Monday Munchies: Menu Planning

Menu plan

I was recently asked about how I plan our meals so I thought I would share here – both for my friend that asked – and for anyone else who is interested.  First, a disclaimer:  we do not always eat all of the meals I plan for the week.  Life happens.  T-ball practice gets cancelled so we decide to eat after the kids.  Mike comes home and suggests we take the kids to Delaney’s.  Whatever I have planned just doesn’t sound good.  You get the idea… 

Each week, usually on Saturday or Sunday morning, I look over our schedule for the week and send Mike an email that outlines everything we have going on that week – for both sanity and so I don’t have to repeat myself a million times throughout the week.  Once I know what our schedule looks like, I make the meal plan for the week.  Crockpot and easy meals when I suspect Mike will be home late or there is an afternoon activity on the schedule such as a playdate, t-ball, etc.  Usually, I take whatever meals we didn’t manage to eat the previous week and automatically assume we will eat them the following week. 

We keep a running grocery list of items needed on the counter next to the stove.  As we run out of staple items, I put them on the list.  There is always something on the list – usually within minutes of returning from the store!  I don’t plan out specific breakfasts or lunches for the week.  For breakfast, the kids typically choose some combo of leftover waffles from the freezer, cinnamon bread toasted, bananas or other fruit, smoothies, cereal, eggs, or oatmeal.  We always have these items on hand.  For lunches, it’s basically another short list – fruit, yogurt, string cheese, peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter crackers, cheese and crackers, grilled cheese, leftovers, and just basics that we have on hand.  I will need to be more organized for lunches next year as all three kiddos will be taking their lunch to preschool. Today, they had half of a kiwi, carrot shreds, a piece of string cheese, fresh banana bread with butter, and milk.

Banana Bread Lunch

The meal plan above is for this week and I went to the store yesterday afternoon to pick up the items needed (Mike usually goes at least once during the week too).  Tonight, after the kiddos go to bed, Mike and I will have cashew chicken, rice, and a veggie (probably broccoli).  The kiddos are having pasta, yogurt, watermelon, and a veggie.  On Tuesday, we’ll eat together early since Bo has t-ball.  On the agenda is crockpot pizza, breadsticks, and salad.  And so it goes.  We are having friends over on Saturday night, so I have a few extra items on the list and Sunday has become our pizza and movie night, so that evening stays pretty consistent.  Typically we have pizza and strawberries. 

You’ll notice on my menu plan there is also an area I labeled “Other”.  If I know I’m making a snack for a playdate, baking something, or trying something new, those usually go in the “other” column.  Mostly so I won’t forget to make them after I’ve picked up the ingredients.  I made banana bread with some older bananas this morning.  I’m also planning to make avocado fries this week (probably with regular fries as well on Wednesday with our tuna bunwiches) that I found on Pinterest.  Where else?  Last week, I baked several times for playdates.  These extras vary each week.  If I know I need to make a batch of waffles for breakfast one morning, I usually add that here too.

I’m not sure if this is really helpful or not.  Mostly, I just try to keep a running list of items we need and at least have a plan of some type so it isn’t 5:30 and I have no idea what to cook.  Having the list on the wall in the kitchen (inspired by Pinterest, of course) also helps me to remember to put meat out, start crockpot meals, etc. in the morning. 

How do you meal plan for your family?  Do you write out all meals or just plan dinner?  Any tips or tricks to share?

5 thoughts on “Monday Munchies: Menu Planning

  1. I’ve been wanting to make one of those meal planning “boards” ever since getting on Pinterest…just haven’t done it. ugh! When I do make a menu for the week, it’s usually just on a scratch piece of paper on the fridge. Doesn’t look nearly as nice as your frame.

    Of course, at this point, I don’t even feel like making dinner…whatever is easy, quick or can be picked up/delivered sounds wonderful! 🙂

  2. This isn’t really a tip for now but after the kiddos are say 8 years old+.

    When I was growing up we each had our own “night” to make & choose what we had for dinner each week. We were a family of 4 my Mom, Brother & even my Dad had a “night”…we went out to eat on Fridays & Sundays we had frozen pizza and popcorn. We were responsible for putting items needed on the grocery list. Of course Mom would add garden items to our menu when they were in season. Also, if we were stumped Mom would help us pick a recipe or something to make. Also, the other dinner “chores” were divided as well…like set & clear table, wash dishes & dry dishes (we did not have a dishwasher growing up). There were “guidelines” which included there needed to be a main dish, vegetable, etc… Dad having a “night” also helped my brother see boys can cook too…

    This was a great method…it helped my brother and I now that we are adults. Also, it helps with picky eaters since Mom or Dad are not always the bad guy for picking what we didn’t like. I’m sure that my Sister in law would agree that this was a good thing for my brother…she hardly ever cooks. 🙂

  3. I have a binder on the counter. I made blank monthly calendars in Excel that I print out and fill in with our activities. I have weekly pages I also made in Excel (think the kind in teacher plan books). Each day is divided into morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and supper (breakfasts are cereal and oatmeal around here). When I get a chance to meal plan, I make sure the monthly calendar for the week or two weeks I’ll be planning matches my google calendar, then I plan out lunches for the days my hubby works late and suppers for the nights he’s home. The meals he’s not home turn into our “lunch” staple meals (sandwiches, etc.). With the binder, even if I don’t get a meal plan, I write in what we ended up having which gives me an idea of how long it’s been since we’ve had something and sometimes gives me ideas when I am planning. My grocery list is on a dry erase board hanging in the kitchen- one column for things we need really soon, one for things to stock up on when they’re on sale or I have a chance, and one for non-grocery things. I only go grocery shopping once a week at most.

  4. I do my menu weekly and post it on my Google Calendar account that my husband can see. I, too, only do dinners usually. Though, I sometimes put baking on there or a lunch for the weekend if I know we will be home and have something we need to use up.

  5. Cute menu board!

    I make dinner menus weekly, usually on Sunday evening and then adjusted on Monday morning after reviewing the grocery sales flyer in that morning’s paper. I might consult D. about a preference, but I don’t share the menu with him — he is easy to please; I think he’s only complained about 5 recipes in 12 years! I don’t cook every night — too many leftovers. I try to make chicken one night, then use leftover chicken in a salad or wrap the next night, etc. Standards are pasta night, pizza night, soup and fresh bread night, taco or enchilada night, and breakfast-for-dinner night (every 3 weeks — I’ve found that nothing turns a day around more easily than pancakes for dinner!).

    Lunches are fairly haphazard here; I do a lot of “picnic” lunches with fresh fruit, nuts, cheese, and crackers. It’s fun and it gives me an excuse to linger in my favorite part of the grocery store. : )

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