3 Easy Menu Planning Methods

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There are few universally hated chores including packing, unpacking, and of course menu planning. I know menu planning is really a great way to save money and sanity, but actually sitting down to menu plan can feel very overwhelming. When we first got married I came up with something to end the dreaded question of “What do you want for dinner?” once 4:30 rolled around. I’ve also learned a few other methods that friends use that make it easy for them.

​Method 1: Buy a Menu Plan

I guess you could argue that this is the easiest way to menu plan. Whether it’s through a fitness guru or another blogger, copying someone else’s menu is totally legit. I’ve done this before but I got bored of the lack of variety in the meals. But not all pre-planned menus have that same dilemma. You might even decide to order meal kits from Blue Apron or a similar meal kit program. This way you don’t even have to do the grocery shopping. You just need to decide the cost effectiveness of this method for your situation.

​Method 2: Set Meal Types for Days of the Week

This is a method that some of my friends use. They know that every Monday will be a pasta dish, Tuesday will be with rice, Wednesday a salad of some kind etc etc. They feel this offers the best of both worlds slight variety within specific parameters. The con of this method is that I feel like I would probably end up making the same type of pasta dish every Monday. Dinner time would roll around and I would still be looking in the freezer thinking “what can I cook with the pasta tonight?” I feel this method can work great for you if you like routine and have a rotation of dishes your family loves.

​Method 3: My Foolproof Easy Method- Draw From a Hat

My slips of paper with meals written on them.
My menu setup in my kitchen. I used clothes pins to attach my baggy and a pencil to my calendar.
Close-up of how I write meals on the calendar.
It doesn’t really have to be from a hat, it can be a baggy or a cup. Essentially I have my family sit down together and write down meals they love on little slips of paper. We do enough so we have at least 30 (to cover a month). They can even write multiples of the same meal if they like it that much. Then I put the slips of paper in a container and draw them out one at a time and fill in my calendar. I use a large desk calendar that I hung on my kitchen wall. Using a pencil I’ll write in the meals on every day of the month. And that’s it!

I can move meals around so we’re not having too similar of dinners in the same week or swap based on grocery sales. If I find a new recipe I want to try, I pin it on Pinterest and add a slip of paper to my baggy with the recipe name. At the beginning of each week I make a list of produce/groceries I need for the week. I can put in orders and save money by not wandering the aisles of the grocery store.

The thing I love most about this method is that all the heavy lifting is done at the very beginning and shared by the whole family. If any of us want to add a new meal, we just put it on a slip of paper and put it in the baggy. Then next month it will be put into the rotation. If there was a meal that didn’t go over well we can just toss the slip of paper and not worry about it. With this method I actually planned three months of meals at one time! Imagine that- 3 months of meals where none were repeated. It was fun for me and saved us money. And because I knew I had stuff to make dinner at home I ordered out way less (which you can include eating out in your slips of paper).
How do you menu plan? Will you be trying this method in your home? Let us know below!