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7 Easy Menu Planning Ideas




Everyone is looking to cut their food budget these days. One real way to slash your grocery budget is to create a weekly menu plan.

And while you’ve probably heard this before, have you actually done it?

We have to eat every day. So whether you like it or not, you’re probably menu planning already, but at the last minute, which is stressful.

That’s why you should start a weekly menu plan. Then you can look ahead, plan for busy days, and have something nutritious for your family to eat.

How do you create a menu plan and how often? What if you don’t have time? If you have time to coupon, you have time to do menu planning!

Benefits of Menu Planning:

menu planning

Save money. When you have a plan you’ll be less likely to do takeout or grab fast food. And you’ll cut down on the multiple trips to the grocery store.

Fewer trips to the grocery store mean there will be less chances for impulse buying, thereby saving you money. Cooking from fresh ingredients is more economical too.

Save time. When your meals are planned out, you won’t have to waste time thinking of what’s for dinner.

Waste less food. Because you’ll buy only what you need, you won’t have wasted food.

Eat healthier. When you plan to cook your meals, you”re planing to eat healthier as well. You know what’s in your food when you cook it yourself, from fresh, whole ingredients.

When you go out to a restaurant, you don’t really know what’s in your food, what additives they used, how many times they’ve reused the cooking oil, if the food was cross contaminated, or even if they used expired ingredients.

And when you eat healthier, you will be healthier and get sick less often.

There is no right or wrong way to menu plan. But different things work for different people. That’s why I’ve listed various ways to do menu planning. Hopefully, you can find an option that works best for you.

Clever ways to start menu planning:

1. Use technology tools

Simple Mom uses Google calendar to record her menus and bookmarks recipes using del.icio.us. She plans 2 weeks at a time, then repeats the 2 weeks for the remainder of the month. She plans her meals, then her grocery list.

2. Shop, then plan meals

Almost Frugal does the opposite. She does her grocery shopping first, depending on what’s on sale, then creates her menus.

3. Subscribe to a meal planning service

E-mealz  is a menu planning service endorsed by Dave Ramsey. You choose a favorite store like Kroger, Ralph’s, even Whole Foods, and you’ll receive a weekly shopping list and recipes to go along with it.

What’s brilliant about the plan is that the shopping list and meals are based on what’s on sale that week. And there are menu plan options for those who are on gluten-free, low-fat, low-carb, or vegetarian diets. E-mealz costs about $5 – $7/mo.

4. Get your kids involved.

Kids are more likely to eat dinner when they feel included in the meal planning process. Have them look for recipes of things they want to try. Then enlist their help with cooking prep or even setting up the table.

5. Follow a magazine.

If you’re looking for a free option for menu planning and are open to eating new things, check out a magazine. Woman’s Day features a monthly menu of easy dinner ideas. They also provide a shopping list to go along with each month.

6. Watch Rachael Ray’s “Week in a Day”.

Food Network favorite and talk show host, Rachael Ray, has a show on Cooking Channel about how to cook a week’s worth of dinners, all in one day! Check out her 20 make ahead meals.

7. Follow a pre-established theme. 

If you like routines, this is for you. Make it easy for yourself. Decide on a theme per day and follow it.

It makes planning dinner a lot simpler. Here is a sample theme from Simple Mom.

Mondays – pasta
Tuesdays – soup, salad, and/or sandwiches
Wednesdays – stir fry
Thursdays – crock pot
Fridays – pizza
Saturdays – something new
Sundays – something easy

Check out these menu planning sheets from Money Saving Mom.

How do you do menu planning? What are you tips?

Photo Credit: cooking channel

Featured in Carnival of Personal Finance #346


4 Comments on 7 Easy Menu Planning Ideas

  1. Emily
    January 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm (3 years ago)

    We pretty much have the same thing every week: this on Monday, that on Tuesday, the other thing Wed, etc, which makes life really easy.

  2. Paula @ Afford Anything
    February 2, 2012 at 7:56 am (3 years ago)

    We have the same 3-4 basic meals, again and again. That way we always know what ingredients we need at the store — no need to think about it. It’s low-maintenance.

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