Would you agree that menu planning simplifies our lives and alleviates a major headache of figuring out what’s for dinner? There are tons of great resources on the web that cover menu planning. You can even find ready-made weekly menus that you can adopt.
Yet, from my experience, few people actually do plan their meals ahead. I, for example, did not do it until about two years ago. It just seemed like another chore– I had no time to sit down and think and write down my plan! It was overwhelming and confusing. Where do I start? Should I plan my menu around current sale at my grocery store? Or should I browse Pinterest for ideas and go from there? How about the cookbooks that are sitting on the bookshelf (which cookbook do I look at first– I have quite a collection)?
Analysis paralysis and no action as a result!
Let’s do a personality quiz (remember those in magazines, back when people actually read printed magazines?)!
“You have not planned your menu for this week. It’s 5 pm, and you find yourself hungry and agitated, formulating a response in your head when your equally hungry and agitated family asks “what’s for dinner?”
You do one of the following:
A: Scramble to throw something quick together.
B: Stop by the store fighting crowds of the same minded (hungry) folks.
C: Order a take-out.
D: Pack the family and head out to eat.
A: Pasta with spaghetti sauce, again?Boring!
B: You spent how much?
C: see B. Plus it most likely is not healthy.
D: see B and C.
* * *
What did you choose? In the past, I would be the A type: quick but boring. Eventually, you run out of quick meal ideas that can be put together on the fly. And I really don’t like to resort to options B–D.
So, how do you start menu planning?
Here are three things that I worked great for me:
*Assess your supply: check what you have in the fridge/freezer and pantry. You can jot it down, or make a mental note. I usually make a mental note.
*Take a moment when you have a chance and write down a few meals that you can make using your supply. If you need to buy extra items for those dishes, write them down on the grocery list. I squeezed this in during my daughter’s volleyball games, or during a quick break at work– whenever I had a few minutes. You don’t have to have a menu planner or a grocery list planner. Just grab a piece of paper (I am pretty sure you’ve got a couple random pieces at the bottom of your purse), or your phone’s “Notes” app. You will probably have three meals covered at this point.
*To round up your list, look at your “idea bank”. What is an “idea bank”? When you are just starting out with this menu planning thing, use ONE resource for inspiration: your favorite cookbook, your favorite blog, or magazine. Your “idea bank” can evolve to a really helpful system down the road, but for now, browse through this one resource and pick 2 or 3 more dishes. If you need ingredients for them, add them to your grocery list.
*Keep it simple, don’t let the lack of a fancy planner or resource overload stop you. Just like with any new habit, the key is to stick to just a few basic steps but do it consistently!
*When assigning a meal to a certain day of the week, make sure to consider your family calendar. Plan on making quicker dishes or crock pot on busy nights, and something more elaborate when time is not an issue.
Check out a few more helpful tips:
What is your main struggle with menu planning? What is your best strategy to make it work?
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