Do You Follow a Menu Plan for the Week, Month or ?? Tips Needed !

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  • I have seen a lot of messages about people making master lists and somehow getting it to turn into a menu plan, and well, I tried it. It just really didn't work for me.

    So I got rid of the side dish part and made a list of main dishes that I make well and that my family eats. Then I cut it apart and sorted it by type: chicken, fast&greasy, beef, non-meat, asian, etc. I put each little pile into a different box.

    I made my own sheets for menu planners so that I had 3 weeks figured out at once.

    Then I drew a sheet, wrote it down, drew another sheet from another box, wrote it down, etc. until I was done. (after i wrote what i drew from the box, I put it on a separate pile) When I was all done with little pieces of paper, I put them into different categories and did it again. Then my DH, DD, and I looked at the menus and talked through them. We crossed a few things off and added others. DD suggested a pancake night, so we got rid of a hamburger helper square.

    I just struggled with the whole menu planning thing way too long, and I thought I should share and maybe make someone else's life a little easier.

    Elizabeth
  • Re: I have to share how I menu plan!
    When I was all done with little pieces of paper, I put them into different categories and did it again. Elizabeth [/B][/QUOTE]

    This sounds like a good idea and similar to what I'm trying to do. I don't exactly understand the above sentence though. Do you mean that you didn't have three weeks worth of ideas so you redrew again or what?

    Thanks.
  • I re-read what I wrote, and I see that I wasn't very clear. (It made sense as I typed, but re-reading it, it didn't quite flow! I am SO not a writer!! )

    The first time I had these categories of meals: chicken, beef, non-meat/fish, pork. I rotated between these.

    Actually, by the time I had used up my little sheets once, I had 12 weeks done. (4 sheets of 3 weeks each) However, I am Catholic, so I made 2 of the sheets (6 weeks) so that there was no meat on Fridays for lent, as well as the first wednesday had no meat (ash wednesday) Also, I should note that I only had enough non-meat choices to get those 6 weeks done.

    After I had 12 weeks planned, I was out of little papers and I re-sorted them as : spicy, mild, soup/stew, fast&greasy. Then I did another 12 weeks rotating between them.

    After we sat and tweaked a bit...like we always have leftover roast beef, so I moved up a casserole to use that up, and adding special requests and removing not-so-popular choices, we ended up with 8 sheets holding 24 weeks. The Lent weeks will be just Lent, the other 6 sheets (18 weeks) can be rotated between and I may never have to decide what I should make again.

    I think how many weeks you do depends on how long you want to pull out little slips, how many different things you want to make and how picky your crew is. (also, I did this while I had a sprained ankle, so it might also depend on how bored you are!!)
  • Elizabeth

    Loved your post. I'm Catholic too ,so your non-meat Lent idea is great (no more winging it that way). You've got a lot of meal ideas (I've nowhere near that many yet, but you've inspired me!)
  • Meal planning can be a real challenge in our home. we have so much going on and such a crazy schedule, so I can really only plan 1 week at a time. Plus I plan our meals around what is on sale at the store. So far it is working pretty good. We also tend to eat out on "hectic" nights. I just number 1-7 on a piece of paper, then plan a meal for each night. Hope this makes sense.
  • Meal planning can be a real challenge in our home. we have so much going on and such a crazy schedule, so I can really only plan 1 week at a time. Plus I plan our meals around what is on sale at the store. So far it is working pretty good. We also tend to eat out on "hectic" nights. I just number 1-7 on a piece of paper, then plan a meal for each night. Hope this makes sense.
  • I'm wishing I could plan menus more than a week ahead! As it is, with the different schedule changes I end up changing the menu I plan for the week. Usually that means switching Tuesday's dinner to Wednesday, and cooking Friday's meal on Tuesday, so at least the grocery list doesn't change.
    What I probably could do is come up with a list of 30 for a month--and organize it in order of how long it takes to prepare that meal, have the groceries I need to make those meals and then choose the meal for the day depending on how much time I'll get to cook.
    I'm going to have some free time tomorrow, so I think I will try doing that and see if I get anywhere with it. Does this idea seem like it makes any sense?
  • Yes, Barb, it does. Especially with a busy family--some times you have 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. I totally understand.

    One thing I do for quick meals is precook a bunch of hamburger and chicken breasts and throw individual recipe portions in the freezer. If it is one of those gotta eat quick times I pop it into the microwave to defrost and make tacos, or sloppy joes or cheeseburger macacroni, or spaghetti or chicken noodles. You get the idea. This has saved me alot this past couple of weeks while we've been "freshening up" the house for reappraisal. As a matter of fact, I'm out of hamburger.
  • Oh I like this thread. It's great to see how other people make this work. I plan out a month at a time, but of course we end up with some changes.

    I print out a calendar and in pencil I put all of our anticipated activities for the month: cheer practice, pta night, meetings, date night, order pizza night, etc. Also, on weekends and holidays, I mark how many kids might be here for dinner (we're a blended family, so kids may be with their other parents). For example, on Thursdays it's usually just me and DD11, so I fix stuff she likes that the others don't eat - usually involves spinach, her favorite!

    After all the calendar info is filled in, I start penciling in entrees. Some nights are really crazy, and have to be crock pot dinners, or really quick recipes. I plan to use whatever we have in the pantry or freezer. Then I add the side dishes, also based on what we have in the house. I try to plan for fresh produce in the beginning of the week, and more canned stuff toward the end of the week. I post the calendar on the fridge, and I mark the changes if we make any.

    I'm the really uptight, organized type, so after I have it all arranged, I sit down at the computer and type it in on the calendar! I usually do all this planning during a movie one night. I use previous month's calendars for ideas.

    Our breakfast menu is basically the same every month (trying to change that), so I just leave it on the calendar, and make changes if needed. Nobody eats lunch at home on a regular basis, so I don't plan for that except on weekends we have all three kids here.

    This allows me to buy ahead, and plan menus based on what we have in the house rather than what's on sale this week. When I shop, the produce and dairy stuff is for the current week, but the pantry and nonfood stuff is usually for the next month.

    Dawny
  • I have a hard time planning as well. I am just starting out. What I do right now is sit down with a calendar in front of me with all the work schedules on it(dh get's his schedule 1 month @ a time) and I write in ...chicken, pasta, beef, meatless, etc. The only thing that is a given is Friday night is pizza night. I am also going to start a soup and sandwich night. It is such a inexpensive meal...and comforting.

    I like the idea of cards and pulling them out of the box. I read somewhere to write down what your family eats for an entire month and there you have a menu of sorts.

    LuvMyFF