Have you ever just come home from spending a fortune at the supermarket and still not been able to find a thing to cook for dinner? Are you tired of always cooking the same old things week in and week out? Are you fed up with always being the one who has to decide what you are going to eat tonight? Menu planning could be the solution you are looking for and it won’t cost you a cent.
I had been hearing about this thing called menu planning for quite a while before I decided I was ready to give it a go. I played with it on and off but I never really worked out exactly how to do it or how it could help me. Each time I tried it it just seemed to take too long and then when it came time for dinner I still didn’t really know what I was going to cook.
I realised that I was trying to make things too complicated. I was trying to find new recipes, trying to work out how to use up all of the ingredients I had in the fridge, freezer and pantry, trying to do it all myself and altogether making it far too difficult. Of course, these things are all doable within the menu planning concept but in order to get started, I needed to keep things a lot simpler than that.
It suddenly occurred to me that I should do my menu planning on my calendar. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before since I use my calendar for everything, but there you go.
I pulled the calendar off the wall in the pantry, yes I still have a physical calendar there even though I use my phone calendar for all my reminders and appointments and all family things are shared digitally with my husband and the kids. Anyway, I pulled the calendar down, sat at the kitchen table and thought about a couple of meals I wanted to eat in the week to come. I asked both of the children and my husband to tell me one meal they would like to eat, decided on which days we would eat what and wrote them all down on the calendar. I did this on the day I was planning to go to the supermarket to do the weekly shopping and I quickly added to my shopping list the extra items I was going to need to buy.
Since I have been doing this, some of the benefits I have noticed include:
A) We don’t have to think about what to cook when we are tired. My husband and I no longer have that last minute conversation about what to have for dinner in which no one can decide and we end up resorting to getting some sort of takeaway. A couple of weeks ago I didn’t take the 5 minutes to plan the menu and the effect was much greater than I would have thought. It all just seemed too hard and we didn’t really have very healthy meals that week.
B) We use up the food before it goes off. I now know exactly which ingredients I will use first and as I have progressed, I have started to think about the best order in which to schedule my meals. For example, I now plan the meals that need nice fresh vegetables in the first few days after shopping so that I don’t have a fridge full of wilting lettuce and nothing for the salad.
C) The meat is always defrosted. I no longer come home from shopping, pop all of the meat into the freezer and then have to defrost it again for the next night’s dinner. I leave that meat in the fridge as I know exactly when we are going to eat it and I don’t forget to use it before it goes off. Then on other days, all I have to do is check the calendar in the morning, grab the meat out of the freezer before work and it’s all ready to cook when we get home.
D) Everyone knows the plan. My husband gets to cook a couple of times a week as I work late and he can see exactly what is planned, knows that we have all of the ingredients and can get the dinner started without having to think too much about it. Of course I try to schedule the dinner he requested on one of his nights so if he wants to have something flash that I can’t cook, he is able to do that.
I have definitely found that it was worthwhile persevering with the concept of menu planning even though it didn’t work for me the first few times I tried it. With a little bit of tweaking, I was able to put in a process that works for my family.
Menu planning saves us time, money and improves our health.
Have you had any success with menu planning? If so, what suggestions would you make to those who are new to the idea?