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One of the biggest ways that I simplify my life is through menu planning. I absolutely love my menu plans because:
- They help me save money
- They keep my organized
- They keep my family healthy
- They allow me to be more creative
A menu plan is an awesome idea, right? I’m sure you can think of a few ways a menu plan might benefit you.
You might want to menu plan because you’re a working Mama who wants to be healthy and eat as little fast food as possible. Or maybe, you have little kids and don’t have the time or energy for multiple grocery store trips. You might even be an empty nester who wants to maximize her time instead of spending it on silly things like figuring out what’s for dinner each night. No matter what your reason, it’s important to use that as motivation to create a successful menu plan.
A successful menu plan..What is it and how do I create one?
A successful menu plan is a menu plan that is effective and that sticks. For menu planning to be successful in your life, you need to customize the process to fit your specific needs! You need to make your menu plan your own and something that is easily do-able.
A common misconception about menu planning is that it takes a lot of time and effort. Not if you use my system! You’ll be able to create your routine and get it down pat!
How can you create a menu plan that will satisfy your needs?
- Consider who you’re cooking for!
Think about your family. You want to include meals that they enjoy or your menu plan will be totally wasted.
- Consider your limits!
Choose realistic meals that you know you can cook. Think about the amount of time you have to cook dinner each night, your skill level and how much you enjoy cooking. It’s better to choose simple meals that don’t require a lot of work than to throw your menu plan out the window because of discouragement.
- Consider your budget
Menu planning should save you money, not cost you more. It’s important to think about your personal budget when planning. For example, my budget can definitely allow chicken and fresh produce, but if I were to throw a meal in there that needs 20 different specialty items..well, that might be the only meal we get all week! It’s best to have a set amount in mind and stick with it.
Okay..How Do I Get Started?
Find Your System
Before you begin menu planning, you’ll want to figure out your system. For some of us, menu planning might be as simple as writing your meals down on a sheet of computer paper. For others, menu planning might mean a cute notebook with a color coding system. Whatever you decide, you’ll want to be prepared. Right now, I use a free grocery list/menu plan printable.
If you are someone who loves variety, you’ll want to have a rotation of meals to choose from. Cookbooks are an awesome way to find new recipes. I can find fun cookbooks thrifted very easily. You can also use my favorite site of all time, Pinterest. I have a few boards FULL of great, easy family-friendly recipes.
You’ll want to make sure that you have a set time to menu plan. When I menu plan each week, it takes me about an hour to create our menu plan and write a grocery list. This is after a little practice and it will most likely take you longer when you’re new! I like to make menu planning time “me-time” whenever possible. I keep it light and fun by putting on some Mama music and relaxing with a good drink.
Here’s my system..
I use this grocery list and menu planner from A Girl and Her Blog. I love how organized it is and it’s easy to have everything in one place!
The first thing I do when making my menu plan is scope out the weekly ads. Right now, I shop once a week because I love being able to shop the weekly ad sales! It’s fun to see what healthy items are on sale and what I can make from them. I usually have my cookbooks and Pinterest account open to get inspiration.
The second thing I do is scan my pantry, fridge, and freezer for any items that I have on hand. I try to pair these with the sale items for maximum savings.
I plan my dinners for each night, along with a list of breakfasts and lunches. I follow the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan, so having a visual keeps me on track!
After I have my meals written down, I’ll write down each and every item that I need. This means that nothing gets left out, which means less trips to the store, which means less money spent on impulse purchases.
I do my best to stick to this menu plan. So far, it’s been a great blessing to my family!
What about you? What would you menu planning system look like? Let me know your success stories!