Simplifying Menu Planning with a Menu Planning Guide (and my Menu Planning Guide)

We all know how important menu planning can be. Saves money. Saves time. Helps you prepare healthy meals. Less trips to the store. But, it can also be a rather daunting task. Sometimes it seems easier to just not menu plan to avoid that daunting blank piece of paper staring back at you waiting for ideas.

Enter MENU PLANNING GUIDE! *angelic music*

I made one a few months ago, right before we traveled a ton, then packed to move, then moved so, I really did not have much of a chance to use it, but I have now used it and loved it. Saturday I menu planned for four weeks. That’s right. Not one, two, or three weeks, FOUR. I have been wanting to do monthly menu planning for while. It further helps with keeping in a budget and having to go shopping less ect. ect. My Menu Planning Guide helped me do that easily.

What is a menu planning guide? It’s a guide that helps you menu plan, of course! Ok, I guess that did not help much. Let me explain. Basically you decide on “themes” for each day of the week. These themes are designed to help you fill in your menu plan, quickly and easily. Instead of thinking “what should I make for Friday night?” you think “what fish or seafood dish should I make for Fish Friday”? Easier isn’t it?

Here is my guide. It is designed for my specific needs, I will explain in a little bit how to develop your own menu planning guide but this is a good example.

MONDAY
Breakfast- Sweet Potatoes +
Dinner- Pasta  

TUESDAY
Breakfast- Sauerkraut and Sausage +
Dinner – Offal  

WEDNESDAY
Breakfast – Eggs+
Dinner – Chicken 

THURSDAY
Breakfast- Oatmeal with Fresh or Dried Fruit
Dinner- Soup/Stew 

FRIDAY
Breakfast- Smoothies and Muffins
Dinner- Fish/Seafood  

SATURDAY
Breakfast- Eggs+
Dinner- Special (something special)  

SUNDAY
Breakfast – Sprouted Granola with Kefir or Yogurt or Soaked Baked Oatmeal
Lunch – Crock pot 

I also included lunch options to keep, at least some of them, on hand:

Lunch (or Dinner on Sunday)- leftovers, salmon patties, pasta w/ cheese or marinara, soup or smoothies with sandwiches, sandwiches with vegetable sticks, lentil soup 

And snack options to keep, at least some of them, on hand:

 popcorn, LF vegetables, yogurt or kefir, dried fruit, sticks w/ dip, frozen peas, boiled eggs, fruit or coconut chews 

How do you use a Menu Planning Guide?

Once you have a Menu Planning Guide, menu planning is a breeze. I simply thought of four meals in each theme. If you do not want to do four weeks at a time, you can think of as many meals in each theme as you’d plan in that sitting.

Here is what Monday and Tuesdays on the plan look like.

MONDAY

Sweet Potatoes Breakfast

  1. Sweet Potatoes w/ Creme Fraiche (European sour cream) and Bacon
  2. Mashed Orange-y Sweet Potatoes w/ Sprouted Granola
  3. Sweet Potatoes Hash w/ Bacon and Onions
  4. Sweet Potato Custard with Whipped Coconut Cream or Whipped Creme (whichever is cheaper)

Pasta Night 

  1. Spaghetti w/ Meat Sauce and Broccoli
  2. Mac N’ Cheese w/ Broccoli (or other cheap green vegetable)
  3. Alfredo and Carrots
  4. Beef Stroganoff w/ Green Beans

TUESDAY

Sauerkraut and Sausage+ (for breakfast)

  1. Potatoes
  2. Crock pot Apples
  3. Sourdough Cinnamon Pull-A-Parts
  4. Buttered Toast

Offal Night

  1. Chicken Liver Pate on Bread w/ Cheap Vegetable
  2. Blueberry Liver and Onions w/ Potato Hash
  3. Dirty Rice w/ Tomatoes and Broccoli
  4. BBQ Liver over Rice w/ Vegetables 

Even planning four weeks at a time was a breeze with this system!

Developing your own menu plan guide. Everyone has different needs for their menu plan guide. I have four chicken recipe that you can use shredded chicken for because I can buy one pastured chicken, cook it, de-bone the meat, and freeze it. That helps me keep in budget. I try to have fish and liver (or other offal, I just need to find a source first) at least weekly so that is why I have a night for them. I want to have a hot meal waiting for me when I get back from Sunday, so that is why the crock pot theme on those days.

Your guide will look different. Love pizza? Consider having a pizza night where you have a different kind of homemade (preferably) pizza each week. Hate soup? Don’t have a soup night. Are Wednesdays days you are always on the go? Make Tuesday’s meal be something that easily will have leftovers and eat leftovers on Wednesday night, or have a super simple meal (ex. beans and rice) planned for that night. Need to go vegetarian once or twice a week for budget sake? Consider have a “meatless” day. Look at your schedule, budget, ect. and take everything into consideration.

Remember, it takes time do develop. Your Menu Planning Guide just might be a work in progress. Mine looks like it might already need to be changed. We will be hosting a small group on Tuesday nights and will possibly be doing a potluck dinner. I’m not serving liver at a potluck. Except maybe Liver Pate. That is really yummy.

Consider daily needs, budget needs, and be willing to change around as your needs change.

Do you use a guide to help you menu plan?

Frugal Friday @ Life As Mom

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