As it is with the menu, so it shall also be with you {part 3 of 52... maybe}

13 February 2012

I am a terrible planner and organizer, and by extension, a kind of lazy and frantic mother. Implementing long term strategies isn't something I think about in between nappy changes, feeding frenzies, and the snooze alarm. So menu planning kind of scares me. Literally. The words menu and planning could not be less intrinsically karen.

One_Bite_200x150But here I find myself a month into menu planning (project five from One Bite at a Time, which is also available for free download). I'm not talking a freezer stocked with a month's worth of meals, casseroles, and soups. I'm talking a week. One week. That's it. My menu planning is for one week at a time. And then I start again.

Here's how it works:

Start with the sales.

On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning when the sale papers come out, I scour for the cheapest produce. For us, it's usually chicken and/or ground beef (sometimes roast or pork).

Search recipes based on produce.

Once the produce is decided, I peruse my recipe book or my Delicious account for dinner recipes. When I find a few recipes or some meal stand-bys I know we all love, I go back to the sale paper and look for additions: side dishes, snacks, veg, dairy... anything that will complement the meals or feed us in between times.

Only plan for dinner.

The key here is I only plan for dinner (as Tsh suggests). Breakfast is very low key at our house: coffee for everyone and cereal for most (I kid). Lunchtime finds us all scattered, so we usually get by on sandwiches or leftovers or more coffee.

Coupons if you have 'em.

So once I have my menu, and then my shopping list off my menu, I check coupons. Usually those are few and far between. I could shop only off coupons and then have a fridge full of junk we'd never eat, so I'm careful to only clip and use what I know we'll eat. But occasionally they line up and I know I can stock up and save more!


Write it down.

I write my original menu plan for the week in a notebook, but I also put it in our google calendar with pop-up reminders and links to the recipes online. This way, I can see and display the menu for the week, but also receive a daily reminder on my phone or email.

Only planning for one meal a day, one week at a time, takes so much pressure off! And I'm not a terrific cook (we all know the man is the culinary gifted one in our family), but I do get a tremendous sense of accomplishment through the planning, the saving, and sometimes the cooking. And we're not running to the shop every other day for something. And the kids are being well-fed from all food groups. And the man, from time to time, gets the night off. No, really, I am consciously trying to up my game in this area, to free him up to do more of what he loves and needs to do.

This may not be rocket science to you, but it most definitely has rocked our world. Knowing that I can do it, empowers me to want to do it. And if I can and want to do it, there's hope for anyone.

If you're a master meal-planner, got any tips for beginners?

{this post includes an affiliate link. If you click and purchase Tsh's ebook, I am compensated a small percentage}


  1. I find my life is so much easier when I plan menus, but I don't do it often.

    My goal is to plan 3 weeks or so of menus that I could basically rotate.

  2. I am loving these one bite at a time posts...they are keeping me motivated to form new habits...I too just plan a week at a time for meals...but have been pretty good about this since you enlightened me on the daily docket this summer, which I turned into the weekly docket and have been using pretty much ever since.

  3. I plan two weeks of meals around what meat/cheap produce is available and my running pantry. (I keep a base inventory of certain items.) The catch is, I don't assign the meals to certain days. Instead, I decide either the day before or early in the day what fits our schedule that day, so I don't feel "trapped", and I build in "leftover" days on days where the schedule is overly crazy.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions! I'm thinking that since we're a month or so into this, I'm gonna try rotating the weekly menu, rotating it twice a month... we'll see though. :)