Menu planning can be challenging, but it can also be useful. It’s particularly challenging for those who do not like to cook or those who are in a very busy phase of life. It can also be particularly helpful for those folks. One purpose of menu planning is to make meal time easier, but what if menu planning is too big of a chore itself? Here are a few tips I have learned.
1. Choose a meal that everyone loves and assign it to one day of the week. If you think you would get tired of eating it every week, pick two meals and alternate them. You could also choose several meals and have one every week for a month, then switch to the second, and so on. Your favorite meal might also vary by season.
Right now my kids are into baked macaroni and cheese. I decided that Sundays would be the day we have it because they are usually all home for dinner that day. Some weeks, plans change or I decided to do something different. But I always have it as a backup plan.
2. Choose a meal that can be varied and assign it to one day of the week. An example of this is pizza. Most Fridays I make home made gluten-free pizza. Some weeks it has a thick crust, some weeks it’s thin. And then, of course, there are all the different toppings. Pizza can be made a lot of different ways.
In the summer our varied meal might be burgers or tacos.
3. Choose a type of meal and assign it to one day of the week. Examples are casseroles or soups. There are so many kinds of soup that you could eat it every week for months and never have the same soup twice. It helps, though, just to know that Thursday (or whatever day you choose) is soup day. It narrows the decision. Soup is great for using leftovers, and you can even plan the day before to be a meal that will include leftovers that go into soup the next day.
An example would be roasting a chicken, serving it with wild rice which you cook extra of, and then the next night making a chicken and rice soup. You can serve different vegetables with each meal. Roasts are also great for doing that.
4. Choose a category of meal and assign it to one day of the week. This is slightly different than tip #3. Examples of categories are vegetarian, seafood, Mexican, or breakfast food. Again, assigning a category to a day narrows your choices and makes the decision easier. You can assign different categories to different days of the week. To keep variety in your menu, try alternating two categories one week, and a different two the next.
Putting it together:
There are a couple of ways to make this type of menu planning work. You can assign a specific meal to each day or just list the general idea for the day, or a combination of both. Of course, any plan is not set in stone. It helps if you can go with the flow and be willing to swap days, or change the plan completely. Below are two menu plan examples.
Menu Plan: Non-specific using the above tips
|Sunday||Favorite meal: Baked macaroni & cheese|
|Tuesday||Meal type: Casserole|
|Wednesday||Basic pre-soup meal: Chicken or Roast|
|Thursday||Meal type: Soup|
|Friday||Varied meal: Pizza|
|Saturday||Category: Breakfast food|
Menu Plan: Using tips and assigning specific meals
|Sunday||Favorite meal: Baked macaroni & cheese, veggie tray|
|Monday||Seafood: Scallops with Broccoli & Garlic, rice & quinoa|
|Tuesday||Casserole: Spaghetti Squash Casserole, green beans|
|Wednesday||Pre-soup: Roast beef, potatoes, ratatouille|
|Thursday||Soup: beef & vegetable soup, rolls|
|Friday||Pizza: Medium crust with sausage & mushrooms, salad|
|Saturday||Breakfast food: pancakes, sausage, fruit salad|
There are meals that may not fit into this type of menu plan. If you wish, you could always keep one day open for any type of meal. In the above menu, that might be Wednesday, because some soups would not use leftovers.
Do you have any easy menu planning tips? Please share them in the comments. You can finds lots of menu plans at Menu Plan Monday.