Menu planning

I get questions every now and again from friends who want me to explain how I plan out our dinner menu.  I was asked again this week so I thought to explain it.  Now I know of many ways this can be done and I have tried a handful of them but this is the way I have been doing it for a number of years.


I have a few different places that I keep recipes.  In this box are the recipes that are the tried and true.  These are the ones I’ve made many times.  The main dividers that I use are MEATS, POULTRY, SOUP and SIDES.   I have others but those are the three I will pull out to plan my menu.


I also have a binder where I keep all the recipes I have found on the internet.  I like to print them up so I can have them in hand and make notes on what I did differently or what to try the next time.  Once these recipes have been made and loved enough, I will write them on cards and put them in the “tried and true” box.


I also get a couple of food/recipe magazines in the mail and I used to just tear out the recipes I was interested in and put them in this folder.  Not great but I didn’t have time to make it better.


This is now where I put those recipes that I have torn out of magazines.

So I have those three recipe storage items with me when I sit down at the table to plan our menu.


I pull out my notebook that houses all my blog information which includes my menus and the recipes that I will photograph and blog.  Click here for where I got the idea for my notebook and magazine recipe organization.


Dated and ready for my menu.


I check out my calender to find out how many days I will need to prepare dinner for that 10 day period.  I plan 10 days because I do not meal plan on a specific day each week so that gives me enough meals to be able to push off sitting and planning by a few days.

So for this week that I was planning I counted 5 days that I would need to prepare dinner.  The other days we were going to be at parties or I was plannng pizza or eating out.


I like to vary the meat entrees over a week and we do more chicken than anything else.  So I pulled out my “tried and true” box and flipped through the POULTRY section and selected what I wanted and did the same for the MEAT, and SEAFOOD, SOUP and SIDES sections.  I then pull out the binder and accordian folder and fill in the gaps.  I like to try one new recipe a week and lately I have been on a PIONEER WOMAN kick and filled my menu with her recipes.  If you have never visited her site, get over there!


I gather all the recipes that I have chosen and go through each one.  I look through my frig, freezer and pantry for what I already have on hand and then make a grocery list with the items that need to be bought.


If a recipe calls for some kind of fresh produce that I don’t think will stay fresh waiting for the day I make that meal, I will put that item on a separate list to buy closer to that date.  Those type items are mushrooms, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.


The recipes that I will use for the week get put in this cheap, plastic folder where I can get my hands on it quickly.

Please share with me how you meal plan.  If you do not meal plan, start this week.  It keeps you organized, it saves you money and it is just nice to know in advance what’s for dinner instead of floundering at the last minute.  That used to be me!  It is a stressful way to live.