Weekly menu planning is the best and the worst part of my week. On one hand, I love having that framework in place to make out a grocery list…a THOROUGH grocery list that ensures that I only make one trip to the grocery store per week. That’s the goal. And a girl can dream.
I really don’t love the actual sitting down and figuring out what to eat part of menu planning, but it’s gotta be done. And it’s never as bad as I make it out to be. It’s actually kinda fun to scroll through the THM Pinterest Boards, and my Trim Healthy Mama book, and pick things I would like to try.
What do I adore about menu planning? I don’t have to answer the ‘what’s to eat’ question for the WHOLE rest of the week, AND I have what I need in the pantry already!
My week goes SO much more smoothly when I’ve done a menu plan. This neat little printable menu planner I created is the BEST way I’ve found to get it all done on one simple sheet: a weekly menu on one half, and the shopping lists on the other. You can see my menu plan in action here:
So, I plan for the meals for each day, and write out what I need to buy to make them on the shopping half of the list. Pretty straight forward.
Here, I’ve been a little lazy. OK. A LOT lazy. I’ve only planned for dinners. But that’s OK, because one of my favorite weekly menu planning tricks is to use leftovers as lunch for the next day!
Being the ‘creative’ type, I don’t love schedules, but I do enjoy the flexibility of having SOME sort of plan. I can always swap days around if I get a wild hair.
After shopping, I’ll usually fold back the used shopping list to leave room for family members to write in stuff we run out of that we’ll need for next week. Like toothpaste and bandaids. Which keeps me up to date on next weeks ‘needs’ when I start that menu. So that’s basically how I use my menu planning list for the week.
My Best Weekly Menu Planning Tips
- I often check out a coupon site, just to see if anything that’s on sale+coupon is of interest this week. If I find a great coupon, I’ll print and staple it to the back top corner of my list, so they’re ready to go when I shop. Southern Savers is my favorite coupon site for the southeastern U.S.
- Add in repeating theme meals to make menu planning easy. Fridays are always pizza & ice cream. Saturday mornings are always a big S style brunch with pancakes. I make Sunday’s breakfast on Friday. I know some Mamas who only serve one item for breakfast EVERY morning, just to keep things simplified. Sometimes, I’ll dub Mondays as “Mexi-Night” and if we have a busy season with practices, that night will become ‘Leftovers’ or ‘Crock Pot’ night. In the winter, I have done ‘Soup Night’ and ‘Chili Night’ (varying types and toppings of chili). Make that menu work for you.
- Jot down spur of the moment ideas on your menu for the following week. For instance, if I discover a lasagna in the freezer mid-week, I’ll jot a note reminding me to schedule it for the following week (and on the day or two before to thaw it).
- Use a colored pencil or marker for things that you want to really remind yourself of. Like this: RETURN LIBRARY BOOKS!
- Jot down major daily activities, functions, or appointments on the menu plan to give you an idea of which nights are going to be the best for easy meals, leftovers, or using your crock pot.
- Plan for leftovers, and use them! My man loves leftovers for lunch, so I make him a plate either before or right after we eat dinner. If you and yours are not so much into repeat foods, then make freezer plates, and that way you can start a great stash of easy to re-heat meals for lunches or busy nights when you don’t have time to cook.
- Re-vamping ‘planned-overs’ is also a great tactic. In the menu below, you’ll see I turned shredded chicken into BBQ chicken pizza on another night.
- Along the same line, if you’re expecting, are planning a vacation, or have friends or family who are expecting, planning double cooking one night a week is a GREAT way to stock the freezer. Just make a note on your shopping list for the extra food. It only takes a little more time to toss 2 lasagnas together.
- Remind yourself to thaw things on your menu plan. For real. I’m horrible about this.
- Don’t feel like you have to be RIGID with a menu plan. The main goal is that it’s there for *ideas* when your brain isn’t in the mood later on. If you decide to have Thursday’s Spaghetti on Tuesday, the menu police will NOT come knocking. Being flexible is what it’s all about.
- Recycle those menus! After you’ve planned weekly menus for a month or two, pull out your stash and re-cycle those babies.
Free Printable Weekly Menu Planner
Here’s a printable .pdf FREE Blank Weekly Menu & Shopping List
*AND* I am sharing a true labor of love:
One Week THM Sample Menu
with shopping list for you to play with.
I didn’t skimp here, friends…I filled out the WHOLE menu including snacks and a couple of desserts. WITH links to recipes and/or page numbers. Now I don’t expect your tastes to match ours, so please feel free to scrap things that don’t appeal and sub your own ideas. To simplify that, I listed ingredients by day/meal.
You can see how my Trim Healthy breakfasts and lunches are sometimes different than the kids at times. But those are the easy/quick meals ONLY, and usually the kids can make their own…and I make mine in less than 5 minutes. We enjoy ALL dinners, and even several breakfasts and lunches together with just a few tweaks with toppings or side dishes to move the kids into crossover mode.
And you’ll see that I don’t spend hours in the kitchen…I definitely try to make good use of my time by making extras and using common components to meals. Hope you enjoyed!