Southern Mom Loves: How to Menu Plan

How to Menu Plan

Friday, March 7, 2014

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Menu Plan

Okay, I admit: I'm a little OCD about organizing things. I'm not saying I organize ALL the things, just some that are super time-consuming and are not my favorite things to do. Like planning a weekly menu, making grocery lists, and doing the shopping. The reason for planning any of it in advance is primarily to cut our grocery bill, be more aware of what we're eating during the week, save time in the grocery store, and make sure I'm not rummaging in the fridge for a last-minute dinner to cook. If you have a plan in place, it will also cut down, or out, your eating out (or ordering in.) If you don't know how or where to start, read on.

First things first: Write down a weekly menu. It doesn't matter where: a notepad, a planner, a menu board. Just write down 7 dishes Sunday-Saturday (or longer if you like.) That way you can see at a glance if you've got pasta on the brain or are eating too much meat or not enough veggies. Gather up your recipes.

How to Menu Plan board
No judging.

The following are some of my go-to sites for recipes. I subscribe to their newsletters and put them in a Recipe folder in my mail program. That way, when it's time to plan the menu, I just rummage in that folder for recipes and print out the ones I want to use; this comes in handy making your grocery list. You can start your own recipe binder with the printouts so that you have your family's favorites all in one place. I'll show you mine later.

Once A Month Meals - (affiliate link) Amazing resource for menu planning, and they are categorized by the types of foods your family may eat: Traditional, Paleo, Diet, Gluten & Dairy-free, Vegetarian, even Baby Food for those moms out there making it themselves. They are a monthly cook and freeze resource that give you the tools to cook and freeze meals for an entire month. They make monthly menus for each category and offer a low-cost subscription service that gives you access to cool planning tools for your family size (also, you can swap out the meals you know your family won't eat), grocery lists, and even printable labels so you know what's in the freezer. If you don't want to shell out for the extras, their recipes are free, and give you directions for freezing. Subscribe to their newsletters and you'll get their monthly menus right in your inbox. This site is my go-to. Update: I am now an OAMM Affiliate! I tested out the Pro plan and did a review post here and here. That also means that if you click on my Once A Month Meals links or Ads and sign up, I'll make $5. Woo-hoo!

Annie's Eats - I just want to live in her kitchen. She makes some of the most gorgeous food I've ever seen and oh! the cupcakes! If I need to bake something pretty, this is where I go and I'm never let down. There are also recipes for lots of other delicious foods and her photographs are amazing. Don't be intimidated. You can do it!

Italian Food Forever - I love Italian dishes, so this is a site that I love that gives you authentic cuisine from a lovely lady that runs a gorgeous farmhouse rental in Umbria for half of the year. Fresh foods, delicious dishes.

The Blender Girl - When you need some healthy recipes to get you back on track from all that rich Italian food, this site has everything you could possibly need for yummy, healthy food, shakes of all colors, and juices that will get you up and at 'em.

Then: Got your week of dishes written down? Got your recipes? Good. Now for the grocery list. Go through each recipe Sunday through Saturday and list the ingredients and amounts on your grocery list.  I made a handy printout so that I can just check most things off and write the amount beside it. Do you want it? Here. Don't forget to include the things you need for breakfasts and lunches; you can plan those in the same way, or just pick up some peanut butter & jelly ;) Use the list to go through and pull out any coupons you may have and go! Making this list really helps cut down on grocery costs & time spent shopping because I go from the list without picking up extras that I don't really need for that week and skip browsing. I'm in and out.

How to Menu Plan grocery list
Needz moar coffee

Once I have all that done, I 3-hole punch my printouts and file them in my binder. The left-hand pocket is for recipes that sounded good, but aren't on the menu yet; my To Try. The recipes I've tried and are keeping are filed under tabs by Main Ingredient, and the recipes for the week are in the rings right on top so that I only have to open the binder to see the next recipe on my menu. When I'm done, I file it.

How to Menu Plan recipe binder
Not too OCD, right? right? Ugh.

Benefits: Less time in the grocery store (major plus.) You spend less by buying only what you need. You can see at a glance what you're having throughout the week and can pull the things you need out of the freezer the night before. You'll always be prepared come dinner time (maybe not always mentally), by having everything you need for the dish, and you'll shock and awe your guests when they see your weekly menu. Seriously, I don't know why this impresses people so much, but it does. Maybe they're just hungry?

It takes a little time to get used to doing this weekly, but once you see the benefits in your own home, it is well worth it and will become a habit you won't want to break.

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