Menu planning

There are heaps of ideas and suggestions on menu planning, for organizing purposes, the simpler your system, the better. This page has many tips, tricks and ideas to make menu planning quick and easy.

There are hundreds of ideas and systems out there ranging from monthly rotating plans to pre-made freezer meals and special diets or ways of cooking like using the crock pot, pressure cooker etc. For me most of these ideas don’t work as I have not always been a fan of cooking. That is until I went sugar free and found out about HelloFresh (a service which delivers your groceries and your meals to your door step).

Even though these things have helped in my cooking, my favorite answer to the questions what do you want to make tonight will always be; reservations!

However, as a single mum with two hungry (growing) children, this is not financially viable and possibly not that healthy as well. So we are left with menu planning on a weekly basis.

What I have found in teaching organizing, is that most people don’t have meal plans and most people don’t like to make one.

If however, you get into the habit of creating weekly meal plans, this will save you so much pressure later on.

This is especially important, if you have a family that depends on you with the cooking and / or if eating healthy is important for you.

Side benefits

Aside from feeling organized and less hungry added side benefits of menu planning are; that a weekly meal plan can give you that snap shot of a balanced diet, it will help you focus at the shops (saving you money) and really helps you to be more organized on both a daily and weekly basis.

Menu planning - How do we start?

In my house, we work on a weekly menu plan and we mostly shop for the whole week in one hit. if you are new to menu planning start of slow only planning 2-3 days at a time and going to the shops a little more often. This way if plans change, as they inevitably do, you can transfer the meals to another day without too much food wastage.

Things to keep in mind when starting with menu planning

  1. When I tried to make meal plans for two weeks or a month I would get very bogged down as the plan was just too elaborate. If I changed a meal early in the month, this would then ripple through another 2 or 3 weeks. For me a week of meal planning at a time is the maximum.

  2. A weekly menu plan works for me, because it gives me a frame work. I can quite safely predict what will happen over the course of a week and it is easier to tweak things around, if our week doesn’t go according to plan.

  3. Grocery shopping for a week at a time is manageable. It is a big shop which is really not something I like to do. However, I break it down into fruit and Veg shopping at the local fruit and veg supplier (I feel it is more authentic shopping). Then have my coffee in the mall where I also do my other groceries (like; laundry detergent, kitchen paper and the like). It breaks the shopping up in two sections, saves me a fortune as the large super market chains have a big mark up. And it also makes me have a fun thing to look forward to (my coffee) whilst I can get still get all the groceries done in one hit.

  4. When just starting to meal plan don't start with the recipe books, it takes more time and puts more pressure on the person cooking.

For starters keep it simple; stick to soups, pasta dishes and some other family favorites and rotate these.  

If you love to cook allocate one or two nights to experiment with this, the rest of the nights can be basics.

If cooking is not your thing, keep it simple, realistic and healthy. The main aim of linking menu planning to organizing is that it saves you money, time and stress which makes you feel more organized. Don't make too big a deal out of this, simple, cheap and fast works best when you are starting out.

How to get menu planning inspiration?

You can start with a template of favourite meals in your home and keep this in your kitchen. When you are just starting out using a list of favourite meals helps as does having a dedicated spot for your meal plan. 

The way to come up with a weeks’ worth of meals can be as follows.

  • Think about meals you and your family like and haven’t eaten for a while.
  • Try and come up with variety, this can mean that you have one chicken dish, mince, rice, potato or pasta dish.
  • Some families like to have allocated days for pasta, rice or a treat night like chips or pizza on say Fridays.
  • Ask the other family members on their thoughts; children especially come up with some great ideas; mango chicken, soup and homemade pizza's are some recent suggestions.

You could prescribe to the idea of one type of meal each day of the week or have one special night a week for a special dish (one of my friends had "chicken schnitzel night" growing up, I had homemade fish and chips on Fridays). Note that all these things help with overall menu planning because you make life easier on yourself and are creating some nice family traditions in the process.

Above is how a weekly template can look based on type of food for a particular day.

Above is another way of making a meal plan, this is based on thinking about your week and what you will realistically be able to make on different days.

As with allot of things in organizing, you have to find out how you think and what works for you. If you think; Tuesday is busy, get take away or a simple soup and work with your demanding schedule that day. If you think of Tuesday as pasta night, then elaborate the question to ‘which pasta will I make?’

As long as the system you use, will help you frame your thoughts.  It should make weekly menu planning a fast and easy process which can save you hours of stress, anxiety and hunger.

What to keep in mind when creating weekly meal plans

  • Try and plan on the same day and time each week. I plan most often Friday afternoon for the rest of the week (this gives me shopping and some prep time).
  • I check the week for when we are busy, when we arrive home late or those days we have some extra time to spend on the meal preparations, this influences if we have a simple soup or a nice more elaborate curry for example.
  • The day I go to the shops will be the day that we have salad and fresh veggies, frozen veggies are used later in the week.
  • A quick look in both the pantry and the freezer will often give you some inspiration for cooking. It is also a way to use what already you have in the house, which means you are essentially decluttering your pantry and saving money in the long term.

To learn some more things about meal planning continue to this page...


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