My Menu Planning Adventure

So in the first three weeks of living in a new home, a new city, a new state even and with a new husband it has become quite evident that simply going to the store, throwing food in for the week and somehow making meals out of it is not a good plan! The last grocery trip we took we wound up spending more than I was hoping, I had to go back halfway through the two weeks, and we STILL have run out of food about 3 or 4 days before we were supposed to!

So this week I will be taking a new approach and doing something I’ve seen done many times, but have never had the discipline (or really the necessity until now) to do myself. And that is….*cue drumroll*…menu planning!

So to begin I should probably preface this by saying that I LOVE organizing! So the idea of sitting down and planning out meals for a month and making spreadsheets and lists and whatever else I can think of to make is thrilling! However, this project turned out to be a teeny bit more than I may have bargained for.

I began with basically a blank monthly calendar that I printed off from earlybirdmom.com. You can find the printable here if you’re interested. I numbered out the dates for the four weeks that I was planning for and just like that I was ready to go! So far, easy peasy and it looks great!

Now for the fun part! I brainstormed 12-14 meal ideas for lunch and again for dinner, made a list of them, and then started inputting them into the calendar. *SIDE NOTE: I much prefer doing everything pen and paper and then maybe putting stuff on my phone or computer later if I want. This whole process probably could have been much easier if I had just done it all on my computer on a spreadsheet. *

From there I wrote out each of the meals on my list, how many times in the month we would be eating each one, and wrote out a list of ingredients for each. This is page one of two for that project:

Finally I used that list, and went through our cabinets, fridge, and freezer and created a shopping list that I took to both Aldi and Walmart (okay, I took it to Aldi and forgot it at Walmart – had to go from memory – whoops!).

The beautiful part of this is that I know exactly what our options are for meals, I know that I have plenty of ingredients for any of those meals, AND I know that this will all last us AT LEAST a month, though probably more (we tend to have more leftovers than I “budgeted” for). The frustrating part of this is that 1) this took forever! And 2) I want to be flexible and not stick rigidly to our calendar of meals, which means that the calendar is now beginning to look like this (and we’re only on week 1!):

So, while I would call my first adventure in menu planning a success (!) I have been browsing Pinterest and I believe I have some fun (and perhaps also bright and colorful!) ideas to improve upon this system for next month! Stay tuned for part 2 of the menu planning adventure which will almost certainly be named “Pinterest Projects: success or flop?”

P.S. How do you go about menu planning? Or do you menu plan? Any tips or advice for me?? Fell free to use the comment box below!!

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2 thoughts on “My Menu Planning Adventure

  1. I was never great at the monthly meal planning, simply because we like flexibility. I usually plan a week or 2 weeks at a time and even then meals get moved around. My advice, don’t plan too many “gourmet” or specialty meals for one month. Keep it basic with foods you know you like and then you can throw in one or two new recipes a month, just be sure there’s leftovers just in case it flops 🙂
    Good luck on your quest!

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  2. For us, meal planning involved allowing the rest of the family to help make choices and have less “ugh!” moments. For me, I loved having a menu board and all the choices available made it much simpler, I spent our grocery money with more intention. I agree with Shawnda, on the specialty meals – keep them to a minimum, and add them if they pass. Before our daughter married, she went through my cookbooks and recipes for her favorites. I copied them and put them in a 3-ring binder, so she could add her own as the years passed. It’s great to be able to fix favorites, but adding to those are the favorites you develop as a new family! Having a menu board didn’t mean I couldn’t be flexible or there weren’t changes, it was meant as a guideline. It also helped us to get out of the rut we were in by eating the same meals all the time. Here is my blog post on my menu board. Let us know what works for ya’ll!

    http://aspiringmom2three.blogspot.com/2012/02/menu-board.html

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