Here are some of my menu plans. As you will notice by the pictures, i went from a monthly plan all on one page to a 2 week plan on a page. I still plan for a month at a time usually but occasionally I will only do 2 weeks. Although I plan for a month at a time, I do my menu plan shopping every 2 weeks. Planning a month at a time helps me save money by knowing what to buy in bulk and buying items that I need when they are on sale even I don’t need it for another week or two. Unless it is a super deal, I don’t normally “stock up” on things because honestly buying them and letting them sit and not using them doesn’t really save you money. And how many times have you bought several of something, taken them to your panty/storage area and then forgot you had them so you bought more the next shopping trip? Yep, I was doing that. So to combat that I only buy about 5 of most non-perishables, unless there is a great deal or if it is a seasonal item (like at Aldi).
Ok, so back to the menu. I used to use a blank monthly calendar for my planning but have since changed to a weekly calendar with 2 weeks on a page. I have always used the free printables from hello cuteness! because they are free and cute! However, she no longer offers the monthly calendars as a freebie. But you can still get the 2-up weekly meal planner as a freebie, just scroll down the page and look under the organization heading. And if you would rather have a monthly calendar, all you have to do is use this Google search or do your own! Heck, you could even create your own if you would rather do that. Or you can visit Crafted by Lindy, Live Craft Eat, or Dimensions of Wonder (only Jan and Feb so far).
So menu planning is really easy, or at least the way I do it. I have a list (mostly in my head) of the things my family likes that I make. I also have my recipe binder that has tried and true recipes and new ones too! I typically do not make things that I absolutely know that my kids (or hubs) will not eat! It is a waste of my time, a waste of money and ends up causing tears and frustration. So why punish myself? That does not mean that I do not make new things or make them try new things (or retry old things). And typically they have to eat at least 2 bites of whatever if made, except green beans which cause my 5 year old to throw up. Don’t ask. Also I repeat meals usually at least 2x a month, sometimes more if it is one we all really like. And you may notice I don’t list side dishes below and you sometimes won’t see them on my plans and that is only because I make whatever veggie/rice/pasta I have on hand or that will go with the meal. I serve a lot of salad, corn and potatoes. You can put whatever things your family likes with the main course. I will do another post that lists the main course and 2 sides that go with it as I did that a while back to help but rarely follow it now. So, do you want to know some of the things I make? You do, well then here goes!
- Tacos (usually 3-4 times a month)
- Baked Chicken legs (really easy)
- Pork Roast (in my dutch oven on Sundays usually)
- Stromboli/Calzone (on Fridays, homemade using refrigerated dough)
- Cheeseburger Macaroni (semi-homemade and this one is a favorite of everyone so its made at least 3 times a month and very easy)
- Fish (tilapia or salmon, my kids love fish)
- Chicken Bacon Ranch (another family favorite)
- Chicken and Rice
- Chicken and Noodles (usually once a month and on Sunday)
- Roast in my dutch oven (on Sunday)
- Beef Stroganoff (in my dutch oven)
- Chicken and Sausage Gumbo served with white rice
- Chicken Florentine Pasta (my kids even ate the spinach! lol!)
- Breakfast for Dinner (usually 2x a month and on Saturdays)
- Italian Beef Sandwiches
- Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups (this is a fave but kind of labor intensive because I make my own alfredo sauce)
- Chili (2x a month in the colder months)
- Italian layer Bake
- Tator Tot Casserole
- Shepherds Pie
- Cheeseburger Ring
- Santa Fe Chicken Rice Pilaf
- Chicken Enchilada Pasta
- Chicken Strips (homemade)
- Corn Beef and Cabbage (only on St. Pattys day)
- Pork and Sauerkraut (only on New Years)
- Pizza (sometimes homemade and sometimes take-out)
- Cheesy Chicken Burritos
- Spaghetti (but rarely, less than once a month as my hubby is not a fan)
- Salisbury Steak
- Patty Melts
As you can see that is a list of 31 main courses, which means I could cook something different every day of the month if I wanted to! But I don’t, I usually make the same thing at least twice a month. Some of the items above I only make in the colder months, some are “holiday” meals and some I only make once every few months. Also when I am planning out my menu’s I leave at least one day for dining out or take-out. We budget for this, sometimes it is 2 days a month. Also I try to work in leftovers so that I am not wasting food. Or instead of leftovers, I will try to do recipes that will use up the meat and stuff from a previous meal. Say one night we have a rotisserie chicken for dinner and don’t eat it all. Well, I will take that chicken and pull all the leftover meat off the bone and then save it to use in my cheesy chicken burritos or chicken and noodles. I also take this method into account when I am grocery shopping. A lot of times I buy whole chickens and boil them in my stock pot for several hours. I usually get at least 3 cups of meat plus at least 8 cups of homemade chicken broth!
Here are some pictures of my menus-
Note- I will be back later this week with links to recipes and to a couple other planning posts. Sorry it is late and I am tired! The hubby and I are kid-free this week (thank you mother-in-law!) and today we spent from lunch time until 10 pm out doing fun stuff–eating and movie and shopping!