First, let me say that I am not a menu planning band-wagoner. I'm not even what you might call a true blue menu planner. I am lazy menu planner. Yep.
Years ago, when we were first married, I would go to the supermarket, pick out a bunch of stuff that looked yummy or sounded good, get it all home and then have no idea what to make for dinner. 99% of the time, I'd get home without the stuff we actually needed! Usually, I ended up with great snack food or things Chris wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, but no actual meal material.
However, I always had the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies on hand. At all times.
Anyway, one day I sat down in front of my Excel spreadsheet and categorized the store I shopped at. When you walk into my store, for example, the first thing you hit is the produce section. Next, deli meats and cheeses. After that, bread. Then general grocery, starting with juices, then breakfast foods, then my personal favorite, the baking aisle...you get the picture.
I typed out each of these sections into Excel, then made them big, bold and highlighted. I left several blanks under each.
Then, I went through my recipes, picking out 3-5 of them. I like to do this in my kitchen so I can survey what I already have and then fill in my spreadsheet with what I need.
Most importantly, in a column to the far right of my grocery list, I write down what I plan on making. Why? Because I can't tell you the number of times that I actually followed my list and then got home and had NO CLUE what I had committed to making. So trust me and write it down!
Fill in all of your grocery needs and then save the file. That way, if you lose your list, you will still be able to print another. Also? Because the next time you go to fill it out, you might notice something you need again (milk is a great example) just for everyday stuff, but not necessarily for a recipe. I'm terrible at writing those things down and seeing them from week to week is super helpful.
As you get better at this, you can even delete some columns. Instead of having every aisle listed, I now have the following categories on my spreadsheet:
~ Hardlines (ziplock bags, sponges, cascase, tide, dog treats etc)
My last helpful hint?
Here's where I think menu planning loses a lot of people. You see these women on morning tv shows talking about how they have an ENTIRE YEARS worth of menus planned. They shop once a month and they are so, overly prepared.
I am not that woman.
I admire her.
But I am, and will never be, her.
I plan one week - two at the most - ahead.
Why? Because that is doable. I have two small kids. We are building a home. We are selling a home. We are trying to adopt. I have a lot of irons in the fire and planning one-two weeks out is simply all I can do. But, you know what? It's enough! We are organized. We aren't spending lots of money on frivolous grocery store purchases because my purchases are planned out.
If you coupon this will really help you out with that as well! I used to, but right now I'm on a couponing break, because I simply don't have the time.
So, I hope these tips will help you with menu planning. And for those of you who are intimidated by it, I hope this will show you just how easy it can be! I spend about 30 minutes a week working on it!