I’ve mentioned in previous posts about menu planning. I love everything about it. It makes my grocery shopping more streamlined, which saves me money. I can coordinate my menus with what I already have in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Besides those reasons, it’s also nice just simply knowing what’s for dinner. I always felt a bit guilty when my hubby would ask what the plan was for dinner and I would say, “Ummmm, let me think about that for a bit”. We would then end up with something like french toast or grilled cheese. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and we like them, but they were always my “go to” dinners when I didn’t have anything planned… again.
Yet once again, I turn to my lists. Can you tell I love the lists? Yes, yes I do!
The first thing I did was to make up a blank spreadsheet. I then started categorizing my dinners… chicken, beef, pork, simple dinners, breakfast for dinner, pasta, etc. I marked the ones that were designated as crock pot meals. I sat down with the family one evening, and we started blurting out dinner ideas. I wrote down everything we could think of that we liked. (And some the kids didn’t like, but I did!) I made a separate list for all the recipes I had collected over the years that I wanted to try. I wrote down all the names, and where I had them stashed, so I could find them again.
As you can see here, I put a star by all the crock pot ones. I would designate one dinner per month as a new recipe/”test” night to try new things. If we liked it, I would cross it off and add it in to my rotation of dinners. If we didn’t, it would be crossed off the list and forgotten about. It worked out really well for me.
Above are some of the dinner ideas my family came up with.
Once we had all the ideas written down, then I could start entering them into my calendar. Just in the ideas I have on the bottom two sheets, there’s 72 dinners. That’s nearly two and a half months of menus with no repeats, aside from my “leftover” night, or possibly the “fend” nights. I try to arrange my menus in such a way that I can use the majority of the leftovers in the next couple of days’ meals. Chicken in a crock pot is one of my favorites for this. Original chicken the first night, make chicken stock overnight, then use some of the chicken for chicken quesadillas the next night, and homemade chicken noodle soup the next.
On the top of my calendar, I would put the items that I needed to get from the store for my recipes for the month. I would rearrange my days a bit if I couldn’t find my items on sale. When my kids were in school, I would make sure that I knew what their schedules were, and make sure to plan very quick and easy meals for those nights.
MENU PLANNING FOOD IDEAS <== Blank spreadsheet PDF for dinner lists
And there you have it… how I keep my sanity when it comes to dinner. We all have enough things to think about. An evening of planning will save you so much time in the long run. (And even more if you have already filled out your food inventory lists. You know exactly what you have in your pantry and your freezer, RIGHT?) Plan well, save well, and eat well, my friends.