Menu planning was a foreign concept to me until about five years ago, when I actually sat down and thought out what we would have for dinner over the course of a given month. I didn’t venture into any real details, and usually got off track towards the middle of the month. Then things got extremely hectic in our home and menu planning or any sort of planning, outside of the commitments that The Spouse and I had, didn’t exist. Once we boarded the plane for here though, The Spouse and I became determined that our lives would claim down as much as the military would allow them to.

So I set out scheduling, planning, and looking into various ways to tackle our family life. For a family of just four people we stay rather busy, between karate, piano, time with friends, schooling, my own personal endeavors, and The Spouse’s obvious work commitment, we manage to fill a month up before it even hits. Once I managed to work out a sleep schedule that at least TBM could adhere to, I had to work out something to ensure we were eating home cooked meals and not a metric ton of take-out food.

So I tried a few different things, like pre-planned weekly menus from various online sources or magazines. Those didn’t pan out since they didn’t always have things we liked or items we couldn’t get our hands on. When that tanked I looked into 30 Meals in One Day, that was done for only one month…and not because it was a bad idea, we just don’t have the freezer space for such an endeavor. We not only have to plan out 30 dinners, but 30 breakfast meals, and 30 lunch meals, plus snacks. If we owned a large freezer I could see doing this full-time. Spending just one or two days knocking out a months’ worth of meals sounds like a dream come true, and maybe I will jump back into it when we purchase a large freezer one day…but for now it just won’t work. So where did leave me? Back to square one of course. But I had learnt a valuable lesson, planning out ahead saves time, money, and energy.

Now tackling the planning ahead, that created a challenge, how would I ensure we wouldn’t get into the rut of eating the same thing over and over again? Home cooked meals are wonderful, but not if you are eating the same thing constantly. I figured if I designated each day to have a certain kind of food cooked, it would eliminate the mundane. I started with dinner, then expanded to breakfast and lunch after reading The 5$ Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook. After figuring out what will get cooked on which day I then sat down to actually plotted out what I would cook on those days. After a couple of weeks I had eight weeks of menus featuring breakfast, lunch, dinner, two snacks, and plenty of variety!

After writing out the menus using a template from the Donna Young’s printable site, I laminated them, punched a hole in the top corners, tied on some string, and I was done! Eight weeks’ worth of planned out meals, I almost can’t believe it!

The best part of all of this is the ease in which I make my grocery list. Instead of debating on what to make and then hunting everything down, or just going off of what is in my head while I’m shopping, I actually have a full week already planned out. I just go to the recipes, jot down the ingredients I don’t have and then buy ONLY those things I need. Yes, I still splurge here and there for treats, but pretty much everything that ends up in the cart was deliberately planned out. Saving our family money and saving mommy time!

Also due to the change in planning out our meals I changed when I acquire our groceries as well. Since I have every week already planned out I figured I could just pick one day a week to go shopping and then go. So I’m using Monday *which is generally our “light”/run around day* to tackle the grocery shopping. I only buy a week’s worth at a time, saving space in the fridge for leftovers, and allowing me to have one day a week when I KNOW I will be grocery shopping *and can plan everything else accordingly*.

So how does our menu planning breakdown?

B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner, I also plan two snacks a day out usually fruit, smoothies, or some other nice healthy munchies they don’t have certain themes to them though like the other meals do.

Sunday: B/L- Brunch Extravaganza *this is a big deal in our home on Sundays we usually stay in our PJs and everyone pitches in doing something*, D- Crockpot Night

Monday: B-Cold Cereal Morning, L- Meat-Free Meal, D- Meat-Free Night *As you can tell we are meat-free on Mondays, now the meals also include other things like fruit to go with their cereal, I’m just going to hit the core food item/theme to give you all an idea of what I have in place*

Tuesday: B-Muffins/Biscuits Morning, L- Sandwich/Quesadillas Meal, D- Italian Night

Wednesday: B-French Toast/Toast Morning, L- Chicken/Beef/Turkey Meal, D- Seafood Night

Thursday: B-Pancakes/Waffles Morning, L- Noodles/Pizza Meal, D- Curry Night

Friday: B- Hot Cereal/Egg Morning, L- Salad Meal, D- Chinese/Mexican Night

Saturday: B- Cold Cereal Morning, L- Dine Out, D- Grill Night

These are the core things I meet on the various days, adding in sides and other items to round out our meals. Various days also alternate the type of core item served to help ensure variety throughout the month. At the end of the day well-balanced meals have been served and I can start on meals for tomorrow that heat up nicely, saving me even more time and allowing for an extra five minutes in the shower! WooHoo!

So how do you tackle meals in your home?

Copyright(c) 2011 Rayven Holmes


  1. I don't plan-plan breakfast or lunch, but I kinda plan dinner.
    I figure out 5-6 meals, buy the stuff for those meals, make the hardest one first. And make due the rest of the time...
    I hate cooking.

  1. Do you all have Hoka-Hoka? We eat A LOT of Lawson's and Hoka-Hoka when Ian is gone. Having 2 older kids that seem to run on their own schedule I try to keep a bowl of veggies and fruit for them to eat when they want a snack. I always have rice in the warmer, and some sort of fish or chicken cooked.

    I watch the sales at Jusco and we eat a mostly Asian style diet. I am going to miss all the food when we leave.

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