Time-Saving Meal Planning

For the first few years of our marriage, I didn't plan a menu every week. Or, ever, honestly. Most days, it was a success if I knew what we were going to be eating for our next meal, let alone in a few days! This meant a lot of wasted money on take-out foods (we ate out probably 3-4 times a week), and a lot of wasted money on foods that I bought on impulse that went bad because I didn't actually use them.

As I've become a better steward of our money and my time managing our home, I've learned that a well-balanced menu can make a world of difference in my sanity (because I know what we'll be eating when and that we have enough food) and in Will's demeanor because he knows that I care about feeding him well. About a year ago, I started writing out a menu weekly. It was great, except that it sometimes took a couple of hours of browsing my coupons and sales fliers and cookbooks to come up with a menu. Not a good use of time. Recently a close friend of mine revealed an idea that excited me - an 8-week rotating menu! That way, you just grab that week's grocery list and go!

I've got 2 weeks done - which, right now, suits our family well (I've got two picky eaters, and eating the same thing every 2 weeks helps acclimate them to the new tastes. As needed, I'll come up with more weeks and add them into rotation. Here are my menus! Feel free to ask for recipes - some are from excellent cookbooks, and some are favorite recipes from when I was growing up!

Week 1:

L: Orzo & diced veggies, juice
D: Porkchops, mashed potatoes & veggies, milk

L: Baked potatoes with egg & ham topping, veggies, juice
D: Tacos, tortilla chips, milk

L: Quinoa pilaf, fruit, juice
D: Spaghetti & sauce, veggies, milk

L: Hot dogs & Annie's mac n cheese, veggies, milk 
D: Multi-colored rice & beans, fruit, milk

L: Soup & grilled cheese, veggies, juice
D: Upside-down pizza casserole, veggies, milk

L: Meatball subs, veggies, milk
D: Farmer's casserole, salad, juice

L: Yogurt & sandwiches, veggies, juice
D: Lemon-honey chicken, rice, salad, milk

Week 2:

L: Chicken nuggets, salad, milk
D: Braised beef, rolls, salad, milk

L: Cheesy pasta stars, veggies, juice
D: Country-style porkchops, salad, milk

L: Honey-chicken sandwiches, fruit, juice
D: Meatloaf, salad, fruit, milk

L: Sandwiches, veggies, fruit, juice
D: Shepherd's pie, salad, milk

L: Cheeseburgers, fries, salad, juice
D: Mexican lasagna, fruit, milk

L: Pizza, tater tots, veggies, juice
D: Quick chicken couscous, fruit, milk

L: Yogurt and sandwiches, veggies, juice
D: Teriyaki chicken, rice, veggies, milk

[Note: breakfast is pretty much either cereal, fruit & milk or eggs, fruit & juice. The simpler breakfast is, the smoother our mornings tend to go. Snack is almost always yogurt, either a fruit or veggie, and water! Again, simplicity saves sanity!]

[Other note: whenever you see "fruit" - it's usually sliced apples, a banana, an orange, or a handful of dried fruit. Sometimes it's more exotic depending on the season. "Veggies" are usually sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, celery sticks, raw spinach (which my girls love!), or pepper strips.]

Some of the recipes can be prepared ahead of time so that there's no need to try to cook dinner while 3 little ones are vying/screaming for my attention. Some of them are wonderful for letting the little ones help out. Some of them are easy to prepare. And there are some that take time and effort. I tried to balance it out; so far it seems to work well.

By His grace!
Lisha :)