The Act of Menu Planning

When I was first married, I knew nothing about menu planning.  My mom didn’t really menu plan that I knew of.  She just bought things that were needed, and could always make a meal.  After getting married my husband and I headed off to get grocery shopping.  We had a blast picking out things we wanted, things we needed, and things that sounded good.

We got home, got the groceries on the counter to put away when I realized…with horror…we’d just spent our grocery budget on nothing!  I remember we had a bag of chicken nuggets, ice cream, bread, olives…but nothing you could really assemble together to make a meal.  Husband and I looked at each other skeptically and wondered what happened?

I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t have a list, I had no planned meals, I was just getting staples I thought we needed and things we wanted.  I think I had salt for months after that shopping experience!  

So, how do you successfully menu plan?  Thankfully it’s pretty easy.

-Check your kitchen for any leftover food items that could be incorporated or turned into dinner.  Maybe you have a whole bunch of kale getting close to the end of its life.  Jot it down and incorporate it into a meal.  This helps make sure you’re not wasting any food.  This is also a great time to take inventory of if you need more flour, sugar, yeast, spices, etc.  If you need it, jot it down.

-Ask your husband what he’d like to eat for dinner!  I always try to take his considerations first.  After asking him, get on the internet and/or crack open your cookbooks to see what other meals sound good.  It’s important to keep in mind how many ingredients are listed for each meal considered.  You may be able to afford one fancier, ingredient heavy meal, and have the other meals be simpler or you could keep all meals simple.

-Once you’ve figured out which meals you’ll be making, I always like to write the meals down on my grocery list.  That way you can remember which meals your making.

-Go through each recipe, and jot down the ingredients.  I usually write the ingredient, then after it how much I need.  For example if one recipe calls for 3 eggs, and another recipe calls for 2 this is what I usually write on my paper…


You could always just write eggs-5, etc., this just makes sure I get enough of whatever it is I need to buy.  I will also add this is INTEGRAL to planning Thanksgiving dinner, or any other big dinner.

-After writing down all the ingredients, and having your list prepared go shopping in your kitchen!  Check through your fridge, freezer, pantry, and spices and see if you already have some of these ingredients, if you do then check them off your grocery list.

-Now you have your grocery list.  I also like to take stock of our household items and jot those down with my groceries; these are things like toothpaste, cleaners, etc.

-The last thing to do before heading out to get those groceries is…EAT.  Have a snack, have a meal, but do not go to a grocery store hungry.  It is never a good idea and will only get you in trouble!

I also want to note that this isn't THE way to menu plan, it's A way to menu plan.  This may not work for you, however bits and pieces may be added to your current menu planning to make it better!  Good luck, and have fun meal planning!

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