My least favorite part of the week used to be sitting down to create the grocery list. First, I would have to sort out what we were having for dinner the next week. That would involve conversations with the people in my household about what they might like to have, sorting through recipe books, saved recipes, and Pinterest. Then, I would write down all the things we needed for each dinner, and add to that the other assorted things we needed as I remembered them. Who needs that kind of stress in their lives?
Four years ago I began monthly meal planning. I purchased the dry erase calendar I shared in my last post, and hung it in the kitchen right next to my stove. Having two children with very active schedules, I needed to have a plan for my dinner planning, and so I started out by assigning each weeknight a “theme”. This is what we used back then: Monday- meatless, Tuesday – Mexican, Wednesday – pasta, Thursday – pork, Friday – junk food, Saturday – soup or grilled, depending on the season, Sunday – casserole, roast, whole chicken etc; think classic Sunday dinner. Just to clarify, Friday night meant grocery shopping after dinner. Junk food is my name for anything in a bag or box: chicken patties, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza. Anything my husband could cook without a recipe, and I didn’t have to make.
Assigning each day of the week a theme, meant that I could go through an entire month without having duplicate dinners if I didn’t want to. I could take Tuesday and assign to it, for example: tacos, chicken fajitas, quinoa taco salad, and Mexican chicken and rice bake. Then I was done with Tuesday and that category of recipes.
Eventually I created lists on my computer for each night of the week, and I began adding our favorite recipe names to them, and where they were found: cookbook names, our personal cookbooks, or Pinterest. This sped up my meal planning even more. I could plan for the next month on a sheet of notepaper, while still be able to reference the month we were in. This helped avoid that, “Didn’t we just have this?” problem.
These days, my meal planning looks a little different than it did back then. My children are both in college, and I have developed a few health issues that make eating more complicated. Fortunately for me, I am married to the world’s most flexible eater.
I still use my dry erase calendar, and I still plan my menus out one month at a time. We no longer have themed nights, as we eat meatless every night of the week. Once fall starts, I do plan on soup once a week until around June. I rely on my cookbooks and my personal Pinterest page for inspiration. If you click on that page, you can see that I have about twenty-one boards sorted into different food categories. The ones I use and pin to the most are: meatless, soups, and salads. Oh, and maybe breakfast.
I start a list on a sheet of notepaper shortly after each new month starts and I’ve written that month’s menu on the dry erase calendar. As I find recipes I want to try, I jot them down. This helps me as I go about planning the next month’s menu. I will dive into the list, and how I incorporate it into my Bullet Journal on Friday.
Having a monthly menu plan simplifies my grocery shopping as well. I can start my list early in the week, already knowing what we will be having the next week for dinner. On a smaller dry erase board that hangs on my fridge, I keep a running list of items that we run out of during the week. Once I have all of the dinner items on my list, I add the items from the dry erase board to my list, and then take inventory of my fridge, cabinets, and pantry. No more stressing out over what to have for dinner, or what we need at the market.
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