How to Make a Menu Plan

I used to go to the grocery store every week, buy tons of food that looked good and still would have no complete meals for the following week. I’d have plenty of protein but no side dishes, or side dishes and no protein. If I did come up with something for dinner, I would inevitably be missing an ingredient or two. The worst part? I’d be spending $80 per week on groceries and throwing away a bunch of food that would spoil before we got to eat it!

Then, when I started my monthly budgeting, I also started meal planning – and it helped. Tremendously! I found that now I knew what to make for dinner every night, I had all the ingredients and we had hardly any food waste. Plus I saved tons of time by knowing what I was making rather than standing in front of the refrigerator trying to guess.


Here’s how to get started with menu planning.

1. Know your inventory. Before you sit down to make a menu plan, look through your freezer, refrigerator and pantry to see what you have. I’m pretty good at having a running inventory in my head, but if you need to write it down, go ahead! Use what you have available to you first.

2. Next decide if you want to make a monthly meal plan or a weekly one. I find that making a weekly one is much easier, but for some people a monthly one works best. You just have to experiment to see what is the best fit for your family.

3. Write down a repertoire of your family’s favorite meals. I like to have a list handy of meals that we love and new meals that we want to try. Every week when I’m making my meal plan, I look at the lists and write down a few recipes that I think will work based on what we already have and what I’m already buying at the store.

4. Just like when couponing, check your store circulars for sales. There might be a huge sale on ground beef and you may want to make tacos one night, hamburgers another and meatballs yet another. Or maybe there’s a sale on whole chickens. You can roast it and eat it as is one day and then have some chicken salad or chicken soup another. Keep yourself informed.

5. Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to write it all down. Pick a template that you like {I use this one} and fill it in with PENCIL. Pencil allows you to easily change something if you need to.

6. Know that you can vary from your schedule. Maybe something comes up at work and you have to stay late. You can always switch things around and substitute, but having the plan helps you be better prepared. You know what’s in your kitchen in case you do have to substitute at a moments notice.

Do you menu plan? Have any questions? Leave me a comment below or email me:

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