Menu Planning

How I Plan Our Menu

1. Set Basic Themes
  • Monday - Sunday leftovers re-purposed.  (Roast for Sunday dinner becomes beef pot pie, or beef vegetable soup.  Roast chicken or turkey becomes pot pie, or chicken/turkey gravy over waffles, etc).  If there are not leftovers to work with, this usually becomes my chicken day.  Some sort of chicken breast recipe.
  • Tuesday - Taco Night
  • Wednesday  - Crock Pot Night (I'm out of the house a lot on Wednesdays with BSF) & salad.  
  • Thursday - Pasta night.  (In football season, this is so our son has pasta the night before the games.  It became a habit over the years that has stuck even out of football season).  
  • Friday - Pizza Night - which is usually homemade calzones.  I buy provolone, mozzarella, sliced ham & pepperoni all in the same aisle at Sam's club, then bring it home and section it all into "portions" for calzones, and freeze it all.  Because Thursday night is pasta night, I can often set some sauce aside Thursday to dip the calzones in on Friday.
  • Saturday - Soup & Sandwiches.  Saturdays are often so chaotic, I like to have a soup on the stove or in the crock pot all day.  
  • Sunday - We have big traditional Sunday dinners here.  The rotation is usually Roast, roast chicken or turkey, pork loin,  lasagna.  The lasagna is served with salad & garlic bread, everything else is mashed potatoes & a veggie, often stuffing & applesauce too. 

These are not set in stone, and change as needed - it's just the basic template I work from.

2. Create Pinterest Boards For Each Theme
As part of of my electronics decluttering project in February, I am trying to find the best way to store my recipes electronically.  I still haven't come up with a good solution.  But for recipes to try, pinterest usually works great!  I have a board for each theme above, where I pin recipes I might want to try for Pasta night, or taco night, etc.
Pinterest Boards:

3. Create a Menu Calendar in Google Calendar
I've tried a variety of apps, notebooks, and pretty gadgets for menu planning..  but google calendar just works best for me.  It's helpful to see our schedule when planning our menu.  This is what January looked like - 
I uncheck the box beside menu so it doesn't show up on our calendar most of the time - except on the widget on my phone that shows my agenda for the day.  (I have two seperate calendar widgets on my phone, on different screens  One screen is a month view of our calendar that takes up an entire screen.  The other is my "daily" screen that has my agenda, my daily to do list (it resets every morning) and short cuts for our grocery list, to do list, and my husbands to do list.)

4. Set Taco Night & Pizza Night as repeating events on google calendar.
     This just saves me from entering them over and over.  They automatically repeat every week

5. Go through the pantry, open the freezer, fill in meals that use ingredients we have on hand
There's so much food in our freezers, and we need to rebuild our savings, so using what I have is a priority right now.

6. Fill in the blank days, using Pinterest Boards for extra inspiration as needed
This is rarely a needed step, this time of year. I'm more likely to try new recipes in the spring and summer, when more produce is fresh and local.  Winter is more of a "clean out the freezer and pantry" time of year for me - but an occasional new recipe is nice.

7. For meals that need prep ahead, set reminders in google calendar.  
If we're having turkey for Sunday dinner, set a reminder to pull it from the freezer a week ahead, Thursday I pull the calzone ingredients out of the freezer to thaw, etc.  Reminders set in google calendar pop up on my phone screen when scheduled.

8. Add ingredients needed to Out Of Millk
My favorite shopping list app.  I can add items on my phone, or on my computer.

9. Keep ingredients on hand for some basic meals that can be made in minutes on nights that don't go as planned.
  • Hot sausage & pierogies
  • Jars of Ragu sauce, spaghetti, meatballs & frozen ravioli (quick pasta, or meatball subs)
  • Toasted Cheese & Tomato Soup
  • Sausage or bacon for Breakfast for Dinner