Meal Planning 101 - How to Plan Meals - How To Plan A Menu

Meal Planning 101 – Get Inspired

It’s no secret, I love food.  I work with food, I blog about food, I read cook books, and I eat A LOT of food.  And, believe it or not, I actually enjoy shopping for groceries, and seeing all of the different things on the shelves, and all of the beautiful produce options.  I go to the grocery store, and my mind spins about all of thing delicious things I could buy – and cook, if only I had the budget.

This is why I menu plan.  Menu planning comes easy for me, but it didn’t always.  I used to plan a menu, and then get to the grocery store and realize that the things on my menu cost about $150 for only three days, and everything changed.

When I plan menus, I like to start by looking at the sales, and writing down things that are on sale so that I can plan my menu around the sales. 

I like planning foods that I will use more than one time.  For example, we have quesadillas for dinner, that means I am going to need chicken, cheese and tortillas.  Since we won’t use all of the tortillas in one meal, I am going to plan another dinner, or a lunch that will use the tortillas, like burritos, or wraps for lunch.

When planning what we’re going to eat for the week, the first thing I do is obviously make a plan.  Since I know what my son is going to be eating at school with me, I really only have to worry about DJ, but there has been times in the past when choosing healthy lunch options for all of us were very important – and I use this as a basis for all of my planning, since I don’t only plan for my family, but I plan menus for the school I work at as well.  

A list of meals isn’t always the solution to the “What’s For Dinner?” dilemma.  People are looking for solutions, like a different way to prepare a family favorite, so just some advice on how to get started.  I’ve compiled all of the questions I get, and have come up with these answers on How To Menu Plan.

menu planning 101

Get Inspired

Choose your meals.  I like to plan for 5 days, and then have a day for leftovers, and the last day for ordering in, like a pizza night, or for a date night, should I be lucky enough.  But if you know for sure your schedule, go ahead and plan seven different meals, especially if you know there won’t be any leftovers. 

It’s a lot easier to plan a menu when you’re inspired.  Find a way to get inspired and love cooking meals for your family.  Spend time each week looking for recipes.  Relax on a Sunday morning (or whatever day works best for you) with a cup of coffee and browse Pinterest or your favorite recipe site (like Mom’s Bistro), for recipes that look delicious. 

Ask family and friends for input too.  Ask them what they would like for dinner this week, and find a way to incorporate it into your menu.  Maybe with a theme night, or a family members choice night. 

Theme nights are a great way to add creativity to your menu, help you get into a routine, and helps you plan your meals.  Theme nights can be based around the days of the week;

Monday – Meatless Monday, Meatball Monday

Tuesday – Taco Tuesday, Tortilla Tuesday

Wednesday – Waffle Wednesday, Wing-It-Wednesday (try a new recipe)

Thursday – Three-Cheese Thursday, Tostada Thursday

Friday – French-Fried Friday

Some other great themes for your menus include international nights, or styles of cooking;

  • Italian
  • Mexican
  • Pizza Night
  • Soup and Sandwich
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Salad
  • Asian
  • Casserole
  • CrockPot
  • One-Pot-Wonders
  • Leftover Night
  • Appetizer Night
  • Color Theme – all foods are one color
  • Cooks Choice
  • Pasta/Noodle
  • Pie
  • Around the World
  • Family Favorites

Weekday meals are always a dilemma, but if you have a great list of go-to meals.  These meals come in handy when you open the fridge and there is just nothing to eat, or when you’re running late, or if something comes up.  In our house, we frequent pasta, quesadillas, grilled cheese and breakfast for dinner as backup. 

Next Up:  Getting Started

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