The start of a new year often spurs us into action, and we begin the attempt to reinvent every aspect of our lives. We find ourselves knee deep in new planners, self-help books, gym memberships, trips to the Goodwill and labeled boxes. With the busyness of our normal daily routines, these added activities usually bring more chaos to our lives. We find ourselves scrambling for time and having to prioritize what comes first. If you’re like me, dinner is usually the last thing on your mind during your busy day. Before you know it, it’s time for dinner and you have no energy left to plan and cook a meal. Does this sound familiar to you?
Do you find yourself venturing to the nearest food chain restaurant to avoid having to cook a last minute dinner? Well, today I’m going to help you simplify your life with a Complete Guide to Weekly Menu Planning.
The Benefits of Menu Planning
There are three big benefits to your household when you decide to start start planning weekly menus.
- Menu planning saves you time. Yes, you must invest time at the beginning of each week to plan your menu and shop for necessary items, but you will save much more time in the long run. Think of the moments you spend staring into your freezer or pantry, weighing out all options before you actually start cooking your meals each night. No more of that with a menu plan! Guilty of quick trips to the grocery store to buy items needed to complete your meal? Say goodbye to that, too!
- Menu planning saves you money. Yes, by following my tips for menu planning, you will save money each week. No more impulse restaurant meals or trips to the store. No more wasted food that has to be thrown out. Also, heading to the grocery store with a defined list will definitely save you money in the long run.
- Menu planning helps you eat healthier. Planning out a menu each week cuts down on your consumption of fast food and processed food items. Thinking ahead helps you stock up on the fruits and vegetables needed to create your family well-balanced meals.
Tips on Weekly Menu Planning
Creating a weekly menu plan for your family really is simpler than you think. It requires setting some time aside each week to plan your meals and create a shopping list before heading to the grocery store. That’s it! Once you start planning weekly meals, it will get easier and take even less time. Here are some tips to get you started!
Tip #1: Take a look at your perishables. What foods do you have on hand that need to be consumed this week before reaching expiration? Be sure to make a list of these items and find recipes so you can include them in your meal plan for the week.
Tip #2: Shop the sale ads. Take a look at the sale ads each week, and plan your meals around the foods that are on sale. This will save you money and provide you with the fresh produce items needed for healthy meals. Utilize websites like Kraft.com that allow you to search for recipes for particular food items that may be on sale.
Tip #3: Keep a well stocked pantry. Save money by stocking up on items you use regularly while they are on sale and limit your time spent grocery shopping. A good rule of thumb is to buy 6 weeks worth of items while they are on sale. This should last you until they are put on sale again.
Tip #4: Keep your foods organized. It’s good to know what items you have on hand to better prepare you when making your grocery list each week, so be sure to keep your pantry organized. Placing dry goods in clear containers so you can visually see your supply is a great idea. Sort canned goods and jars and organize them in groups on your pantry shelves. Some people even keep an inventory sheet of pantry items. This tip goes for your refrigerator and freezer, too. Remember it’s important to know what food supplies you have on hand when planning your weekly meals.
Tip #5: Make a shopping list for items you need for the week. Making a shopping list not only ensures that you have the items you need to make your weekly meals, but it also limits your impulse purchases while at the grocery store. Commit to buying only the items on your list and don’t buy items that are not needed.
Tip #6: Make a list of meals you like to prepare. Having a list of meals your family enjoys will make meal planning a lot easier. Once you have your list of perishables and sale items for the week, look at the list for meal ideas.
Tip #7: Post your meal plan where you will see it, and stick to it. Maybe you want to hang it on your refrigerator or at your Family Organization Station. I choose to list my meals in my daily planner. Be sure to choose whatever method works best for you.
When following your new weekly menu plan, remember it’s been created to make your life easier. Don’t stress if something comes up and you have to make changes during the week. Sometimes I have to swap the meals for Thursday and Saturday to allow more prep time because of an unscheduled event. That’s OK, because I already have everything I need on hand to make that happen since I have a plan. Now you can have one, too!