninspired because I had no idea what gourmet type meal would result from tortilla chips, frozen turkey, and a block of cheese. If you ever get to talk to TJ, just say, “Taco Nachos” and he will squint in disgust and divulge the lowest point of my culinary career thus far. After a couple months of this sort of dilemma in our new marriage, I was more than confident there was a need to make some sort of dramatic change.

What do I do?

First I look at the weekly circulars and my coupons to see what is on sale. Then I look at my pantry & freezer and see what things I have on hand that I can use for a meal to further my savings.

Next I sit down and write meals down that sound good for the week ahead. This is also the time where I peruse my favorite recipe books/blogs for 1 or 2 new recipes I’d like to try. After all, a foodie like me can’t go bored with the same ‘ol thing.

Once I have meals for the week written out, I write down a list of ingredients I need for each recipe. I also break down this list according to which store I need to go to to buy the ingredients.

Tips for success:

  • Don’t plan for all 7 days out of the week. It’s inevitable that life will happen. You will have a dinner to go to for work. Extended family will want to meet up or a friend will invite you for an impromptu dinner party. Not planning for one or two days out of the week will save you money and the need to throw away food you didn’t use in time.
  • Post your menu plan somewhere visible so you can think of a plan of attack the night before (e.g. taking something out of the freezer) or let  your family see what is available for choice.
  • Don’t be afraid of planning a couple of easy, no-brainer recipes (e.g. wet bean & cheese burritos) to give yourself less stress of not knowing how busy your week will be. There’s nothing worse than planning a week worth of meals that take 1.5 hours to execute. Don’t set yourself up for failure!
  • Have a running list available of meals your family enjoys  eating. This will streamline the process of planning for you and will ensure less stress as you plan. For example, my family can never eat enough BBQ Chicken Pizza or Black Bean Quesadillas. They are easy go-to meals we can eat all the time and never get tired of.
  • Make it a priority when you’re starting out to have a well-stocked pantry filled with items that can be used for many different meals (e.g. pastas, beans, rice, etc.)

8 thoughts on “How to Start Menu Planning

  1. Hi Traci! Check back soon. I’ll post my BBQ chicken pizza recipe. As far as black bean quesadillas go…so simple! Whole wheat tortillas, cheese, can of black beans, a little cumin and chili powder sprinkled on and you’re done! Perfect meal in a pinch for time!

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