If you are anything like me, you are busy with the kids, school, housework, appointments, bills, and all kinds of other stuff all day long and dinner time just kind of sneaks up on you. It happens to me all the time, well I can say happened to me all the time. Menu planning is an area I have struggled with off and on for many years...okay, honestly, probably since I got married. It really isn't my favorite thing to do, but it is extremely helpful. So today I am going to share how you can cut the menu madness. (I think I started a series on cutting the madness without even realizing it.)
Where do I start? I start my menu planning just by planning dinners. That is the easiest place for me to start with it. This year I hope to expand my planning to breakfast and lunch too, but I am just not there yet and that is okay. I will get there. I start off by sitting down with our calendar for the month and mark out everything I know we have going on - Wednesdays are church night, Sundays we will be at church in the mornings until at least noon, every few Tuesdays my hubby runs basketball at church, gatherings, etc. Those are the nights I try to plan out a crock pot meal. Once I have a general idea of our schedule for the month, I check the freezers and the pantry to see what we have on hand. This tells me what meats we have so I can plan around that and what veggies we have on hand to have as sides or to go in main dishes. The next step for me is Pinterest (you can follow me by clicking the link). I check out the recipes we love, the ones we want to try, and the ones we have tried in previous months. I then start adding meals to our calendar and moving the recipes (the ones on Pinterest) to the board for that month's menu. I started doing this so I don't have to try and go back and find which recipe I was looking at during my planning. I might have a small Pinterest addiction and lots of boards and LOTS of pins so it is important I can find what I am looking for when I go on there. (I plan to do some organizing of my boards, but it is not a top priority right now.) That is pretty much it. That is how I do it. I combine our family favorites, tried and true recipes, and new recipes to come up with a month's worth of dinners at a time. It usually takes a couple of hours once a month to come up with the next month's menu plan, but in the long run it is worth it. It saves me the dreaded question of "What's for dinner?" and the even more dreaded answer of "I don't know." Now I know what is for dinner every night of the week, I plan my shopping trips accordingly, and I know what time I need to start prepping dinner to have it done on time.
One last thing that has helped me a lot is our tradition of "Pizza Friday." Friday's are always some sort of pizza night in our house. I blogged about it here. This means my toughest decision on Friday is what form of pizza we will have and I always have the ingredients for it on hand. This keeps it simple. You can find January's Menu plan post here. You can also find other month's menu plans on my Pinterest page. Please note that I do move recipes around some when we find something we really like and want to make again.
Do you do any menu planning? How do you decide, "What's for dinner?"