Menu Planning Expert, Follow Through Failure

“What’s for supper?” 

This is a phrase that most busy mom’s cringe at hearing and the one I dreaded hearing from the mouth of my husband and daughter (Eli can’t yet say this but he can go to the fridge). It’s that moment when everything around seems to melt away and the looming hunger begins to overtake you. I remember searching the cupboards, the fridge and the freezer…either the meat is frozen solid or nothing I have goes together to make a cohesive meal. With just no plan in place, we would opt for the fast food option…not exactly healthy or budget friendly. But the problem was I tried meal planning and I made the grocery list. But I just was not consistent enough and sometimes I felt not creative enough to make meal plans. Not to mention I just didn’t have the follow through to keep the plan in place.

The Out Of Control Budget

So the easiest way to manage your grocery budget is to make a menu plan. Yes, it sounds simple enough but it can be daunting. How so you ask? Well, sometimes my head is overloaded with the daily chores and responsibilities that I can’t possibly think of seven healthy meals to feed my family. Then at times I get the grand idea to be super frugal and I seek out all the sales flyers. Then I write down the items on sale that appeal to my family, then I piece together a meal and then I make a grocery list. Only now my grocery trip covers three different stores. This is not something I tend to enjoy with two children in tow. However, if there are weeks I need to trim the budget, I do this because it is necessary.

Now I have changed my method of menu planning more times than I can possibly count. Why? Well, the simple answer is I fail at continuing my plan passed one week. I know it sounds really pathetic and I have no idea why I neglect the menu planning the second week. Other times I just think it is too hard to try and figure out food that is not only healthy but something my family will enjoy. So I go through months were I just pick up things in the store, come home and attempt to put meals together (insert laughter). Then, we sit down and look at the budget and see that money going towards food is out of control, so I have to rein in the spending. Well, the best way to start this is by menu planning.

How To Menu Plan

This might seem like a funny question but how do you menu plan? I have used several different techniques; the weekly plan, the bi-weekly plan, the rotating menu plan, the monthly menu plan, the theme days menu plan and the what’s in the cupboards menu plan. Okay so that last one is really just a last ditch effort and one I just when I have to really rein in on my budget. So no matter which plan I decide to use, I always seem to falter away from my plan. I would look at the menu and say “I don’t really feel like making that tonight”. That’s when we say ” So what do you want to eat tonight?” This is actually our code phrase for “So where do you want to eat out tonight?”  It really can take a lot of determination to stick to a menu plan, so my first piece of advice would be to start small with the weekly plan. But if you are ambitious, then by all means dive right into the monthly plan.

When I menu plan for the month, I have a laminated calendar page. Download my template here –>Menu PlannerBlog

Now comes the fun part, pick meals your family will eat! So here is my process– on a separate sheet of paper I write the following headers–Crockpot Meal, Quick and Easy, Mexican, Italian, Casserole, All-American, Soups/Sandwiches.

I then write meal ideas for under each header and when I am done a designate a day for each header. Since we have Church on Sunday, I tend to have a crockpot meal scheduled and who likes Mondays?? No one, so that is a quick and easy day meal!! And so on. I am thinking of adding a header called “Choice Meal” and allowing each family member to decide on the meal. But we are not there yet, I am still just trying to stick to the meals I have picked!

The Pros and Cons 

Everything has its pros and cons right? In reality I think the pros of menu planning far outweigh the cons but I have included my two cents 🙂

PROS

  • No more scramble to prepare a healthy meal
  • Budget Friendly (assuming you are not cooking a five-star restaurant meal)
  • No last minute run to the grocery store (assuming you remember your list)
  • No more answering the dreaded “What’s for supper?” — just point them to the menu
  • If you monthly plan you can buy food ahead of time when it goes on sale
  • When you plan ahead of time (monthly) you can move meals around

CONS

  • It can take some time to make a menu plan and write your list (Not really that much time but I had to stick a con in)
  • You or your family might not want what is planned on the menu (well, suck it up buttercup!)
  • Fewer trips out to eat (depending on your cooking skill or what you typically cook–just kidding)
  • More dishes to clean because you eat at home (this is my struggle)

Happy Menu Planning and Healthy Eating

All in all you can see that the cons are kind of a joke and the pros of menu planning really wins out. The menu planner I included above is a 5 week calendar and you can print it as much as you like or just download it to your computer. I would love to hear your tips or ideas for menu planning. Seriously this part of homemaking has been the most challenging for me but I think I might have finally found a system that works for me!