Meal Planning

It seems like the hardest part of meal planning is getting started… deciding what’s for dinner.

How do I meal plan?
First, I have found that I do better when I plan one week at a time as opposed to two weeks or a full month. I think a big part of this is because I go grocery shopping weekly and I like to plan our meals around sales and what is in season. I also have a better idea of our families schedule, I know when we are going to be home, if the kids have games/lessons, what our work schedule is, etc.   

Second, I like to categorize our meals and then pick only one meal each week from each category.  I categorized our meals into 7 different categories, one for each day of the week. I don’t assign categories to specific days but pick what works best for that specific week.  

Third, I like to display our weekly menu.  Displaying the menu helps me stick with it and lets my family know what we are having for dinner.

How Do I Categorize Our Meals?
Below is an example of how I categorize our meals.  I used to categorize by meat/protein (one night we would have something with beef another night something with chicken, etc.) This worked great but many of our recipes can be used with different kinds of meat or don't have meat in them at all.  

I really like the way we categorize our meals now because they’re catered to what our family likes and are categorized in such a way that scheduling is easy.

Soup/Salad/ Sandwich
We have a lot of soup in the fall/winter and lots of salads and sandwiches in the spring/summer.  

Favorites Include: Chicken Noodle Soup, Tortilla Soup, White Chicken Chili, Taco Salad, BBQ Chicken Salad, BLT's, and Tuna Cheese Melts.

This is by far our families’ favorite so it’s categorized all on its own.

Favorites Include: Fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken Parmesan, Lasagne, Spaghetti, Pizza and Calzones.


We try to do one of each at least once within the month.

Favorites Include: Navajo Tacos, Fajitas, Enchiladas, Stuffed Peppers, Tiny Spicy, Sweet and Sour, Stir Fry, Kahoona Burger and Hawaiian Haystacks.

Meat as Main Menu Item/Crock-Pot
Once a week we have meat as our main dinner item with some kind of side like rice, potato or corn on the cob. Most of my favorite main dishes with meat are also crock-pot meals so that's why I categorized these together. 

Favorites Include: Pot Roast, BBQ Ribs/Chicken, Swedish Meatballs, Grilled 7-Up Chicken, Wingers Sticky Fingers, Italian Chicken and Steak.

Casserole/Freezer Meal
This meal is usually reserved for the night I need something fast! I can easily thaw out a prepared meal from the freezer or make a casserole and pop it in the oven.

This category also includes a From the Pantry or Garden Meal which helps me use ingredients I need to use before they go bad…like when I have an overload of Zucchini from the garden.  It also helps me use those ingredients that get pushed to the back of the pantry. 

Favorites Include: Shepherds Pie, Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken n' rice.

Try a New Recipe 
I have hundreds of recipes (bookmarked on my computer, saved to my pintrest boards, stashed in old cookbooks and piled up in my cupboard) this gives me a chance to try them!

Leftovers/Eat Out/Breakfast
We eat a lot of leftovers for lunch but still tend to have excess most weeks...when we do we eat them for dinner too. Other nights we go out to eat.  If we don't have leftovers and don't go out we have breakfast for dinner. I like to call this the no planning night. Whatever we decide to do it is easy!

Favorites Include: French Toast, Waffles, and of course eating out!

How do I Display Our Menu?
I originally displayed our menu on a piece of paper clipped to the fridge but quickly decided I wanted something more permanent so I designed a sheet in Photoshop, laminated it and used a dry erase marker to write on it. 
This worked great for a while but after a few months of fighting my kiddos to leave it on the fridge and getting mad at them for coloring on it I decided I wanted something even more permanent. I wanted a shopping list I could easily take with me when shopping and something more crafty. This is what I came up with:
We have used this for over 8 months now and I am loving it!!

How Do I Use the Dinner Menu?
 Their are 7 spots on the menu, one for each day of the week. Each spot has a magnet that holds the meal card in place. 
Their is a little pocket for menu items/meal cards. I keep all my meal cards in this pocket and keep them categorized on a clip so that they are easy to go through...this makes it so easy!!
Their is a shopping list...I love this because I can restock it with new sticky pads as I use it up. I also love that my shopping list is part of the menu...it's always there when I need to add to it.
 For a free printable and instructions to make your own Dinner Menu check back tomorrow!

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