It’s 5pm and you have nothing on your menu plan for dinner.
Maybe you overslept and all eyes are on you for breakfast, but you have no idea what you can throw together.
Have you ever approached lunch time, but your morning went hay wire? Now you are standing in front of your opened refrigerator with a blank stare wondering what in the world you are going to put on the table.
I’ve been there…In each one of those scenarios.
The good news is, I found a solution that works! It eliminates the panic of “everyone is starving, and I have no idea what I am making” and creates a center of peace during mealtime. Creating a menu plan has been a strategy I have used for years to maximize my time and eliminate stress!
How I menu plan every week.
When I first started creating my menus, I just planned dinners. I would sit down and plan all our dinners for a week. I would then create a grocery list and go shopping.
This worked well but I still had the same struggles with breakfast and lunch. So, it didn’t eliminate the stress during those two meals. I was also wasting a lot of time and money by not using up leftovers and maximizing on the ingredients that I do have.
I started making a plan for all meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
By planning out all my meals, I am able to save time, save money, and reduce our food waste.
I am able to see what staple ingredients we use every single month and be able to buy those ingredients in bulk. This makes my grocery shopping simple while being able to maximize my grocery budget.
I buy all my monthly bulk items on Azure Standard, which is a grocery co-op online . I explain how I monthly grocery shop online and what Azure Standard is on a previous video.
Having a menu plan has become a part of my weekly routine and the good news is…. once you get in the habit it is so easy!
5 Tips to create a successful menu plan for the week:
Creating a successful menu plan is simple, but there are some steps I take every week. I’ll walk you through exactly what it looks like for me and how I plan out each meal.
Step 1: Know your basic pantry staples
Knowing what pantry staples I use every single week is important. This ensures that I can buy my ingredients in bulk while saving money, but also it allows me to plan meals knowing I already have most of what I need. If you can stay out of the grocery store each week, you will save money.
Check out my pantry tour and see what staple ingredients I buy in bulk.
To get started, write down all the main ingredients you use. Think about the starches such as potatoes and rice all the way down to flours, sugars, and baked goods. Next, see if you can buy some of those items in bulk so you aren’t running to the store all the time.
Once you are stocked and know you have all your basic pantry staples on hand, you are ready to move to the next step.
Step 2: Make a list of easy family meals everyone loves
Having a list of “go-to” meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is crucial when creating a menu plan every week. These should be meals that your family will always eat. When you are feeling stumped, grab your list and plug one of those meals in.
One of our dinner “go-to” meals is tacos. It’s a simple meal that everyone loves. I could cook them every week and no one would complain. When I need something simple that I don’t have to think about, I plug tacos in!
Step 3: Find a block of time in your schedule that’s dedicated to planning your meals.
Everyone’s days and weeks look different. What works for me, may not work for you so remember if what I share in this step won’t work for you, tweak it!
I sit down every Sunday after church and plan out my week and meals. I have done this now for a year and half, so it really only takes about an hour. When I first started it took longer. If our Sunday’s are busy I will do it Monday mornings during my quiet time. But I prefer to have it done before Monday rolls around.
I sit down with my day planner and write in all my meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I started doing it in my day planner a few years ago, in place of creating a calendar to hang of my fridge. Having it in my day planner helps me to look back on weeks or months before and get inspiration! It’s also nice to have everything all in one spot.
Step 4: Look at your calendar for the week and plan your menu around busy days.
I always look at my calendar for the week before writing in any meals. This is a good practice to start because there is nothing more frustrating then having a plan to make something you just don’t have time for.
If I know we are going to be out of the house all day, I make sure to plan a crockpot meal for dinner that night and sandwiches for lunch. Think quick and simple on days like this.
On the mornings we have to leave the house early, breakfast has to be quick and easy, such as waffles or oatmeal. Something I know I can whip up without even thinking about and takes no time to cook.
On the other side, when I know I am going to be home all day I may plan a new recipe I have never made before or a recipe that is more time consuming. The key here is to let your menu plan work for you and not against you.
Step 5: Create meals based around how you can use up leftovers.
I hate waste. It drives me nuts when I have to give our leftovers to the dogs or chickens. I get so giddy when I can use ingredients from a previous meal to create another meal on a different day.
Here is how that looks when I am creating my meal plan.
If I cook a roast chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner Monday night, I may put mashed potato patties for breakfast Tuesday morning and chicken pot pie for dinner Tuesday night. This uses up leftover mashed potatoes for breakfast and leftover chicken for dinner.
Not only are you helping in eliminating food waste but you are also saving money!
I always try and use lunch time as my “left over meal”, meaning I try and repurpose my leftovers for lunches. If it works to use a leftover for dinner or breakfast I will, but I find I do most of my re-purposed meals during lunch.
That way we still have a dinner to fill bellies if it’s a flop and no one likes it.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be time consuming.
Creating a successful meal plan every week doesn’t have to be super time consuming and daunting. In fact, I would argue that when you actually dedicate a time to sit down and menu plan, it takes less time then if you are cooking on the fly and figuring out what to eat as you go.
Putting the effort in up front is so worth it and will relieve so much of your stress in the week!
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