1. Find your Medium
I look at menu planning as my monthly craft project, because if it has to be done I should enjoy something about it. With any craft project you need to decide what you have to work with, your medium. Pen and paper? Word document? An app?
It can be as complex as you want. I have done a little of everything. Sometimes pretty is nice, but it is not something I have to do.
2. How Many Days are you Cooking?
My weekly cooking routine is centered around leftover days. I plan two entire days in the week where I get a break from cooking anything from scratch, my refrigerator and my wallet thank me a lot for this. No science experiments growing in plastic containers, and less food waste.
For our family these days are planned on Sunday and Wednesday. Then, my job is to decide if there is a chance we may be eating out (not likely with two Celiacs), or if we need to be out of town. Most of the time I am planning for 5 days of cooking per week, or 20 days per month. I do either weekly and monthly cooking, depending on our schedule.
3. How Many Meals are you Planning for?
I plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day I will be cooking. Many plan just dinners and wing it on the other meals, but I find that lack of planning to be chaotic with the size of our family, and I usually end up lost and frustrated.
I plan one snack for a day for all the family members, usually an afternoon time is when it is eaten. Sometimes we do popcorn for movie night or dessert, both are an after dinner event.
In one week I need to plan 15 meals and 7 snacks, and for one month I plan for 90 meals and 30 snacks.
4. Find your Food
I use both cookbooks (my favorties are Trim Healthy Mama, Trim Health Mama Cookbook, and Trim Healthy Table) and Pinterest for recipes. Our family follows the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating, along with our dietary restrictions of Celiac Disease and Lactose Intolerance. We also have to use recipes that feed at least 8 people, sometimes we have to double or quadruple them.
We have several meals that are favorites, but we do not have a schedule for those. We also do not do “Taco Tuesdays” or “Meatless Mondays” as themes. My husband really enjoys variety in recipes, but we do plan a soup every day for lunch to help with time constraints and packing in the veggies for the kids. Soup is a great sensory experience for those with sensory processing disorder too.
5. Make a List
Once you have picked your meals and snacks, make a list. I go through meal by meal and see how many pound of chicken breast, and ground meat. How many cups of milk, and cans of veggies. For fresh produce I start with just enough to get us through a week, and then if I buy more it is with the intention of doing a meal prep day so that it won’t go bad before it is cooked.
Guess, what? You did it! Not too hard, and it can be adapted for any number of people.
~ Blessings to you ~