Why Should I Plan A Weekly Menu?

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on January 12, 2009

This week I am out of town, so there is no menu plan. Instead, I thought I’d take a few minutes to discuss the process of making a menu plan.

I can practically hear your thoughts from here.

“Why should I plan out a menu? Where is the spontaneity in that? I mean, what if I don’t WANT to have spaghetti on Wednesdays, or I see chicken at a great sale price on Friday? And anyway, it just sounds like a lot of work, figuring out what I have, what I want to make. . . locking it all in to the calendar. . .”

You know, I used to be just like you. But I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Menu plans are one of the best things that have come down the pike in home organization. Having a dinner plan helps me have a more relaxed evening with my family. It really only takes a few minutes of effort and thought to put together, and the plan totally removes that frantic 4:30 “Oh NO! What am I going to cook for dinner” panic attack. I have found that loosing the anxiety has more than made up for any loss of spontaneity.

Menu planning has saved me a lot of money over the years. When I plan menus, I can use items that I have on hand, or else plan in the time and trip necessary to pick up additional items at my favorite discount stores. When I don’t menu plan I find myself running out to the locally owned, extremely high priced grocery store to pick up ingredients that I need at premium prices. If you see that chicken on sale, go ahead! Buy it and throw it in the freezer to use in next week’s menu plan.

Menu planning has also drastically reduced the amount of wasted food in our house-now I notice what is lurking in the crisper drawer and use it up before it passes the point of no return. Remember, wasted food is wasted money!

Menu planning is very simple!

1. Take a quick look in the refrigerator, freezer and cupboards to see what you have on hand, and what must be used up that week.

2. Take a look at your calendar to see if you have any special considerations that week. Maybe you already have dinner plans-no need to plan a meal that night. Or perhaps you have appointments that will keep you out of the house all day-that isn’t the night to place a complicated dish with lots of prep time.

3. Decide on the meals using the considerations above. I cook, so it is easy for me to just pull various meal ideas out of my mental file. If you aren’t good at thinking up meals you can browse through your favorite cookbooks, or even check out past menu plans that other folks have used.

4. Write out the plan. I simply list out the days of the week, then start filling in the meals. Of course the special consideration meals go first. Have a day with not a lot of prep time, the crockpot meal goes there. Just going to be me and the kids, breakfast for dinner (or another meal the kiddos love but that doesn’t jazz Yankee Bill). The chicken in the fridge is only good for another 2 days? Stick that on Monday so it gets used up.

5. Look at the plan. If you don’t look at it and use it, it will not help you :)

That’s it. Not a hard process at all!

If plans change, or you just don’t feel like eating that spaghetti on Wednesday, simply drop the meal, or rotate it with another day. I’ve been knowntot make Wednesday’s dinner on Monday and then shift everything else from the week down. . .It’s not like the menu police are going to come and arrest you or anything.

Menu planning is a guideline for your own use and convenience, not a law carved in stone. So if your friends call up and invite you over for dinner, toss the plans for curry out the window and go have some fun. You can still be spontaneous.

I challenge you all to make a menu plan this week, then come back next week and let me know how it worked out! Who is in???

Photo by Petite Hiboux

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