How To Write A Dinner Menu Plan: Weekly or Monthly

Another week is flying by for me, I can’t believe it is Friday already! I’m glad when the weekends come fast and now that it’s the end of January I feel like this year is moving at lightening speed. With February just a couple of days away I realized that if I want to make a full month of menu plans I’d better get started! I know I said I’d get the ball rolling on it last week but procrastination is a good friend of mine.

Since there are 28 days in February and the month starts on a Sunday that makes my planning a little easier, in terms of nothing really, it just seems cool that there are 4 equal weeks. That rarely happens. Like, ever. So this is going to be a good month! I say so.

There are a few steps I take when planning a weekly menu for our house. None of them are hard but they do require a little thought and time. Here are the steps I take if you are going to give it a try but don’t know where to start.

Figure out how many days you need to cook for:

I always like to leave one or two days for leftovers this ensures that we don’t waste food and also gives me a break for a few days. I also usually a leave a day for ordering pizza but since I’ll be going for the whole shibang this month I’ll be replacing ordering pizza out with making pizza at home, which is pretty easy, fun and inexpensive. The last thing I consider is any plans or parties that we have coming up. If we won’t be home for dinner it’s another day I won’t have to cook!

This month I will just be having leftover days excused and I’ll give myself 2 of those days a week. That leaves me with 5 days a week to cook and 4 weeks for the month for a total of 20 recipes I’ll need. Ahh, but four of them have already decided.. Remember I am making pizza. Take those days out and I am down to 16 recipes that I’ll need. I rock at math!!

So to get me started I’ll first break down to how many of what type of meals I to pick recipes for.

Using What Proteins You Have or What to Buy:

Knowing what is on sale at the super market and what can be stocked up on is good for this part of planning. If you are only doing a menu for a week than you probably will only need about 1 pound of protein everyday to feed a family of 5. Keep in mind if you are hoping for leftovers you’ll want some of your recipes to include over 2 pounds of meat.

I have found that it is much cheaper (and easier) to buy bulk packs and then break them down and store them in the freezer. You don’t have to do this all at once either, just switch what you buy every week. Meaning if ground beef is in bulk for 20$ for four pounds, buy that separate it, and try to make only once a week. Then the next week do the same with chicken. Then the following pork, etc. Ideally you’ll be spending $20- $30 a week on protein, building your supply and before you know it you’ll be stocked.

Or you can use a club membership and stock up once ever 6-8 weeks like we do. In our case we buy bulk at Cosco every six-eight weeks and our freezer is almost always stocked with a variety of proteins. I always have more than enough to make at least a weeks worth of recipes and that is so nice. We spend about $200 every 6-8 weeks but that also includes other items like cereal, snacks, paper good, etc. Of course this means that we still need to buy produce and other pantry goods that we need, but it really helps cut food costs for the month. I admit we still need to get better at the other shopping but for now we are off to a great start.

I’ll get more into stocking up your freezer and pantry over a few months of time if anyone is interested. It really deserves it’s own post so if you are interested let me know.

Breaking down your menu plan:

Anyway, back to the menu.. Since I have 4 recipes to plan for each of the weeks this month I like to break it down even further. This can be done by the type of meals you want or by the ingredients you like to use. I like to do it by ingredients first, mainly protein. This month I’ll be doing 1 steak, 1 ground beef, 1 chicken and 1 roast (beef or pork) each week.

From there I like to base my recipes by type: quick and easy or low and slow. These categories free up the amount of time I’m actually working in the kitchen. These types of meals really help when we have afternoon appointments which for us is usually 2-3 times a week. These types of recipes are great for everyone because we are all busy!

The last way I like to break it down is by what everyone likes to eat. I try to keep everyone happy and looking forward to what is for dinner. You sure can’t please everyone all of the time but once a week is always good. I  always, always ask my family what they think of a meal if it’s the first time I’ve made it. I know what everyone’s favorites are and lucky for me they have a lot. At least once a week I’ll cook one of their favorites or try a recipe I think one (or each) of them will really love.

Picking the recipes and deciding what days to make them:

This is always the hardest part for me. I can get lost in my cookbooks for hours and become easily distracted. I have found that the easiest way to tackle this is to start by filling in the tried and true favorites. From there I will consider what ingredients I need for those and try to pick recipes that use the same types of vegetables or perishable ingredients so I don’t waste a bunch of money after only making one recipe. It also makes shopping that much easier.

After I have it narrowed down a bit I think if there are any recipes that I’ve been wanting to try and add those in. I read a lot of recipes in cook books and on-line. If there is something that I know I want to make in the future I’ll bookmark it. On the other side of that if there is something I know I want to make but don’t know how I usually head over to Allrecipes. That site is great because of the reviews!! I always go for the recipes with the highest reviews and then read the reviews! Tried and true I tell you! My go to cook book at home is the Pioneer Woman and luckily she has most of her recipes on her website. She is my absolute favorite cook in the world. Super simple and always delicious!

Make the shopping list:

This part can turn confusing really quick if you let it! I think the best way to tackle this part is to have a piece of paper separate from my menu/recipe page, making my shopping list for the items I will need. If you are doing a weekly plan this is pretty quick and simple. I think I will just go week by week for my monthly plan also. One trip to the market a week is doable and gives me less of a chance to forget items.

Once the list is made, double-check it and stick to it! You’ll have everything you need to make all the food on your menu and won’t need to run out or have an excuse to not cook.

Those are the basics for planning my menu and I hope this was pretty easy to understand and if you have any questions let me know, I’d be happy to help out. I’ll be back with another post to share what I’ve decided on for the month and for what days and a little more detail about approximate costs. Happy Friday, TGIF, have a great night :)

So that’s the outline of how I’ll plan for this upcoming month. This can easily be done for a week and if you are thinking of making a menu for the first time I’d suggest you start with only a week. I’ve had lots of luck with those! This month’s plan is challenging to me but I know I can get it done :)

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