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.
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, you now will officially know.
Every. Single. Day.
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. You know that zombie look?
That blank empty stare that hits our face when we have no ideas and zero energy to deal?
Ya, that one right there.
Funny to think that a simple meal plan can remove that look forever.
But it can!!
Consider that your 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.
Choosing 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.
There is nothing 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)
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. I am talking get this on your to-do list and set a reminder on your phone so you do not forget.
I like to suggest Sundays for this task since most folks plan out their weeks on Sunday.
Take a seat, grab some coffee, and your planner and get going. But wait….do NOT forget your calendar. That is the secret sauce behind a successful weekly meal plan.
Take a piece of paper and write the days of the week leaving enough space for your menu. If you have a list of family favs in your head use that to fill in your first week.
We want this super simple to start and relying on family favorite meals is the easiest way to get your feet wet here. As your comfort grows with your menu so will your bank of recipes making this task less mundane and more fun!
SLCG PRO TIP: Make sure you have your calendar handy so you can see how your afternoons are scheduled. If it’s going to be hectic on Wednesday, that is the perfect day to plan a crockpot meal. Make sure the meals match the business so this isn’t just a suggestion but, rather a time-saving stress eliminating tool.
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 and I will either find a way to substitute that ingredient or I will just come up with something new to make.
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.
Each evening as I am cleaning up after dinner I will do a quick check of my menu to see if any food needs taken out of the freezer and defrosted for the next day.
In the morning I will then do any prep work like chopping veggies or grabbing ingredients. I like to gather up things from my pantry and put them next to my stovetop. This is really helpful, especially on those over-scheduled evenings. The more I can get ready now the better off I will be later.
If I have a really crazy night ahead, I may even set the table. 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 make sure this all works.
Inside of the pocket, you can keep any recipes you need for your week of meal plans.
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, 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 just 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?
I simply use my phone (or my Alexa) to remind me. (You can use your Fitbit too, see how here.) 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. Simple use a pie ban and put in a thin layer of easy pizza crust. 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, 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!