Easy Menu Planning

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I use to think, the perfect organized mom created a detailed meal menu plan that was based on the calendar for the week and stuck with that menu throughout the week. Now, I use a different easy, and straightforward system that helps me plan meals with a lot more flexibility. It’s a non-traditional but easy menu planning system.

Trying to live up to the perfect menu plan, set me up to fail with menu planning because I tend to like options and less rigid schedules to follow. However, having no plan and just food in the fridge and cupboards led me to disorganization, overspending, expired food, and hungry, tired kids.

5 step system

Here’s my 5 step system that allows for a lot more options and less frustration. Many of the steps are what a traditional meal plan would look like. However, I changed just one simple thing, but it allows me to have more flexibility. Less stress. And a PLAN!

Step 1

First, I check my cupboards and fridge to see what I have in stock. Taking a quick look at what could be expiring soon. These ingredients could be used in upcoming meals. You might be thinking, that’s not a new tip! Please keep reading…

Step 2

For the second step, I look at our calendar to see what’s happening for the week. Questions I ask myself: “Are we going to swamped this week?  Will we be home? Are there days, 1-2 family members will be gone? If I plan to have grilled items on the menu, I need to take a second look at our calendar since my husband does 99% of the grilling. (I’m lucky…my hubby can grill the best stakes.)

Step 3

Checking the sales flyers for items on sale saves cash in my pocket. Struggling with decision fatigue was a real issue until I included 2-3 menu items that we do every single week. These are meal ideas that everyone in the family likes to eat.

Here are the three meals that we tend to have weekly at our house: tacos, pasta, and pizza.  I don’t have to think about what unique ingredients that I’ll need to grab at the store. On a busy night, I know I can easily make these go-to meals.

Then I start thinking of other ideas for our menu. We tend to eat out about one time per week because we enjoy it and it’s how we like to spend our family fun money, so I take that into account for the menu.

Using quick, easy meals and crockpot meals allows us more time with the kids. I have yet to purchase an Instapot, but I know a lot of people who love how much time they save.

Our grocery budget tends to explode in the summer because the kids have summer break, we purchase more expensive meat, and we get together with family and friends.

Step 4

At the grocery store, I take out a calculator, and I add the items as I put them in the cart. Definitely trying to keep within my weekly grocery budget is a goal. Because I take a list of menu ideas with me, I don’t put extra things in the cart that we don’t need. I’ll consider how important it is to purchase it at the time if it’s not on my list. If I think we are entirely out of the item and will use it in the next few weeks, I’ll go ahead and purchase the item; otherwise, it doesn’t go in the cart.

And most moms know that shopping with the kids not only costs more, but it also takes more time, so I try to avoid it at ALL COST!

No plan = spending more money.  I don’t have a budget. I don’t look at my calendar to know when the activities are happening. I’m sure you can relate. Yup, these are probably ideas you’ve already know or do. Just hang with me for the last and final step!

Step 5

After purchasing the items at the store,  I then (this is the most crucial step) post the menu idealist on the fridge. There are no specific menu items for certain days of the week. Just a list of ideas that we can have throughout the week.

The idealist doesn’t tie me down to making something one night that I don’t feel like making and messing up the schedule for another night. I have a list so I can reference it as we go through the week.

It takes hard decisions out of the equation. However, it gives me the flexibility and freedom for changes. The plan is still there, and I can reference the list, so I don’t get stuck in a rut thinking we don’t have anything to eat in the pantry.

This system also helps my husband know what I have in mind for supper. When he’s able to help make supper, the list gives him options to get dinner ready for the family.

In Summary

So if you struggle with meal planning and not wanting to follow a strict menu schedule, consider following my non-traditional, but easy meal planning system. It includes a menu idealist and a 2nd quick reference list that I know my kids love!

Why did I share this menu planning tip on a blog about preserving and organizing your photos? The purpose of this is to be a place my visitors can find suggestions on how to save time. Therefore, being able to create lasting memories with your family and kids. Plus, if you spend less money on things like groceries, you’ll have more cash to do the activities you love doing with your family.

Click the link below to download a master menu idealist that you’ll be able to reference while you consider doing the non-traditional, but easy menu planning for your family. What ways do you meal plan? I’d love to hear what works for you!


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