Menu planning is something that takes a little bit of time and … well, it takes a lot of time. But it saves both time and money during the week, when we’re most rushed with homework and dance class and client meetings and trying to finish that one last thing.
So on Sundays, I try my best to put together a menu for the week, select recipes and go shopping.
I thought I’d share my process and my tools, since I think I’ve got a pretty awesome little method going. I’m sure you’ve got your own process, but maybe some of my tools or tips can help you when you’re struggling. And if you’ve got something faster or easier, I’m all ears.
- Work with what I’ve got. First, I look in my freezer and pantry to see what I’ve got for meats, mains and sides. I’ll often find a frozen roast or chicken breasts or an unopened jar of Arborio rice that were 2-for-1 or deeply discounted in weeks prior, so I’ll try to plan around those. I might have a bag of carrots or a few extra onions and peppers to work with in the fridge. I try to use what I’ve got first, then put my shopping list together later.
- Decide on recipes. Browse through recipes I’ve posted to my Pinterest “Dinner Ideas” board, my Evernote recipes notebook, my BigOven appor my favorite recipe websites and blogs. If I’m especially motivated, I’ll open up the Publix BOGO website to see what’s on special for the week.I keep a note in Evernote that is my week, outlined, and assign recipes or dinner ideas to each night. It looks like this: I try to find at least one crock pot recipe for Wednesday nights (when we have just 45 minutes from when I get home to leaving for dance class), and on Mondays I try to make something that will reheat well for Piper’s lunches during the week. Pasta, casseroles, you know – things with lots of leftovers.
- Make my list. This actually happens while I decide on recipes or ideas. As I add a day, for instance “Make your own pizza” night, I’ll add the ingredients I need (that aren’t already in my pantry or fridge) to my Groceries list on Wunderlist. I used to use Evernote for my lists too, but I like the ability to check things off my list in the Wunderlist app as I add them to my cart – makes the whole process faster I think. I add the items on my laptop, and there it is on my phone when I get to the store.
- Go shopping! I’ve got my plan for the week and my list – I just throw my bags in the car and head out. Or, if I’m especially ambitious, having made my list on a Friday, I’ll get my veggies at the Saturday morning market after our long run, then hit Publix later in the weekend. That’s the dream, anyway. I keep my eye out for any meats or foods that are BOGO at Publix, and buy them for storing for the next few weeks. Always best to stock up when the prices are low – and then I’ve got something on hand when I’m in a pinch too. Win/win.