How to Menu Plan – My Weekly Process

Every week I try really hard to be organized – especially with my menu planning.  There was a while there when I fell off the band-wagon.  I hadn’t been planning and every night would be filled with stress wondering what my kids would eat the next night.  And that’s just the kids… the adults were not eating healthy and I never seemed to have the right foods/ingredients in the house.

So, for the past few weeks I’ve been spending a little bit of time each Sunday morning planning out our meals.  I don’t make anything fancy or time consuming and I usually don’t even do any cooking on Sunday, but this encourages me to be more on top of things.  No last minute trips to the grocery store and we can eat a bit more healthy.

My Lists

There were two lists I made in order to make menu planning easier:

1.  Weekly Staples List

This list includes all the items we need each week, which doesn’t even include dinner menu items.  This list is what we need to get through the week- including breakfast, lunch and snacks.  Examples of items on this list include cereal, milk, bagels, cream cheese, crackers, pretzels, sandwich bags, fruit, etc.

2.  Meal Ideas List

This is a list of all the meals our family enjoys, along with the ingredients I need to make each meal. For example, if we are having tacos for dinner, I cannot simply buy tacos.  I will need taco shells, taco seasoning, chopped meat, beans, rice, veggies, etc.  It’s an easy dinner to put together, but there are a few grocery items I need in order to make it happen.

Once I have my lists I add to them every now and then.  They make my weekly menu planning super fast.  We may be a bit boring, but I don’t try new things too often and that works for us.  If we do try something new and everyone likes it, then I add it to the list.  Since I’m busy and my kids are happy with what we have on our menu I don’t go out of my way to add to our list… it’s just not necessary.

The Planning Process

Now that I have my lists, I sit down every Sunday morning and make a menu plan – from Sunday through Thursday.  Shabbos menu planning happens later in the week, usually using the same process I’m about to describe.

  1. I plug items from my Meal Ideas list into my weekly schedule.  
  2. As I do this I make a grocery list with all the items I will need.  
  3. I then take my grocery list and shop my pantry, crossing off all items I already have.  Sometimes I do this directly in my grocery list app (I now use Listonic- great sharing capabilities between iPhone/Android couples).  
  4. I also sometimes change my meals based on what I already have in my freezer.

Once I add the weekly staples I need, I’m ready to go shopping.  Although I do this weekly, it could be done bi-weekly or even monthly as well.  Eventually I want to get to the point where I can do this monthly, but right now weekly is where I’m at.

This Week’s Menu

When I make a menu I know that Sunday night is family dinner- meaning we all eat together.  Monday-Thursday the kids eat dinner before DH and I get home, so I usually have two different items on the menu.  This doesn’t mean that I cook twice as much, but I just make sure that we have different things in our house for each of the meals.

In general I prepare my kids meals the night before so it’s ready as soon as they come home from school.   DH and I have a bit more patience and I can make whatever we’re having that night when we get home from work.  As you can see from this week’s menu, there is nothing overly complicated about our menus.

This Week’s Menu

  • Sunday
    • Leftovers
  • Monday
    • Leftovers again (we had a ton of leftovers from Shabbos!)
  • Tuesday
    • Kids- Ravioli + veggies
    • Adults- Salmon
  • Wednesday
    • Kids- Shredded BBQ chicken and rice
    • Adults- Vegetarian Chili and Rice
  • Thursday
    • Kids- Pizza/pizza bagels + veggies
    • Adults- Trader Joe’s veggie burgers

And that’s really my whole process.  A bit wordy, a bit of work up front and a bit of time, but it was all worth it.  Now I start off each week calmly, knowing I’m all prepared for what’s ahead.

How do you menu plan?

Until next time,