Menu Plan Monday and my Meal Planning Method

Last week I abandoned my meal plan entirely due to illness. So this week I'll be making the things I wanted to make last week. We are going to be out of town Friday night through Sunday, which you'll see reflected in my meal plan. Sunday night I’m making something that is really easy to throw together without any prep for when we get back home hungry and tired.

Menu Plan 3.7.11-3.13-11

Monday: Turnip Cheese Chowder (based on Potato Cheese Chowder from Simply in Season)
prep: make dough for hamburger buns, soak white beans to cook in AM
Tuesday: White bean dip with sourdough crackers, cheese, salad, and fruit
prep: AM - bake hamburger buns
Wednesday: Burgers on homemade buns, salad, roasted veggies (from our winter CSA)
prep: start sourdough tortillas
Thursday: tuna salad
prep: cook tortillas
Friday: finish leftovers and leave town!
Saturday: out of town
Sunday: Quick Clam Linguini (with brown rice pasta) from Southern Living’s Easy Weeknight Favorites

You’ll notice I wrote “cook tortillas” but there is no meal involving tortillas. I was inspired by this post to have tortillas around more often for quick meals. So these will be waiting in the freezer for the next time we need them. :) I love Wardeh’s sourdough tortilla recipe from her e-course.

My Meal Planning Method
I have found the easiest way for me to plan meals is to choose daily “meal themes.” That makes it really simple to decide what to cook on each day of the week! When I sit down to plan the menu for the week, I look at my meal themes and choose a meal that fits into each category. Most recipes I use are dishes I’ve made before, or recipes in my “recipes to try” google doc - where I save links to recipes on blogs that look good. Here is my master meal plan that I use for reference:

lunch: soup/casserole
dinner: leftovers
lunch: leftovers/grilled cheese
dinner: grain & legume
lunch: tuna, salmon, egg, or chicken salad sandwiches
dinner: leftovers
lunch: leftovers/bean dip
dinner: Meat as Main
lunch: leftovers/peanut butter sandwiches
dinner: Italian (pizza or pasta)
lunch & dinner: leftovers (we try to rest on Saturdays)
lunch: homemade mac & cheese or leftovers (something fast for when we return home from church hungry)
dinner: Breakfast for Dinner (waffles, pancakes, egg strata, quiche, breakfast meat...)

On the days that I teach in the early evening, I make our main meal for lunch so there is no panicking in the evening - we just reheat leftovers whenever we get hungry.

I find it helpful to have a rough list of meals that fit each category, so that when I’m meal planning I can just glance at it and fill in the blank. It’s helpful to also write your grocery list as you are planning your meals so you don’t miss anything! I generally grocery shop on Thursdays, so I make my meal plan on Wednesdays. Since we buy much of our food locally, I am often planning meals based on produce that is in season, too. I tend to switch up my meal themes and schedule a couple times a year or whenever I feel the need for a change. (I’m always striving to find the balance between variety and consistency!)

If you're not sure how to choose your meal themes, try this: write a list of your family's favorite meals. Once you see them on paper (or on the computer screen), you may be able to divide them into themes easily. Here are some examples (in addition to the themes I use): sandwiches, main dish salads, beef, chicken, seafood, meatless, Mexican, ethnic (such as Indian or Thai), crock-pot, one-dish meal, favorite dinners, fast dinners, etc.

For awhile I tried the Monthly Meal Planning method that Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking uses, but I found that by the time I got to the second week in the month, my plans had already shifted enough that I had to redo the meal plan. So it actually made more work for me, instead of less. If you are the type of family that is more structured and less fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, it might work for you!

How about you? Do you plan meals? What methods/ideas have you found helpful? What struggles have you had? If you don’t plan your meals, why not?

Check out Organizing Junkie for more Menu Plan Monday ideas.

1 comment:

  1. I plan meals, but I have been having a hard time planning the appropriate quantity. Our grocery bill has gone way up since I've gone grain free, but I am finding that I am ending up with a lot of leftovers. I freeze them of course, but then I'm not sure how to adjust the following week. Still working out the kinks, but at least I have a freezer full of soups :)