Menu Planning 101

Or…How I plan for a month so I don’t have to remember that often.

I love the idea of meal planning. It saves money, time, stress, and helps you avoid the fast food line on desperate nights. However, I am not very good at doing it. I always start well. I look at my calendar, copy the important appointments into the plan, think about how much time I will have for cooking in a given evening and choose meals accordingly. Once the plan is made, I create a shopping list, remove anything that I already have in the house, and hit the store. The week goes swimmingly. I cook everything I should, send lunches with Michael from leftovers, and bask in my success.

Until it’s suddenly week two. For some reason, week two always comes. It also always brings with it chaos, confusion, and meal plan failure. I either don’t remember to plan, don’t have time to shop, or all hell breaks loose and I just throw the plan out the window.

Sadly, week three never comes. There is no week three. It’s a myth. At least, it was until I was skimming through one of the countless blogs that I have been visiting lately and had an epiphany. Get ready for it…

Why not plan for the whole MONTH at one time? Brilliant, huh? Just in case you don’t see the simple beauty of my little plan, just consider this–if I plan all of our meals (making sure to include nights for leftovers and such), I can make ONE shopping list, ONE major trip to the store, and I only have to remember it ONCE A MONTH!

Guess what…I’m at the end of week three. And I’m still on track(not to say that we’ve eaten exactly what I had planned each and every night, but we have not eaten out). Awesome!

Here’s my meal plan for May (with edits for how life really worked out):

1. Crockpot BBQ Chicken Nachos–trial recipe, BIG HIT…I had a million things to do on this day, so I wanted a recipe that would be SUPER fast and easy, and it had to be ready to eat as soon as we got home; also froze leftover chicken for a later dish

2. Baked Ziti (Asparagus)–tried and true family favorite

3. Thrifty Chicken and Broccoli–quick and easy family favorite

4. Breakfast–planned on this being a weekly Friday night thing, but that part hasn’t worked out yet. This night we had Nutella and banana pancakes. Awesome!

5. Hamburger Hash (Green Beans)–that was the plan, but I had forgotten that it was Cinco de Mayo. I thawed out some taco filling (with corn and black beans) and mixed in rice and salsa. Yum!

6. leftovers

7.Double spaghetti (salad)–I had a meeting at my house for about 10 people, so this was cheap, fast, and good. I also froze the leftovers for use in other recipes.

8. Creamy Chicken Casserole (broccoli)–this one wasn’t needed since we had a TON of leftovers that needed to be eaten, so I put it at the bottom of our menu as an “in case of emergency” dish

9. Man’s Way Sausage and Potatoes (green beans)–weird-looking but yummy dish that all of my boys go wild over

10. Spaghetti Muffins (salad)–usually a favorite, but Michael wasn’t in the mood for italian, so I grabbed the BBQ chicken out of the freezer and used it to top some baked red potatoes.

11. Breakfast–I vetoed this one because I was craving fish. I made Parmesanand Red Pepper Tilapia with rice and veggies.

12. Leftovers/family get together

13. (Mother’s Day) Meatloaf (mashed potatoes)–Michael surprised me by cooking steaks..

14. leftovers–Michael cooked again (this is the night I described in my first post…) so we had fried chicken fingers, creamed corn, northern beans, biscuits, gravy, and squash and onions…did I mention that EVERY dish in the house was dirty? *smile*

15. Shepherd’s Pie–used leftover mashed potatoes from Michael’s cooking night

16. Chicken Alfredo with Asparagus

17. Heartland Beef and Rice–unexpected events conspired to keep this one from happening, but Michael ate leftovers, so it counts.

18. Breakfast–going on a trip, so probably not

19. Mexican Lasagna–going on a trip, so probably not

20. Grilled Chicken (mac and cheese, greens)

21. leftovers

22. Italian pasta toss (mixed veggies, leftover chick. and pasta)

23. Pigs in Blankets (celery and carrots)

24. Chicken, Rice & Green Bean Casserole

25. Breakfast

26. Lasagna

27. leftovers–probably not since we’ll be out-of-town…lol

28. Eat out–out of town

29. Crockpot Roast Beef (carrots and potatoes)

30. Tuna Salad

31. Stroganoff (green beans)–using leftover roast for this one

So, obviously things don’t always go as planned. Real life happens, but having this plan in place actually lets me be more flexible when unexpected things come up.

What do you think? Has meal planning worked for you?

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