Having a monthly menu planned can save money, time, and food from waste. It’s a win, win all around. If you’re not already making a food menu I hope you will entertain the idea after reading this a few of my tips.
Start with a calendar. You can print one on your computer or at the beginning of the year try to find a fun free calendar from a bank or company that is always passing them out in January. Make sure the boxes have enough room to write in your plans.
When I plan my menu I have a system. It can be a daunting task looking at a blank calendar and trying to come up with ideas for every single day! A system is always helpful. Here’s how I approach it. I assign each day to a category. For example:
Monday – Italian Dishes
Tuesday – Mexican or Stir-fry Ideas
Wednesday – Slow Cooker Meal Ideas: Soup, Chili, Casserole
Thursday – Leftovers and Salad
Friday – Fun Day – Pizza and Salad, Big Salad, Sandwiches
Saturday – I leave this day up in the air. If I know we’ll be visiting friends that day I leave it blank or if I know we’ll be home I will plan a meal that takes a little more time and involvement or a new recipe.
Sunday – I will make a big pot of soup on Sunday for my week’s lunches. I’ve also been making my favorite Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole.
Now we can take this idea and multiply it by four and you have your month! By all means, you don’t have to stick to my meal daily ideas, swap in your favorite meals. I quickly put together a month’s worth of meals for you too see an example.
- Monday – Wheat pasta and salad
- Tuesday – Black bean quesadillas with brown rice
- Wednesday – Slow cooker – Lentil soup and salad
- Thursday – Leftover soup and salad
- Friday – Pizza Night! A homemade pizza with lots of veggies
- Saturday – Dinner with Friends
- Sunday – Lentil and brown rice casserole, steamed broccoli, and salad (leftovers are good for lunches)
- Monday – Spinach Ravioli and Salad
- Tuesday – Stir-fry with veggies, tofu and/or brown rice and a bit of soy sauce
- Wednesday – Tomato soup and grilled cheese made with wheat bread or veggie filled wrap
- Thursday – Leftover stir-fry
- Friday – Big Salad – Loaded up with extra veggies, beans, baked french fries
- Saturday – Burgers and/or Portobellos on the grill, steamed veggies, and roasted red potatoes
- Sunday – Green split pea soup and salad (leftovers are good for lunches)
- Monday – Wheat Pasta and Salad
- Tuesday – Black bean burritos
- Wednesday – Slow cooker meal – Mushroom and lentil stew (leftovers are good for lunches)
- Thursday – Leftover burritos or rice bowl with burrito ingredients piled on top
- Friday – Toasted Sandwiches and Salads
- Saturday – Date Night
- Sunday – Sunday football chili & cornbread
- Monday – Lasagna, salad, and rosemary bread
- Tuesday – Stir fried udon noodles, tofu or chicken, and broccoli
- Wednesday – Slow cooker potato soup and salad
- Thursday – Leftover potato soup
- Friday – Big Salad, maybe add some left over grilled chicken / tofu from the stir-fry.
- Saturday – Roasted vegetables, squash, and lentil casserole
- Sunday – Red lentil and lemon soup with garden salad
Now we have our month’s plans and I have a good idea of what I’m going to be making this month. Personally, I like to shop on a weekly basis. With this information I know that for week 1 I will need to pick up a can of black beans, tortillas, brown rice, carrots, celery, and to check the lentil supplies at home to see if I need more, ingredients for pizza, and romaine and salad toppings like red onion, cucumber, etc. Read about making a grocery list here.
With a plan, there are no surprises and no trips to the store wasting time and gas (and you know that when you’re there that you’ll buy more than you need – we all do it).
If you’re looking to save money you can plan meals around what’s on sale at the local store, or what coupons you have on hand. This is also an opportunity to plan and put into place a budget.
Feeling ambitious? Make a larger calendar and include breakfast, lunch, and snacks. This is especially helpful if you’re keeping a food diary. It is also helpful to use any leftovers.
By carving out a half an hour to put thought into our monthly meals, we’ve saved time deciding what to make, saved money by buying only the things we need, saved gas by not driving to the store for random last minute supplies, and saved leftover food from becoming a science experiment in the back of the fridge! I say that this is a success. Would you agree?
Do you keep a food menu? What are your favorite and staple dishes? Do you have a “system” like I do or do you wing it? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions.