Menu Planning is one of my very least favorite things to do! I find myself inspired some weeks and brainstorming for what seems like hours others...
I am by NO means a pro, but here are 5 things I have found that make menu planning a little easier:
1. If 4 out of 5 won't eat it, I don't fix it! By the time our family reached 5 people, I knew chances were that there were going to be things the majority ate, but might be disliked by one. I don't have time, nor do I want to fix 2 seperate dinners in one day, so I created this rule. Example: Will only eats pasta in spaghetti. The rest of the family love pasta. So we fix pasta every once in a while and he will eat leftovers or whatever veggies I might fix and chicken nuggets.
2. I plant our menu on the fridge so that we don't deviate from it. Ok, that sounds a little extreme. Let's rephrase: If there is one way to blow your grocery budget it is by buying for meals you don't fix and re-buying for meals your in the mood for. I have found that posting my meals on the fridge are the easiest way to ensure I am going to stick to my guns. I print up a cute menu and put it up where easily seen!
3. I plan our dinner menu with my calendar in front of me. I used to simply plan a certain amount of meals in no particular order and just fixed them based on my mood. Well, I would find that we would reach of a busy day and I had already fixed all of my "easy" or "quick" meals. So, now I plan on particular meals on particular days. Example: Wednesday we will be taking dinner to Blake at church and eating with him there. Rather then a meal that requires all sorts of ingredients to pack up, We are having homemade chicken and noodles. A one pot meal that I can make in the crock pot and will still be hot when we get there.
4. I plan one fun meal a menu. I love cooking and would gladly spend half of the day doing it. Ummm.... Except that I have a 4,3,and almost 2 year old. So to ensure that cooking doesn't become too monotonous, I try to throw either a new meal or perhaps a favorite that costs a little more to make or might take a little more time then I might normally give to my dinner cooking. Example: Last week was busy and I had easy meals planned, except for Saturday night. Blake was home that evening so I could cook an unfamiliar meal that required more time and attention. We had Cajun Chicken Pasta. The result: I looked forward all week to being able to try out a new recipe. Oh, and it turned out delish and thus we added another meal to our list of regulars!
5. Always have a fall back meal or two. I don't typically schedule or plan out a fall back meal, but we always have a few essentials stocked in case one is needed. There is always pancake mix in our pantry so I could easily throw that with scrambled eggs if dinner just wasn't going to happen that night. There is always noodles and spaghetti sauce in the pantry as well and our deep freezer often holds a few extra chicken breasts that could easily be marinaded and grilled.
I love hearing ideas from friends and often scan blogs for them, so please feel free to share a favorite meal of yours in the comment section! What is your go to family meal? Here is our dinner menu for this next week... Perhaps a little inspiration.