8 Easy Steps To Create A Menu Plan + Free Printables

So I got you all excited a couple of weeks ago when I posted on Facebook a shot of myself doing my monthly meal plan. It is something I do without fail every month just before I go and do my monthly groceries. I have been doing this for many years and when I think about it probably for most of our 9 year married life. I remember in the early years of our marriage when I was working full time, in the rush of getting ready in the morning I use to stand in front of the fridge with the freezer door open staring aimlessly at the meat we had to choose from. I would umm and ahh over what to get out for dinner that day as I had no plan or purpose for each day’s dinner and it would get pretty frustrating. I use to get home late from work in the evening and would then try and formulate some semblance of dinner with what I had got out that morning.

 I was constantly making random stops at the grocery shop during the week and our food bill was out of control. We weren’t making good use of the stuff we had in our pantry or fridge and a lot of our fresh food was going to waste. Plus I kept relying on pre-package & overly processed meats and meal starters. I knew I had to get on top of things fast because it was stressing me out, making us spend unreasonable amounts and our health was paying for it with the processed foods we kept consuming. It was time to make some changes. At first it seemed really overwhelming trying to put together a meal plan for a week let alone a month. So I think I started with just doing a fortnight at a time as that is how often we would do our grocery shopping. Since having kids I have moved it to a month (so I don’t have to go so often) and have found I can save even more money by doing this.
So you say well that all sounds great but how do I go about implementing a meal plan into my chaotic life? My answer is one step at a time. So let’s go through the 8 easy steps to creating your meal plan.

Step 1: Choose how long you are going to create your meal plan for i.e. weekly/fortnightly/monthly. If you like to shop weekly then start from there until you feel comfortable in creating meal plans without stressing. Then move onto fortnightly and monthly if that suits your family better. Any meal planning is better than no planning at all.

Step 2: Print off my free meal plan template. You can print off a weeklyfortnightly or monthly version. I print off a couple so that I have some around for the next time I have to plan. If they are not there to use you will just fall back into bad habits.

Step 3: Now start marking in your favourite meals from Monday to Sunday. My approach to planning my meals for a week is something like this: Monday = chicken, Tuesday =  mince, Wednesday = Vegetarian, Thursday = steak (lamb, pork etc.)/sausages, Friday = leftovers, Saturday = roast/curry/pizza (something that I can spend a little more time on), Sunday = leftovers from Saturday night or eggs/baked beans on toast etc. By knowing that each Monday will be a chicken based meal this helps me easily fill in a month’s worth of Monday night dinners and this is the same for the rest of the days during the week.

Step 4: Okay you’ve run out of ideas. Go and pull out 5-8 of your favourite recipe books or even pull out ones you haven’t looked at in a while. Yes we are going to actually use these for once! Flip through the books and note down any recipes that will fit into your meal plan. Make a note on your meal plan of the book and page number so you aren't scratching your head days later wondering what book it came from. Alternatively start a board on your Pinterest account and pin some of your favourite meals to there, make sure you print them off and pop them in your recipe folder.  Don’t have one then grab yourself a large two-ring binder folder with clear plastic sheets and some cardboard dividers and start yourself a meal plan recipe folder. Make sections with Beef, Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Vegetarian etc. and add your favourite printed recipes in here. Make sure you pop over to The Whimsical Wife Pinterest boards. I pin a lot of dinner inspiration.

Extra Homework: If you are in an organised mood go a step further and type up a list of all your favourite Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Vegetarian etc. dishes into a spreadsheet and print it off. Stick it in the front of your folder and this will give you some inspiration at a quick glance.
Otherwise simply keep a collection of your printed meal plans and refer back to them when you are doing up another meal plan. I have about a year’s worth of meal plans that I look back on to get a little more inspiration from.

Step 5: Make a note of any special ingredients you might need for the recipe specified on each day. For example I am going to cook a beef curry on Saturday night. I know I have the cubed beef, curry powder and always buy potatoes in my fruit & veg grocery shop however I don’t always buy coconut milk so I add the coconut milk under the meal for that day. By doing this you will pick up any little ingredients you don’t normally buy and add them to your grocery list.

Step 6: Make a grocery list from the meals you have planned. I sweep my eyes over the meal plan and add all the special ingredients that I need to my basic grocery list.

Extra Homework: This might sound strange but I even went a step further one day and wrote down the entire contents of my pantry. Sauces, spices, flours, cereals, hygiene products, laundry products etc. and added them to a word document. I then use this as my standard grocery list and add in anything else that needs buying.

Step 7: Shop for your meal plan and stick to what you have planned.  I meal plan for a month and do a monthly grocery shop, however we do a weekly shop for our fruit and vegetables and I make a stop to the grocery store no more than once every 7-10 days to pick up staples of milk, bread or anything I missed in my grocery shop. Stick to the list you have written and don’t be tempted into buying extra things! Easier said than done hey! If there is something on your plan you are really really not in the mood for I then concede and make something else but ONLY from the ingredients I have in my cupboard. No extra trips to the grocery store! Be strong!

Step 8: Sit back and enjoy the freedom of knowing what is for dinner every night! If only dinner would make itself!!!

So here is an example of how I fill out a Monthly Meal Plan to help you on your way:

A note on leftovers. I noted on my example meal plan that we eat leftovers once or twice a week. This doesn't always happen as hubby takes most of the leftovers for lunch the next day. I do try and make a double batch of one of the meals during the week to freeze. This means I will have some frozen leftover options in the freezer to choose from each week. I cannot tell you how helpful this is some days when the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. By utilizing our frozen meals we bypass the need to buy take-away therefore saving us money! We do splurge about once every month to 6 weeks on a take-out meal. We aren't scrooges and we enjoy every mouthful when we buy something out.

So there you have it a monster post on meal planning. If you have any questions about this post don't hesitate to post a comment here, pop over to Facebook and comment there or contact me here. Happy meal planning everyone.



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