Learning how to create a weekly menu or even a monthly menu is nothing new, but if you have yet to jump on this time and money-saving bandwagon I have a step by step guide just for you.
Get tips on how to create a weekly menu so you can begin living a simple life without the stress that often comes along with meal time prep.
When you have a weekly menu, some pretty amazing things begin to happen. The dinner-time stress that hits us in the face like clockwork no longer happens. You don’t freak out when your kids ask what’s for dinner because you have the answer ready to give them.
Not only that, but you aren’t that crazy mom staring blanking into your refrigerator, hoping that a super simple and prepared meal jumps out at you.
Funny to think that a simple meal plan can remove that look forever. But it can!! Having a plan for dinner is just like a superhero cape and learning how to create a weekly menu will become your superpower.
I have been using a weekly menu for years now, and I have to tell you no other organizational tip has saved me more time and our household more money. Writing out a meal plan (and sticking with it) guarantees you will have the ingredients on hand when you need them. Another perk to a weekly menu is no last-minute dinner stress.
Nothing is worse than trying to figure out what to make for dinner that can be ready in the next 10 minutes. More often than not, you end up making a desperate call to your significant other to grab takeout on the way home…yet again.
I’ve been there more times than my battered budget cares to admit. So get ready to change your hectic evenings into one of peace and tranquility….cue the harps, please!
How to Create a Weekly Menu (..and make sure you actually use it)
Let’s face it, you have probably read loads of articles on meal planning and to be honest, I am probably not going to share anything new. However, I do have a tip that will help you to use that menu consistently so these tips become a part of your day-to-day life. I’ll share that tips in a minute but first, let’s go over the basics.
Step #1 Write up your menu
While this is pretty self-explanatory, I do have a few tips to help you along. It is important to make sure you schedule this task each and every week. The best way to do this is to write it on your weekly to-do list and set a reminder on your phone so you do not forget.
The best time to write up a meal plan is on Sundays because it is a good day to begin each week. Follow these steps to make meal planning easier.
- Find a place where you can spread out and work.
- Be sure to have your family schedule or calendar nearby.
- On a piece of paper, write the days of the week, each on its own line.
- Refer to your week ahead and make a note of any days that look to be rushed around dinner time. These are the days to plan easy meals like pizza or early prep meals like crock pot options.
- On the weekend, write in your family favorites.
As I am choosing my recipes I will check ingredients to make sure I have them all on hand. If not, a quick addition is made to my shopping list. If there is no time to get to a store I will either find a substitution ingredient to use or choose another meal altogether.
SLCG PRO TIP: Did you know that in a pinch, you can use a banana to replace a missing egg in a cookie recipe? Substitute 1/2 banana for each egg.
Step #2 Check your refrigerator and your freezer
Another way to create a weekly menu is to base it off of what you have in the house. I like to do a quick look-through of perishable food items I have to make sure they get used up before they spoil.
I can’t tell you how many tomatoes I have had to give to the chickens simply because I forgot I had them. With a weekly menu in place, you ensure all food gets used up and enjoyed before it expires.
SLCG PRO TIP: Keep an inventory sheet on the front of your refrigerator, freezer, even your pantry. This will tell you at a glance how much you have so you can make meal planning even easier.
Step #3 Put your weekly menu where you will see it
I cannot stress enough how important this step is for meal planning. If you can’t find your weekly menu what good will it do? I like to hang mine right next to my oven. This way it is always there to remind me that I have a game plan and to ensure that I stick to it. Out of sight is definitely out of mind, so keep your menu out to remind you to do a little prep work before dinner time hits.
Meal Prep Shortcuts:
- Each evening, do a quick check of your menu to see if any food needs to be taken out of the freezer and defrosted for the next day.
- Do any prep work in the morning, like chopping veggies or gathering ingredients.
- Put spices or canned goods near the stove to start cooking more quickly.
- The more you can get ready now, the better off you will be later.
- If you have a really crazy night ahead, you can set the table in the morning.
Every little bit can help make dinner more enjoyable for everyone, including the cook!
Step #4 Pull or print out any recipes needed for the week
I have a clear pocket envelope taped to the side of my oven where I will see it at all times. This visual reminder is a game-changer, especially in the beginning. Having your menu in a place where it can remind you that it even exists is a great way to ensure this all works.
Inside of the pocket, you can keep any recipes you need for your week of meal plans.
SLCG Pro Tip: If the recipe is on your computer and not printed out, you simply put an “*” next to that item on your menu. This visual reminder tells you that the recipe needed is on your laptop or phone. No more wasting time trying to remember where the recipe is.
Step #5 Keep a list of go-to recipes for substitutions when meal planning
Sometimes, I wake up, and after looking at my weekly menu, I decide that I don’t want pasta for dinner tonight. Maybe it’s a beautiful day and I would rather use the grill and eat outside. That is why it’s nice to have a few extra recipes in your pocket envelope just in case you want to make a change.
Pizza, tacos, and hobo packets are all cheap and easy meal options in a pinch. Keep a list of ideas and attach the recipes to that sheet so you have everything you need in one convenient spot.
Step #6 List items you just ran out of
If you just used up the last of your brown sugar for Tuesday’s dinner, write it down on your weekly shopping list right away. This will ensure you have an up-to-date and current list at all times, again saving you time and money.
Step #7 Set up a reminder
When I first started using a menu, I cannot tell you how many times I would forget to look at it in the morning to make sure I had things ready for that night. I would go about my day, and at 5 o’clock, I would look at my menu only to find I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer! This was just so frustrating. So, how can we fix this so we prevent it from happening?
Use your phone (or my Alexa) to remind you. Just set up a recurring alarm to go off on your phone each morning. This will remind you to look at your menu, so you know what’s for dinner and also to help you do any prep work now so you are even more ready to go.
I can’t tell you how stress-free dinner time will be once you create a weekly menu. If you are like we are, then dinner time is a crazy time in your home, and anything you can find that will eliminate that has to be a good thing. Now, if the kids want to know what’s for dinner, they just read the meal plan and issue any complaints in writing. 😂
If you struggle with leftovers and throwing things away because you forgot to use them up before they went bad then I have a few bonus tips just for you.
BONUS TIPS: How to Use up Leftovers as Part of Your Weekly Menu
Leftovers used to be such a headache in our home. For some reason, I would never remember to use them up, or worse, forget how long they were in my refrigerator in the first place. By having a few go-to options that will make it easy to use up those leftovers you will save quite a bit on your food grocery budget.
SLCG PRO TIP: When putting leftovers in storage containers after dinner, put a small post-it note on the top with the date you cooked it or a “use by” date. This will help you to more easily know how long they have been in the fridge so you are more likely to use them up.
Bonus Tip #1. Deep Dish Pizza
This is a great way to use up meat and veggies from the week’s leftovers. Simply use a pie pan and start with a layer of pizza crust, trying to keep it on the thin side. Make sure to pre-bake the crust a bit it to keep it from getting soggy; about 5 minutes should be fine. Once done, you can dice up leftover meat and veggies and add them in with leftover spaghetti sauce and cheese.
Put a second crust on top and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Add this to your weekly menu as a regular item. Deep dish pizza Friday was always our kid’s favorite and little did they know they were eating the meatloaf I made on Tuesday.
SLCG PRO TIP: Prefer a crispy crust when eating leftover pizza? Here are a few ideas. Heat a slice of pizza in the microwave with a glass of water. This will give you a nice crispy crust. Another idea is to reheat your slice of pizza in a frying pan. Works great with leftover garlic toast as well.
Bonus Tip #2. Soup
I love soup because it is the very best way to use up leftovers since anything pretty much goes. As long as you have a broth, you can make a fast and delicious soup. Chicken, steak, pork even seafood will all work in this bonus weekly menu tip. Start out with a broth, you can make this using water and bullion cubes. Add in your meat and veggies along with any soup noodles or pasta. Cook the required time and serve with bread and butter.
Rather have a stew? Add in a few diced potatoes and finish up with a thickening agent such as flour or cornstarch mixed with a bit of broth to make a rue. This works great and goes so well with sliced bread.
SLCG PRO TIP: You can keep your potatoes from budding simply by adding an apple to the bin or potato bag.
Bonus Tip #3. Casseroles
I am so excited that casseroles are making a comeback. This is a simple way to use up stir-fries, pasta, and even potatoes that might not work in a pizza or soup. You will need a base to hold it all together, such as milk or cheese, but other than that, the sky is the limit!
Here is some help if you are not quite sure how to create a casserole.
What tips do you have to create a weekly menu that works in your home? Please comment below, I would love to hear from you!