Menu Planning 101

Do you menu plan? I do. I don’t really know how to manage if I don’t. I feel like I’m trying to keep up with so many other things (kids, activities, cleaning, working out) that if I had to figure out dinner in the middle of a crazy day… well, we would end up eating frozen pizza every night. Here are some things I look for when menu planning:

1. Will my kids eat it?
2. Should my kids try it? (We like exposing them to different cuisines)
3. Is it easy?
4. Is it healthy?

I’m not in the stage of my life where I can make a fancy gourmet meal every night. I look forward to when I can do that, but with small children… it’s not happening. Maybe on the weekends, but even then it’s more like “Let’s grab a beer and see what can we throw on the grill.” Here’s what I do when I sit down and menu plan:

  1. Look at the week. I use my trusty Emily Ley planner I mentioned in the Friday Finds and see what the week holds for us. Do we have any activities in the evenings? Are those activities going to cut in to time preparing for dinner? If so, I’ll prep the meal earlier in the day or plan to use a slow cooker or instant pot recipe.
  2. Plan variety. My husband usually takes our leftovers to work for lunch, so I try to make sure that we aren’t having the same kind of food, say Mexican, two nights in a row as that would be four meals of Mexican food in two days for him. Eh, maybe Mexican food is a bad example. I could eat it every day!
  3. Write down the menu. Sounds easy, but I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t written it down and then I’m staring in my pantry trying to figure out what I had planned. Sometimes I just write it in my planner. Sometimes I put it on our family Google calendar. Sometimes I get fancy and put it on the chalkboard. Other times it’s on the back of an envelope. It doesn’t matter where… just write it down.
  4. Make my shopping list based off my menu. I know there are more economical ways to grocery shop, but right now this works for us. I also get super OCD and rewrite my shopping list grouping all produce together, all meat together, all canned good together. It saves me time at the grocery store.
  5. Go shopping.  I usually go early (really early) Friday or Saturday morning. HEB plays great music on Saturday mornings and I dance up and down the aisles. I look ridiculous, but it makes grocery shopping so much more fun. One day I had the kids with me and the Spice Girls “Wannabe” started playing and I was pumped. For the first time, I saw pure horror and embarrassment from children. I know it won’t be the last time.

Other things to note:

Sometimes I find slow cooker recipes add to my already busy morning so when I plan I take a look at what our mornings, too. If there is a particularly busy day – morning and afternoon, I’ll prepare a slow cooker meal the night before. This one is a family favorite – Skinnytaste Slow Cooker Pernil!

Sheet Pan meals have become a go-to in our household. They are easy to prep, easy to clean and delicious. You’ll see a lot of them pop up in my menus.

I usually plan a super easy night, like frozen pizza and salad – SkinnyPizza is my favorite brand – if we don’t have any plans to eat out during the week.

I like to keep a jar of pasta sauce and pasta on-hand, for those days when things just don’t go as planned.

So, here is our menu for this week. I’ll start posting our menus on Saturday mornings so you can follow along and get ideas. You’ll see most of these come from SkinnyTaste. She is my favorite!!

Saturday: Creme de la Crumb’s Jambalaya with salad
Sunday: Skinnytaste Turkey Club Lettuce Wraps with Kettle Chips (the kids had bread)
Monday: Cheeseburger Casserole
Tuesday: H’s Meet The Teacher; Food Trucks will be out at the school so we will eat there
Wednesday: Grilled Chicken Shawarma with Cous Cous and Cucumbers
Thursday: Skillet Sweet Potato Chicken Hash with Eggs (kids will have pancakes, too!)
Friday: Out with friends

Any other Menu Planning questions?



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