Regular readers of my blog know that I menu plan. While we rarely stick to the plan all week, it gives me a guideline for grocery shopping and reduces the number of times we order out for pizza & such. Lots of people have blogged, for Works-for-me-Wednesday and otherwise about menu planning. So, while, if you don't currently menu plan, I highly recommend it, that's not my tip for today.
My tip for today is this. AUTOMATE your menu planning. I've seen suggestions before of people having a calendar on their fridge with a month of meals that they just recycle each month. I've even seen pretty forms for doing just that. But our life isn't that predictable. Some weeks we need a crockpot meal on Tues, other weeks I'm leaving at 8am on Tues and there's no way I have time to get a meal into the crockpot but I'll be home by noon so prep work an hour before dinner is no problem . . .
Then we were getting ready to move, I was wanting to pack as much of the kitchen and pantry as I could, it was still a couple weeks till the actual move date. So I sat down on the computer & figured out a few weeks of meals. And in doing that, I stumbled upon the perfect long-term menu planning solution for me!
I set up a google calendar called Menus. My favorite monthly meal planning form that I'd seen suggested a week of breakfast ideas that repeat each week, a week of lunches that repeat each week, and then a month of dinners to repeat monthly. So, using that as my model, I entered in a week of breakfasts & set them to repeat weekly. Then I entered a week of lunches and set them to repeat weekly. Then I started working on dinners. At the time of the move I just entered dinners up to the move date but I did set them to repeat either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on the meal (crockpot pintos is a meal my kids & dh like that works well on days when I'm home in the morning but gone all afternoon & is one of the least expensive meals I make, so it's set to repeat weekly, more expensive, time consuming, less healthy meals like spinach spagehetti, I have set to repeat once a month. You get the idea . . .). I'm still working on figuring out what I want for the monthly menu, and it is going to vary somewhat by season (right now we're mostly leaving the a/c off and the windows open so I'm keeping cooking to a minimum to not heat the house up. In the winter I love soup . . . you get the idea). But the beauty of this is, when I sit down to menu plan on Sunday I have a "suggested menu" mostly, or completely in front of me. I can then look at that menu, change the days that need to be changed. Specifying if it's a "going forward" change or a "just this week" change. Some things, like shepherd's pie for Fri lunch need to change going forward because now dh doesn't work on Fri and he's not a fan of shepherd's pie. Other things it's just a matter of "this week we're eating out for this meal" or the pintos would be better on a different day because of our schedule.
And then, since I participate in OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday Meme, I can imbed that week's calendar right into my post.
Automating the menu planning process while still keeping it flexible is something that definitely works for me!