A quick guide to monthly menu making
After several months of failed attempts at making a weekly menu, I decided to try a monthly menu…eight years later I am still going strong. After reading a book or two and chatting with lots of friends, I refined the process to what my DH calls “the science of the holy calendar”….no kidding!
I used to try to plan around the weeks grocery ads, but when they didn’t come on Tuesday’s I got behind, and never ended up getting it done. Now, I am at a point with my food storage that I have everything on hand for the months menu. For example, if we are having chicken, broccoli and rice and fresh broccoli isn’t on sale that week I keep frozen bags in the freezer. I am constantly stocking up as the sales come so that I always have the staples on hand. I still shop at least once a week on a great sale and to get produce but now I am not waiting for the ads or making a quick trip to the store for something for dinner all the time. As an added bonus, I have found that we eat healthier, have more variety in our meals, and I rotate my food storage.
If weekly menu planning isn’t working for you for whatever reason, give this a shot and stick with it for a 2-3 months. The first month will take you the most time because it may be a whole new concept for you. Month two should get better, and by month three, you will have the “science” down. It is unusual if it takes me more than 15 minutes and it saves me hours for the month not worrying about what is for dinner.
In our house, our “after-school” schedule is the driving force behind what we eat. I long ago learned that I can’t function with a social calendar, sports calendar, and a menu..it is too many papers to keep track of. With this thought in mind, I decided that it had to be an “all or nothing” approach. So, hang on tight, grab a blank calendar, and away we go!
Step 1: Choose your calendar
*Make sure that you have enough space to fill everything in.
*There are lots of sites online that offer free printable calendars, you can make fancy ones on the computer, or use the free one from the bank.
*This year I am using one that my DS made at school… the boxes are a little small, but how could I not use it?
Step 2: Gather your fine point sharpies…the more colors the better
*I tried one month to do it all on the computer but the boxes kept getting bigger and bigger, and it took me so much more time that I figured handwriting worked best for me.
Step 3: Write down everyone’s events throughout the month
*Try to give each person their own marker color..it will be easier to keep track of them all.
*Don’t forget events like cub scouts, piano lessons, sports practices, days you drive carpool that fall on the same day each month.
*Don’t forget special nights out, birthday’s and holiday’s that you need to plan ahead for.
*Don’t be afraid to abbreviate things so you fit it all in! (oh, and write small! )
Step 4 (if you don’t have school-aged kids, skip to #5): Pull out the school lunch menu
*If your little ones eat lunch every day, it is always good to see what they are having for the month so that you don’t plan the same thing and get the “I already ate that today” moan.
*If your little one only takes lunch a few days a month, write yourself a note on the calendar so you don’t forget.
Step 5: Plan the menu (be excited, this is the best part!)
*Write in meals for your busiest days first. These could be fast crock-pots, something from your freezer meal stash…whatever your family will eat, and you can prepare fast.
*Write in meals that you can cook extra of for another day or to freeze. For example: We love a certain chicken marinade and when I make it I do a double match. After it is grilled we eat enough for one meal, and I save the rest for our favorite California grilled chicken sandwiches with avocado and honey mustard for the next night.
*Write in family favorites and traditional meals next. If it is against your religion to have anything but pizza on Friday night, write it in!
*Try new recipes. I love to try something new so I put these on my least busy days to make sure I can pay more attention to what I am doing. On my calendar in little print, I list the cookbook and page number where I can find the recipe, or if it is a single sheet I paper clip it to the back of my calendar so I know right where it is.
*Don’t worry about writing in the side dishes unless you are trying something new. You can fill this in based on what you have in the fridge or what is on sale that week.
*Remember your food storage items and rotation schedules.
*Browse the “What’s for dinner section” on PYP for a variety of different meal ideas.
Step 6: Fill in a few extra ideas
*On the extra blank box at the end of the calendar, write in a few meal ideas for those days when nothing on the menu sounds good. It happens to all of us!
Step 7: Make a grocery list
If there are any meals on your list that require something that you don’t have on hand, write it on your master grocery list so you don’t forget it.
Step 8: Put it on the fridge
*Grab yourself a big magnet clip and slap it on.
*As the month goes on and you get little reminder notes or more details about an event, attach them to the back of the menu with the clip so you always know where to find them.
Step 9: Don’t throw it away (it would be tragic!)
*Use this menu for next month for quick ideas and to know when you last had tacos for dinner.
I hope that you found a least one thing that will help simplify your life and save you money! Happy planning!