[Note: This is part of my series on Creating a Homekeeping Book that I posted last year.]
- First, decide how many meals a day you’d like to plan. I originally left out snacks, and then started over when I realized I hadn’t bought snacks at the store. My plan includes: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. We’re big snackers.
- Once you have your meals set, decide how many days per week you’ll plan for. I did seven days, but our weekend lunches, snacks, and Sunday breakfast are TBD (To be decided). That means whatever we have left in the fridge if we’re not out, which we often are on weekends.
- If it is possible, plan leftovers one night a week. We have leftovers on Fridays.
- If you eat out regularly, plan these times as well. We eat out on Saturdays. This comes from our grocery money, and fortunately for us our favorite food comes from a burrito place and is under twenty bucks. We usually bring food home for a family night, which ends up being even less expensive.
Decide how many weeks you will plan. If you plan 13 weeks, you’ll repeat your menus just 4 times per year. Let’s say you’ll plan 13 weeks.
Now, start a blank sheet of lined paper for each meal you have selected. Decide for each meal how many ideas you’ll need per week.
For example, for breakfast, we have hot or cold cereal 3 days during the week, a hot breakfast once, and a bread like pancakes, muffins, or waffles once. On Saturdays, I plan a big breakfast.
So for my breakfast idea sheet, I only need to come up with 13 cheap and easy hot breakfasts for school days, 13 breads, and 13 bigger breakfasts for weekends. Only I don’t actually worry about coming up with 13 because I can repeat things. In fact, in my menus I have 9 hot breakfasts and breads for during the week. I do have 18 Saturday breakfasts, though, because there are so many recipes I love.
For Snacks, we will typically have one morning and one afternoon snack all week long. It’s cheaper that way, and easy. Mornings always include a fruit and afternoons a veggie. I don’t plan which fruits and veggies, I just buy what’s in season. So I only need 26 ideas for snacks: One morning and one afternoon. Of course, snacks are easily repeated, so if you can only think of 13 ideas, no problem!
Every lunch includes a veggie and a fruit. We have sandwiches 3 days during the week and one “hot lunch” a week. On Fridays, we have a “snack lunch,” which means I cut up a protein, a grain, and some fruits and veggies and put them on a plate. It’s just more fun that way.
My idea sheet for lunch will need 13 hot lunches only. On weekends, I don’t plan out lunches, we eat whatever’s around. For our snack lunch, I use little bits of leftovers.
Planning Dinners. Every dinner has a main dish, a side if needed and at least one veggie. I lead a Bible study every Monday evening, so our dinner has to be something easy. Every Sunday, we have a family dinner that takes a little longer to prepare and encourages sitting around the table for a while longer than usual.
For dinner, I actually put my ideas into categories, such as healthy fare, quick and cheap (for Mondays!), Mexican, Italian, Chinese, etc. Think about what is important to your family and how you want to eat. This will help you later in planning menus.
So, for my idea sheet for dinner, I will plan 13 cheap and fast meals, 13 super-healthy meals, 13 ethnic meals, 13 chicken based dinners, and 13 Sunday family dinners that include a dessert and a couple yummy sides.
Where to find ideas? Get out all your cookbooks and magazines, look online, and ask your family for ideas. Especially consider family favorites! This may take a few days to complete. Finding 5 dinners a week for 13 weeks that meets your criteria is no small task.
Consider these things when filling in ideas:
Your family’s likes and dislikes
The time you have for preparation
Now it’s time to spend some time gathering lots of ideas. Fill in all your blanks for each meal. Tomorrow, I will share how I plan each week out.