One Bite at a Time: Project Five {Start Menu Planning}

Last week I described my evening routine as Project 4. This week it’s all about menu planning!

I love food and trying new recipes. I have an absurd number of recipe ideas bookmarked, pinned, and printed, but it is an absolute love of mine. In that sense, menu planning is easy for me!

Actually following through on that menu plan? Doesn’t always happen.

However, just having the plan is a HUGE help, because even when things get changed around it seems to ensure that we have more variety in our meals, and that I do get to some of those recipes I want to try someday. If it were up to my husband, we’d eat the same meals all. the. time.

My current routine is to go four weeks at a time – it seems like the most efficient use of planning time. I have a general schedule, as in beef, pasta or rice, soup, pizza, chicken, slow cooker, beans. I typically only plan five nights of the week – we always seem to go with leftovers at least once, and often go out once. So, although I have six categories listed above, they can overlap to create five meals for a week.

Beef Burgundy (beef / slow cooker)
Santa Fe chicken (chicken / slow cooker)
Spaghetti and meatballs (beef / pasta)
Potato soup (soup / slow cooker)
Red beans and rice (beans / rice)

You get the idea.

SML <3 Foodies! / 20090916.SD850IS.2859 / SML
Creative Commons License photo credit: See-ming Lee ??? SML

I sort through my recipe binders, and look at my pinterest board or blog reader for ideas that will fill in the 4-week grid. I try to go for 2 new recipes a week and the rest are tried-and-true meals – that keeps me happy because I love new recipes, and it also keeps my husband happy, because he would rather never risk trying something he might not like.

I never plan breakfasts or lunch, but only make sure that I’ve got food on hand to make our standbys – Breakfast is English muffins with peanut butter and jelly for me, cereal or toast for Mr. SJ, and the boy’s current obsession (this week it’s raisin toast or mini bagels with cream cheese). Milk and juice. Sandwich fixings for lunch for the days we don’t have leftovers.

This week’s menu plan:
Sunday – Alphabet beef soup & homemade bread (new recipe)
Monday – BBQ chicken with butter noodles and broccoli
Tuesday – Pizza
Wednesday – Michigan beans & sausage (new recipe)
Thursday – Leftovers / scrounge
Friday – Shredded beef quesadillas
Saturday – Reuben casserole (new recipe)

We may have a friend over for dinner both Monday & Tuesday so that’s why I’m planning meals for six nights this week – it’s likely we won’t have as many leftovers if she does eat with us both nights so we’ll need another meal available.

Menu planning makes such a big difference in how smoothly our week goes, and especially how smoothly the evening hours go. Days when my plan falls through (for whatever reason) always reminds me how beneficial it is to spend the time to menu plan!

And if you need some inspiration for menu plans, Organizing Junkie has a Menu Plan Monday link-up that has TONS of menu plans available for perusal.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.