I am a menu planner. It makes crunch time at dinner so much easier. But, the reality is, I don’t really like menu planning. There are too many options. Too many new things I want to try out. It can feel overwhelming, and used to stress me out like crazy. That is, until I came up with this system a few years ago. It still stresses me out occasionally because I’m always trying to come up with new ideas and tend to overthink it, but it is considerably easier (and happens a lot less often) now that I have this system in place.
When we lived in Norway my fridge and freezer were very small (as was my oven), this meant that I couldn’t do the bulk shopping that I was used to before. I needed to go every couple of days in order for things not to become over crowded. And, I found I actually really liked this system. It meant I only had to plan for 3-4 days at a time and that I wasn’t spending as much time in the grocery store. I have stuck to this even now when I’m starting to buy things in bulk and stocking my massive freezer.
I shop once at the beginning of the week, for the week, and once on Friday for the weekend. I’ve found that this makes the whole process a lot less overwhelming for me. But we’re all different and I know others may find shopping often actually more stressful. So I will share with you my second tip that is actually the biggest stress reliever of all.
I have a theme for every day, for each meal of the week. I don’t stick to it strictly but when I’m lacking inspiration a glance at that list will help me to keep the week more rounded and help us feel like we are eating a variety of food. I especially rely on this during busy weeks because I can just look at it and plug in the simplest versions of those meals.
Here’s what this generally looks like for me:
I know this day is going to be busy for me so I try to keep things really simple. Along with a lot of the other options below some of our most frequent dishes are:
- Skillet Lasagna
- Spaghetti (I have to include this one because we have it a lot. I guess it’s time I share it!)
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Quick Chicken Parmigiana
Wednesday: meat and veggies
- Cajun Grilled Pork Chops with Creamy Mushroom Pan Sauce
- Basil and Prosciutto Chicken Cordon Bleu
- Slow Cooker Roast Chicken
- The Best Roast Beef
We typically go for Mexican or Asian.
- Mexican Quinoa
- Crispy Baked Taco Shells and Seasoning
- Baked Chicken Taquitos with Quick Mexican Rice with Beans
- Grilled Fish Tacos with Avocado Salsa
- Spicy Bean Burritos
- Hoisin Chicken with Noodles and Green Beans
- Healthier General Tso’s Chicken
- Korean Beef Bowl with Oyster Broccoli-Pepper Stir Fry
Slow cooker, soup, dinner salads, grilling, etc.
- Slow Cooker French Onion Soup
- Pecan Crusted Chicken & Apple Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
- BLT Chicken Burgers
For having pizza practically every week I cannot believe my pizza section on here is so lacking. This must be rectified soon!
Sunday: free for all
Whatever we feel like depending on our weekend plans.
For breakfast we rotate between:
- Eggs and toast
- Scrambled omelet
- Muffins/quick bread (from the freezer) and scrambled eggs
- On the weekends we take it easy and make whatever we’re craving
I have each of these themes set to repeat in my calendar every week and I edit them to be whatever I want. Like I said, sometimes I stick to it and other times I switch it out completely, and I almost always switch which day I make what. But, I find this makes inspiration come much easier. I also like to go through my fridge before I plan to see if there’s anything that needs using up.
So that’s how I do it, hopefully it helps someone out and makes your menu planning a little easier. :)
We’re all different – how do you menu plan? Maybe something you share will help someone else!